In the process of developing new clients, there are many things to notice, especially some key details. Because clients do not know a company before, their first contact with its staff directly determines their impression of the company.
Especially the salesmen, they are at the forefront, directly facing clients. Their qualities, personal abilities and negotiating methods tend to leave the first impression on clients. Salespeople should try their best to create a pleasant negotiation atmosphere to show their professionalism and reflect the advantages of products and companies, so as to pave the way for future cooperation.
This article will combine my practice experience and opinions of some buyers from large companies, with the relevant comments of some foreign business magazines, giving the following three issues that must be noted in the process of developing new clients for your reference.
Issues 1: Trained staff
For clients, the most important thing of a company is not the executive or the boss, but the staffs who contact clients directly. Clients’ impression of these staffs directly determines the impression of the company.
Clients often judge a person or a company based on their own feelings. If staffs are polite, thoughtful and of good quality, clients will be willing to deal with them. Naturally, they will have a good impression of the company. However, if clients encounter staffs who are lazy or have a confused mind, they will naturally feel bad about the company.
When the new client sent an inquiry, this is the first time he contacts with the company, so the staff who replies directly represents the image of the company. If the staff is unprofessional or thinks that the client may be a fraud and doesn’t respond, the client will have a bad impression of the company and even will not send inquiries in the future. Many salesmen say that it is very difficult to develop new customers now, and many bosses think so. Actually, if sales directors and even bosses deal with these inquiries personally, they will find that the development of new clients is not so difficult. Thus, the problem here lies in the bottom staffs.
Therefore, for factories and trading companies, the most important thing is not the middle and upper levels, but the bottom.
I have visited several American friends, all of whom are executives of large companies in various industries and fields. When I asked them, “what’s most important to your company”, the answer was the same, “trained staff” or “skilled staff”. If I ask the Chinese bosses the same question, I believe that some people will also answer “staff”. However, they do not pay attention to the bottom staff. They may just feel that finding a returnee, or poaching executive from their competitors so that they can promote their own company. But they still ignore the training of the bottom staff.
No matter how strong the ability of the boss and the business manager is, their role is limited. However, for the long-term development of the company, the professional team with high-efficiency and high-quality can make the company invincible in the competition.
You should never think that the low price is the key to developing new clients. If the salesmen can get the order as long as the price is lower than that of his peers, making foreign trade is so easy. Actually, professionalism and service are significant at all times, perhaps more significant than price. If your price is low, but the ability to express is poor, customers cannot understand, or even do not want to communicate with you, then how can you highlight your price advantage?
Many college students will choose foreign companies when they looking for a job. Those foreign companies in China are great multinational companies that believe reputation is more important than anything. They have good training mechanism which can train staff quickly because they will not stand unprofessional staffs who may affect the company’s reputation. Especially those companies of Europe and the United States with long histories, they regard the company’s reputation as life. Therefore, they establish a good mechanism. They are cautious about choosing executives, and train novices in a comprehensive way to form excellent talent management and training system.
However, in the domestic foreign trade industry, most of the factories and trading companies belong to private enterprises except the Foreign Procurement Office. Their management and training systems are incomplete, and they even neglect the training of new and basic staffs. Of course, they will not get positive results.
This problem is hard to solve in a short time. It is not the thing that a person or a few people can change. Although many companies are talking about teamwork, few of them can really form a team. It takes a long time to develop an effective training mechanism and professional teamwork.
Three years ago, I worked for a domestic purchasing office of a US company and served as a senior purchasing director. One day I received an inquiry for a business card holder for promotion from the headquarters, and the quantity was temporarily unknown. So I needed to find the appropriate supplier and provided pictures and quotes for screening.
First of all, I got in touch with regular suppliers. The two trading companies recommended several products to me soon, provided detailed quotations and pictures, and informed me of the proofing time and the production time of large goods. They handled this inquiry well and professionally in my opinion.
For making more comparisons, I found several new suppliers on Alibaba and Global Sources. I was used to writing detailed emails informing us of the products we want to inquire about, and briefly introducing our company and cooperation terms, and then called to confirm and follow up on the details. Then the funny scenes appeared. I used A, B, C, and D to represent those suppliers to distinguish them.
