Businesses exist to provide what they find missing or under-endowed-with in a market that has not only existing customers but which also has the potential to grow its customer base. After identifying and retaining customers, business want to expand its territorial share, increase its profit returns and positively impact on its shares in the stock market. It must therefore stop just take orders from existing customers and look for and acquire new clients. It must sell itself to prospective customers. However, it is not that easy considering the competition in the modern market place due to every company’s global presence in any emerging market. This calls for a process where an organization has to sell itself to the market and try to outdo its competitors.
The following is the explanation of this process and its importance to sales staff of an organization that want to survive in a hostile, competitive business environment.
The Selling Process
Selling process explains the phases salespersons go through in attempt to make a sale – an act of planning in the mind of another person a motive which will induce a favorable action towards a product or service.
The process of selling is viewed as a total unit consisting of the following stages (Dolak):
- Handling customer objection to sale
- Closing the sale
- Follow-up maintenance
Mathews notes the importance of investing energy in “landing the new customer” (1). He captures six processes that include the qualification of the needs of the customer among others.
This is where a “list of client” will be developed by the seller (Dolak). Not all will be buyers. Scouting involves eliminating buyers from non-buyers by identifying and qualifying potential customers. There are three stages salespersons follow:
- Identifying factors against which to qualify the customer e.g. need, purchasing power, authority to buy.
- Determining if the prospect possess the qualifications.
- Deciding whether or not to approach the person.
Prospecting minimizes wastage of time and resources on individuals that cannot buy the product. It also assists build customer reserve for the future.
It is a preparation stage and the salesperson arranges to approach the identified and qualified customer. Salespersons prepare in terms of product knowledge which consists of benefits, features, value, look, etc, customer knowledge as identified customer wants based on scouting stage, identify to use to approach and sell the product. Sources of pre-approach include observation on individuals and companies, information from other sale forces, competitors, special investigations and purposeful investigations. It is preparation / planning stages where salespersons arm themselves will relevant information before confronting the target.
Here, the salesperson finally meets the prospect. It is the opening stage of sales presentation and customer’s attention is required. The most crucial factor here is creating favorable first impression/good rapport that will prepare a favorable presentation environment. This can be done through: dressing code, mannerism, issuing a business card and a smile. For a salesperson to make a successful approach s/he should if possible make an appointment with prospects, time the approach i.e. meet the prospect at the opportune time by e.g. avoid meetings during peak hours, give individual attention to the prospect and avoid early dismissal, attempt to win individual attention from prospect, create a rapport between him and the prospect and get rid of sales tension i.e. does not panic.
It forms the core of selling and encompasses all that salesperson says or does. It consists of the following stages:
Opening stage that is the introduction
This seeks to capture and retain the interest of the prospect. Salesperson’s uses controlled emotional appeal e.g. rumor and fear.i.e. do you know that about 90% of bank account holder are charged without their knowledge?
It is usually brief and concise statement of what the salesperson has to offer. Salespersons must emphasis on product’s features and advantages offer substitute products from other service providers.
It is giving a summary of what the salespersons has presented using persuasive arguments.
An objection is anything a prospect does or says in an attempt to delay or refuse a purchase. It can be deliberate or unconscious.
There are various causes of objection such as disinterest in the product, failure of the prospect to realize the need of buying the product, resistance to change, external factors such as lack of buying power, psychological barrier taste and preferences and poor presentation by the sales force.
How to handle objections
Salesperson should regard them as sighs of interest; after all why ask all the questions? Before handling one, acknowledge it. Jumping into defense can give a bad impression. Never let conversation descend into an argument, think back and reinforce your statement. You might have left out a vital selling point. Handling an objection can boost your image and reinforce your credibility. Always acknowledge that your prospect has a point when he objects. Salespersons must show they are going to respond to something serious and considered. As a salesperson, one must agree to counter an objection. However, accept the objection and then give an alternative. Question an objection can give a salesperson a plus e.g. ask, are you sure we don’t an ATM along XY street?
A salesperson can also employ straight denial to an objection such as our services are cheapest in the country. A trial close is another technique used by salesperson to deter objections. It seeks to conclude a sales interview before a customer objects.
Closing a sale
This is the final stage of the selling process in which a salesperson secures a sales or a favorable purchase commitment. Some methods are used to accomplish a sale. These are:
It is a straightforward question. Shall we go ahead?
With some prospects, you can just tell them to commit: now I will assist you fill this form…
Salespersons give the advantages of deciding now than later if you give me a go ahead now, you will qualify for the promotional competition that the bank is currently running.
It is the reversal of gain close. Consider; if you are not going to give me go ahead today, you might be locked out of the promotion.
Alternatives/ Yes or Yes question
It is a kind of fallacy of victimization that seeks to obtain an order whichever the answer. Would like a personal or current account? Whichever the answer, s/he will have chosen one.
Here, the salesperson assumes the customer will say yes and continues conversation as if this has happened. We seem to be agreed. Let me get documentation sorted and can go on from there.
