Respectful Selling


Aretha Franklin demanded it. Rodney Dangerfield got none of it. Your clients want it. And, if your business communication materials don’t have it, you are sunk.

The magic word here is respect.

Respect has a significant and (all too often) underappreciated role in business and marketing communications. What is it, exactly and you can you make sure your site expresses it?

According Random House, respect is to imply recognition of personal qualities by approving and courteous regard. Hmmm, in order to do that you have to know (1) your product, and (2) the audience you think will benefit most from using it. Sell to the right crowd. But don’t think “sell;” think “educate” and “serve.”   

 Here’s a story. Jill was interested in making some investment decisions. Specifically, she was looking for a financial planner. During her search she contacted a few investment firms online and requested some information. One firm, being proactive and wanting to personally connect with prospects, called her up to ask if she’d mind answering a brief survey over the phone. Now Jill, like most of us, is busy. But the firm’s sales rep assured her the survey would only take, “a couple of minutes.” So Jill agreed. Fast forward five minutes. Jill is still on the phone and silently went from feeling impressed to annoyed. She thinks to herself, “Forget them!

So what happened?

The firm wasn’t honest about the amount of time their survey would take. In other words, they acted like Jill had nothing better to do than sit on the phone and answer their questions. How disrespectful!

It’s up to you to give prospects the information they need to make a decision about your product. Be transparent. Be honest. Be ethical. Even if it means not making a sale. Huh!?

Respecting your prospects and customers (for upselling) sets the stage for a positive experience. Think about it. Why would you want to sell your product to someone who isn’t going to be in a position to love it and become loyal to your brand? By all means, connect with people emotionally, make sure they know how your product will make their lives easier, more beautiful, more powerful…whatever. If it’s important to them they’ll listen. Point out everything your target will gain with your product…on their terms. But if they aren’t interested then realize it’s not a good match and move on. However, chances are if you’ve done your homework, they will love it and reward you with their loyalty.

How does respect look online? The Customer Respect Group is an organization devoted to measuring how corporate websites treat online customers and their personal data. This is the only organization that provides a qualitative and quantitative benchmark rating as a measurement of customer respect.

Here’s what they have to say about the growing population of customers who are increasingly frustrated with the poor decisions made by web site owners.

Our findings indicate strongly that concerns of the online customer fall into 3 distinct areas:

Site Usability – How usable is the site to a wide range of users? Can they use the site productively without needless frustration?

Communication – How willing is the company to engage in a one-on-one communication to answer specific questions? Websites can never hope to carry every piece of information that a customer might seek but the web is a wonderfully interactive environment as long as website owners respond.

Trust – Can this site be trusted with your personal data? All too often, information supplied for one reason is used for totally unrelated purposes, giving the customer a sense of loss of control.

Good stuff. Hope it’s helpful. And if you see anything worthy of your comments at KMwordsmith, please let me know! You can be sure I’ll respect your input.

Sources: Random House College Dictionary. 2nd ed. New York: Random House, 1984.

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