I didn’t get a reply after I sent the email, so I called again. A lady answered the phone and said, “who are you?” Who are you looking for? What do you do? Would you like to make an inquiry? What kind of products would you like to inquire about? What kind of company are you? Where is it from? What is the number of orders? ”
A series of questions made me feel dizzy. I cannot help but say thank you in a hurry and hung up the phone.
My email didn’t get a reply again, so I have to call to follow up.
The man who answered the phone this time was polite. After listening to my intention, he immediately said that he would ask his colleagues to check my email as soon as possible and reply.
However, I called every day but got the answer like “colleagues are handling” or “sorry, we will reply as soon as possible”. On the fourth day, there was still no reply. I have to but give up.
This company is even more outrageous. I sent an email but no one reply. Then I called. A woman picked up the phone and asked “Who are you looking for?”, in a rude tone.
I briefly introduced myself: “I am the senior purchasing director of the China Office of a United States company. I see that there are two kinds of business card holders made from plastic and aluminum on your company’s website. We are looking for this kind of product now. We want to ask your company for an inquiry. Could you tell me who I should contact? “
But before I finished, she just interrupted. “just tell me who you’re looking for. I don’t have time to listen to you.” I instantly explained: “this is the first time that I get in touch with your company, so I don’t know who to contact. Can you give me the contact information of your colleagues who are responsible for this product, or can you transfer the phone?” She said “inexplicable” and hangs up.
Of course, I won’t call again, and the company has been blacklisted by me.
This company is relatively better, and its staffs have basic courtesy at least. Although I did not get a reply for my email, they at least called to ask me about the inquiry. Later, they asked me to provide pictures and accurate materials and weights. But I don’t have the information and pictures, so I need the supplier to recommend the right product to me. In this case, they cannot give the quotation, so we didn’t go on.
Through the above situation, we can see that I would exclude these companies directly. And the reason is apparent. The staffs of these four companies are not professional enough, and their service is not good. Their first error is that they didn’t reply to the email.
If their boss found that the paid B2B had no effect because staffs treated potential clients like this, how angry would they be!
I did not intend to defame them, nor did I want to evaluate the way they work. I only knew one thing: these companies had lost the opportunity to cooperate with me and our US headquarters because of the problems of these bottom-level staffs. Finally, I read the quotations and samples of the old suppliers and placed the order with them.
Therefore, trained staffs are not only the most valuable wealth of a company but also the most important thing in the process of foreign trade development.
Issues 2: Less explanation
When I first entered the foreign trade industry, my boss told me this: to do business, you must fulfill our commitments, be honest, and be brave enough to take responsibility. This is the basic rules of conduct that you should observe in work. It can also be understood as professional ethics.
However, in actual work, various problems and unexpected situations make these commitments sometimes unable to be successfully fulfilled. At this time, clients will go mad, or write rude emails to you, even complain to your boss.
At this time, how to tell clients the actual situation becomes difficult problems. If the salesmen do not handle it well, clients will claim or cancel the orders.
Therefore, whether for novices or experienced salesman, this situation is always the most troublesome.
Suppose that the client places a batch of mobile phone orders and asks for 45 days of delivery, you agree. But when you are about to deliver the goods, you find that you cannot finish the order in time. It is estimated to take another 14 days. What should you do?
I asked my assistant with this question. Her answer was to play down the client’s accusation against us, explain the current situation, and ask for an extension. And she wrote the email like this:
I’m so sorry to inform you that the goods cannot be shipped on time. Because we are so busy at the past month. And we met the electricity shortage problem.
Please help to allow us 2 more weeks to ship the goods. Thank you.
Stella for C
After reading that this email, I told her could never write like this. We couldn’t tell the client that the reason was that we were too busy and we met the electricity shortage problem because he would ask you why you didn’t tell him when you took the order. He’d think you didn’t value him or you were trying to hide something in order to get the order. Then, he would feel that you are not an honest guy.
I wrote an email to the client and copied it to my assistant as follows:
Sorry to inform you the goods will be delayed 2 weeks. The ETD will be Apr. 15th then. We will try our best to deliver the goods as quickly as possible.
