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During the Implementation Step The Implementation Step.

As discussed in Part I, The After-Sale Service Process, customers have three distinctive stages of perspective during Implementation of the Product/Service step of the after-sale service process: (a) The Novelty Stage, (b) the Learning Stage, and (c) the Effectiveness Stage. Sellers must be aware of and have strategies to manage each of these stages. The most important stage to manage is the Learning Stage where the customer undergoes a concept called the Motivation Dip. The Motivation Dip refers to a sharp decrease in the customers enthusiasm or motivation during the Learning Stage. Just after the purchasing decision and during the Novelty Stage, its common for the customer to have high expectations and motivation toward the product/service. As the customer enters the Learning Stage, generally enthusiasm will rapidly drop off. This is phenomena is a fundamental part of psychology; enthusiasm is replaced by the realities of working harder (to learn about the product/service) and/or having more focus and concern about the success of the products projected successful implementation and results. Once results begin to be realized (the Effectiveness Stage), the customers enthusiasm and motivation will usually climb again to the levels of the Novelty Stage. An illustrative metaphor is the enthusiasm of a New Years resolution to get into shape through an extensive exercise program. Enthusiasm is often replaced by a motivation dip as the real work of the exercise program becomes a reality. After results start coming in the Effectiveness Stage, (getting in shape), motivation climbs again. Effectiveness of the exercise efforts becomes the motivation driver. Three Strategies for Handling the Motivation Dip Strategy One: Start Before the Contract Is Signed. In the installation phase, an anxious customer will look critically for any sign that things are going wrong and may overreact to minor difficulties. The salesperson can look to the Buying Process to guide this strategy. The salesperson can begin during the Evaluation of Options step in the buying process. The salesperson can make sure that the customer genuinely feels that the product service matches customer needs. In other words, ask enough questions and clearly and honestly demonstrate the product/service as compared to the competitive offerings. During the Resolution of Concerns (negotiating buyer objections) step in the buying process, the salesperson can make sure that the customer fully recognizes and sees ALL potential consequences or concerns. These must be FULLY resolved or they will become a potential future concern that will exacerbate and accelerate the motivation dip. For example, if the customer feels nervous about the salespersons companys reputation, it is important to resolve the issue BEFORE signing of the contract, so it wont resurface in the form of negative reactions during the implementation of product/service phase (Rackham, 1989). Strategy Two: Involve the Customer. Regardless of how carefully the installation and implementation of a new product/service, something will go wrong. While a detailed step-by-

step installation plan is essential, it will not guarantee success or protect against unexpected problems. Build a detailed implementation plan and the customer will gain a comfort level. Making sure that the customer is involved in the construction of this plan will ensure their loyalty and satisfaction should any unexpected problems occur. After all, its hard to point the finger at yourself. Salespeople successfully implement when they get the customer to play a central role in the development of the implementation plan. Here the salesperson does not take the lead in designing the plan and plays the role of a facilitator who helps the customer improve upon their own implementation plan ideas. Strategy Three: Put in Effort Early. Understanding that the customer generally goes through three stages during the implementation phase can help avoid the motivation dip. Salespeople who dont understand make the mistake of interpreting the customers enthusiasm during the Novelty Stage as a signal that all is well and that this high will continue in a positive way. Consequently, they give the customer less attention and fail to detect the motivation dip occurring in the Learning Stage. Its easier to anticipate and prevent problems before they occur than to deal with something that is quickly deteriorating at a rapid pace (accelerating motivation dip). Its easier and takes less time to prevent a fire, than to fight one. Early effort will not prevent the motivation dip, however; it will minimize the steepness and severity of the decline.

Maintenance and Development of the Customer Step This step begins after the customer has been guided through the Implementation of the Product/Service Step. At this point, the salesperson has: (a) successfully obtained a signed contract and (b) successfully implemented the product/service. The goal at this step is to continue the relationship with the customer and obtain repeat business (maintain) and penetrate the customer account (develop). In other words, there is a recycle back to the first step of the buying process; and, a new sales cycle begins. As previously discussed, the first step of the buying process is the Recognition of Needs phase. Obviously, with successful implementation in place and a strengthened relationship with the customer, the salesperson should have more familiarity with the customer this second time around with a more open dialogue with the customer during the crucial discovery of needs phase. Maintenance and development of the customer begins at the first phase of the buying process. Often after a first purchase, the customer doesnt seem to have immediate additional buying potential. Unsuccessful salespeople simply play a waiting game maintaining good relationships while passively waiting until circumstances change. Successful salespeople, on the other hand, take an active and dynamic approach by using their initial successful sale to penetrate or develop the customer account. They look for more areas within the account where their product/service may offer a solution. Generally, they use six strategies (Rack ham, 1989).

