You walk into a store. You are ready to make a purchase, or maybe not, but need some help to make your decision. A salesperson comes up to you who not only wants to sell you something, but apparently needs to sell you something and practically insists that you need to spend more – maybe a lot more – to get what you want. The salesperson is far more interested in upselling you than helping you. Has this ever happened to you?


Of course it has happened to you. It’s happened to all of us. The real question is, why?



Does the salesperson think that his or her pushiness will actually make the sale? Does his manager assume that hard sales tactics actually work? Does the store even know what it takes to make and keep a customer? Probably not.


But hard sales tactics are only one of many ways that a small business can easily lose a customer. Here are six more that we should all avoid:


1. Take the client or customer for granted: There is a great quote often attributed to Gandhi that goes like this:


“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”


That’s the ticket. Our customers are doing us a favor.


2. Do shoddy work, or sell shoddy products: Even if your business is a discount warehouse, people expect to get value for their dollar. If you don’t keep your promise to your customers by even doing the minimum amount necessary, don’t expect to have them as customers for long.


And it’s not just the discount store that needs to heed this warning. If, for instance, you buy a luxury automobile and something goes wrong, you would expect the dealer to make it right, right?


  1. Right.


3. Ignore customer feedback: I recently interviewed John Scully, ex-CEO of PepsiCo and Apple. John says that we are entering into a new era where, because of instantaneous customer reactions and feedback both on the internet as well as via mobile devices, the customer is king.


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If you have an unhappy customer or see negative reviews online about your business, you better fix the problems and make the unhappy customers happy because they all have a thousand-watt megaphone at their disposal these days.


4. Don’t accept returns / fail to guarantee your product: Scully is right that this is the day and age of great customer service. Why is Costco so successful? One reason is their liberal return policy that makes customers happy. What about Nordstrom’s, or Ditto. Today, you need to guarantee your work and products, otherwise customers will find another business that does.


5. Ignore them: Not to sound like Andy Rooney, but don’t you just hate when you go into a store and have the opposite experience as the one above – where no one seems to notice or care that you’re there? Or what about getting stuck in the voicemail loop? Or when you shoot a company an email and never get a response? No one likes to be ignored, and that goes double for customers.


6. Insist on being right: No, of course the customer is not always right, but if you want to make them happy, you should be more willing than not to be wrong.


The bottom line is that people come into your business or visit you online because they have a want or need and think you can help them with it. If you and your staff remember that you are there to serve and not sell, you will sell more and retain a lot of happy customers in the process.

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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