Tks &B. rgds
A direct apology is enough, indicating that our mistake led to the postponement. There is no need to explain too much. Otherwise, it will make the situation worse. Generally speaking, if the client knows that the order is to be postponed, he would ask you to deliver the goods as soon as possible, rather than caring about the reason for the delay. Too much explanation will make him think you’re making excuses. No matter what the cause is, the customer gives you the order, and you promise to deliver the goods on time. Late delivery, of course, is your responsibility.
There is only one exception. When encountering force majeure, such as typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, etc., you need to explain in detail and give evidence to the customer.
When you cannot fulfill the promise, in addition to saying sorry, it would be better to give some extra compensation, such as lowering the price by 2%, or giving the client a batch of free accessories when shipping. This will make the customer feel better and think that you are a reliable person.
Issues 3: Learn to listen to clients
Many people should have read the biography of Matsushita Konosuke, the god of Japanese business. He once summarized his business philosophy in one sentence: first of all, listen carefully to the opinions of others.
We must listen carefully in order to gain information in the process of listening. We should try to realize the meaning behind each sentence and analyze our own situation and shortcomings according to others’ opinions. Only in this way can we shoot the arrow at the target.
Some people met clients at the exhibition and talked, but there was no next step after the quotation. Do they really understand the needs of clients? Does the suggestion get clients’ approval? Do they have any comments or any other special requirements? Or is it that clients are not interested in their advice?
In fact, it is difficult to understand the needs of clients. Because we are not customers, we do not know the target market as well as they do. So we must listen to every word of them, grasp as much information as possible, and ponder the real needs of them.
Especially in the process of negotiation, if you encounter something that you don’t understand, you should ask questions in time, and you don’t need to be sorry for that. In case the quotation is different from the client’s request, he would think that you are not listening carefully to him.
Once I accompanied a Dutch client to visit a big trading company in Shanghai. The boss of the company is very enthusiastic, and his English is good. During our visit to his sample room, he kept on recommending his products. When we left, the boss asked the client his impression of the company, and the products he was interested in. The client said that their company is large and cooperates with many big clients, which is quite good and he is also satisfied. He thanked the boss for his hospitality. However, the boss has been introducing the current customer but has not asked the client what he wants.
Therefore, while demonstrating our professionalism and strength, you must not neglect to listen to the needs of our customers. If clients don’t say, you can ask them. For example, what kind of products do you usually purchase? Where do you often buy it? What kind of consumer is your target? As long as there are no sensitive questions, clients will be happy to answer. If you can praise a few words when a client introduces himself, you can get closer to him.
This “listening” is not only to listen to each others’ speeches when face-to-face, but also to “listen” to the meaning behind the clients’ mail when going through the mail.
My assistant had contacted a French client at the show, and they talked speculatively. The customers are interested in a vacuum cleaner of our company. After returning to Shenzhen, she wrote the email to the client for the first time with a complete quotation, and sent samples to the customer’s buying office in Hong Kong.
But there will be no more news in the next few months. There was no reply to the email and no one answered the call to France. The Hong Kong office also does not know the reasons.
Three months later, the French client finally replied an email:
Thanks for your support in the past. I’m sorry to inform you the pricing is far from our budget, and we finally decide to stop and close this case。
My assistant told me that this opportunity is gone because the price far exceeds the client’s budget and he has decided to end the project.
I read the email and told her that she did not understand the meaning behind the customer’s words. The first sentence thanks us for our past support, indicating that the customer is not only polite but also has a good impression of us. The second sentence said that the price far exceeded their budget, so he decided to stop the project. So if the price does not exceed their budget, is there any possibility of continuing?
After I discussed it with the factory, I changed my plan and continued to reply to the customer:
Thank you for your Kind mail. Permy understanding, pricing is the only problem. I have discussed with factory, and the price could be reduced roughly 20%, if changing the power and two parts inside.
Attached the comparison list for your reference. We sincerely hope to go ahead for this program
I sent this email, and the customer was interested as I expected. He immediately asked me to re–prepare the sample for confirmation, and then the order was settled.
Therefore, we should think more about the words of clients. We should learn to be a good listener that we should not only let customers think we understand but we must really understand.
This article lists three significant issues that must be paid attention to during the order development process. It mainly shows that in the early negotiation process, the customer’s first impression, the professionalism of the salesman and their own quality are crucial.
As long as the details are in place and the preparations for further negotiations are from the overall situation, the purpose of the early development will be achieved.
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