Strategy One: Maintain But Actively Develop. Salespeople can make new Persuasive Sales Calls. Maintenance alone often results in visits, lunches and social chats. These actions are aimed at protecting existing business from competitors and to ensure that the customer keeps the seller in-mind should buying needs arise. Using only this strategy is generally ineffective. Successful salespeople not only maintain their existing customer accounts, they actively look for new opportunities to penetrate within these accounts. Their objective is not to protect but to project or to sell. By having an objective of developing during the course of maintaining their existing customers, successful salespeople not only will protect the account but also will obtain more sales from the account. Strategy Two: Document the Good News. Salespeople can make Reminder Sales Calls. Most of the time, the salesperson is in contact with the customer when things are going wrong. A better strategy is to remind the customer of the benefits that have come from the sale. Stay in contact with the customer when things are going right. Remember that customers keep a file on correspondence with the selling company. Imagine what a file would look like to a new decision maker at the customer company reading a file full of bad news. Shouldnt the good news be recorded? Good news such as other satisfied customers can be forwarded FYI (for-your-interest) to your existing customer. Additionally, the salesperson can write to the customer outlining the positive and successful impact your product has had and offering any further help and assistance. When its time for repurchase, the selling company is in a stronger position. Strategy Three: Educate the Customer on New Developments. Salespeople can make Informative Sales Calls. Related to developing the customer account, the salesperson informs the customer of new product/services and changes within the industry or selling company. The long-term relationship between the customer and seller is further strengthened in this open sharing of information that affects both customer and seller. Strategy Four: Generate Referrals. Salespeople can make Lead-Generation Sales Calls. Ironically, the more that the salesperson has satisfied the customers needs, the less there is a need for an immediate repeat business from the existing customer. As mentioned above, the customer account can be further penetrated and also can be a source of referrals both internal and external to the existing customer. Satisfied customers are often delighted to help the salesperson. They can give contacts and introductions. Remember that the motivation dip occurs during the second stage (Learning Stage) of the implementation step, so referrals must be obtained early in the Novelty Stage or late in the Effectiveness Stage. Strategy Five: Rethink the Understanding of Customer Needs. Salespeople can make Needs Assessment Sales Calls. Customer needs change. The salesperson should make periodic calls on the customer to reassess their understanding of the customers needs. Remember that competitors are attempting to or are regularly assessing your customers needs. They can take your existing account away by uncovering and developing needs that the salesperson has

neglected. After all, didnt the salesperson also obtain or take away this existing customer from someone else? Strategy Six: Influence Future Decision Criteria. Salespeople can make Decision Criteria Sales Calls. Salespeople can help educate or refine the process by which the customer makes decisions. Perhaps the customers level of sophistication is relatively low. Here the salesperson can facilitate the customers learning of methodologies that help decide on optimal product/service solutions. If the customer is sophisticated, the salesperson can openly discuss decision criteria. This may be information gleaned that is useful to the salesperson and/or serve as a sounding-board and idea refinement for the customer. In all cases, the customer will see the salesperson as a consultant and partner in the relationship. This bond should lead to a stronger long-term relationship and increased repeat business, referrals, and customer account development. After-Sale Service is Never Static As discussed, after-sale service strategies formally begin when the contract is signed. However, in anticipation of after-sale service, the salesperson sometimes initiates preventative strategies even before the contract is signed. After-sale service is intended to build long-term relationships with customers to ensure repeat business and referrals, but these relationships cannot automatically be assumed due to the initial sale; they are never static. They are either improving or decaying. What matters to customers is not what the salesperson did for them yesterday, although yesterdays success is a must. What matters is what the salesperson is doing for the customer today and tomorrow. The salesperson must never become complacent since complacency is an invitation to competitors. Good customer maintenance and development is about continuously improving service to the customer.

Summary The goal of Consultative Salespeople is the acquisition and maintenance & development of customers. Discussed above was the Pre-Sale Phase: Acquisition of Customers. This was followed by the Post-Sale Phase: After-Sale Service Process is composed of two steps: (a) Implementation of the Product/Service and (b) Maintenance and Development of Customers.