Understanding customers means appreciating things they do not like which spoil persuasiveness and their attention. These might include not getting to the point promptly, being too abrupt, talking too much, asking too few questions, not listening, being or appearing unprepared, interrupting the prospect, lacking confidence/conviction, pressurizing customers, appearing scruffy among others.
Service quality refers to ways service providers treat their clientele in the process of service provision and the perception and feeling about the same on part of the clientele i.e. customer. In “service” organization, quality is the measure of extent to which a customer is satisfied. Yet the banks’ and financial operators’ provision and maintenance of long-term relationship is necessary to ensuring their good performance.
Being intangible, it is represented by its delivery process and thus transcends service outcome to even encompass service process. The degree to which satisfaction is felt is distributed along a continuum upon which service ranges from poor to ideal each representing one extreme. Customers’ loyalty and retention by an institution depend on the scale of satisfaction that goes past average towards ideal in this continuum.
As opposed to selling process which seeks to identify and capture a new customer, service quality tries to treat customers as part of the business, make the feel cared for by competent associates (bankers) who are willing to help them and who can communicate on the same level.
Service quality could be “hard” or “soft” (Bedi). Hard/objective service quality is quantifiable (see also Voss; cited in Bedi). It represents a scene where factors that are independent of human judgment such as bank’s computer system downtime or proportion of phone calls answered determine the quality of service. Soft service quality is qualitative judgmental, biased and perceptual. Soft service quality is relevant in the measurement of service in intangible (service) industry e.g. banks.
According to Grönroos two dimensions – “dimension and “functional/process-related dimension”, exist (cited in Bedi). The former dimension can be objective because it results in product quality depending on technical processes. The latter involves customer-service provider interaction and customer perception is central. It is subjective and subject to varying. In addition, there is corporate image dimension of quality. Most customers base their perception on how fast the banks’ processes and employees serve them. Competition to gain customer loyalty and trust in financial service industry must be based on financial services. In addition, the idea of “perceived”, “unacceptable” and “ideal quality” has been projected (Ghobadian; cited in Bedi) which financial institutions must be aware of.
Financial Service Providers (FSPs) are looking forward to continuously improve levels of their customers’ satisfaction. Considering fierce competition and innovation especially due to application of Information technology in banking services, FSP have realized that customer retention and continued satisfaction is a product of guaranteed service quality.
Importance of service quality in financial services
Any business that provides products or services to a given market must have a customer base that constantly consumes its offer. Customer base help businesses in planning expansion, levels of production, designing new products and finally, it is the determinant of the return on investment. Customers on their part are looking for service providers that are best in the market in terms of value for their money. Thus customers are not conservative and tied to one service provider. Those that are not contented with their service providers are in exodus until they find one that satisfies their needs.
FSPs who want to retain their customers after an expensive selling process of getting them must achieve agreeable levels of service satisfaction if they want to keep hold of their customers.
Contemporary customers want value for their money. They want to get the best in terms of services, return on investment, they want to be served by the best competent experts. In fact potential customers are taking it by themselves to look for the best FSPs they can get. Companies with a continuous history of improved service quality are the targets of these customers. Ever improving service quality of a financial company could be viewed as a way of propelling it to emerging and upcoming markets.
Reduced cost of operation
When potential customers learn of excellent service quality of a company, they seek to be part of it on their own initiative. They come looking for it. Cost associated with marketing and sales are cut down. Such cost can be directed in others processes such as further improvement of services and innovation.
Service quality as a research tool
Good services quality embraces customers’ reactions, compliments, complaints, observations and recommendations as source of information for what they would prefer. It also treats customers as business associates. Their input is vital in collecting data necessary for market research. Being users of services, they have a point in recommending their design and development. When financial products are tailored to the needs of customers, they not only help retain them but also, they make customer realize s/he is cherished and valued by the company. Seeking feedback from customers keeps them in the loop. The “internal” and “external” data can be essential in measuring customer satisfaction level in an organization (Silvestro et al; cited in Bedi). Firms need to capture all dimensions of quality through research. An analysis on accounting firms has found that “seven dimensions” are involved in measuring quality (Bedi). This is in contrast with 19 dimensions for “management science projects” (Robinson and Pidd; cited in Bedi)
Service quality as a way of going beyond customers’ expectations
When a customer finds more than s/he expected especially in financial services, s/he looks forwards to reap all that can benefit him/her. It might require long term relationship with the services provider in order to exploit all that s/he wants. This creates a perpetual commitment to the company on part of the customer. Apart from being a client retention strategy, it is also a sign to the company that it is on the right track.
Service provider who surpasses expectation of customers’ satisfaction will have an edge over his competitors. If financial services are beyond the basic, it means they can satisfy varied market niches. Therefore, a company service quality is best has frontier wider to sell its offers. Doing so in different segment in the same name gives a company a plus compared to its rivals.
Precursor of innovation/invention
Financial services are similar across the board: Loans, personal, current, corporate and joint account. But what makes some service providers outdo their rivals? The answer lies in creativity. When a bank designs a new and selling product, it means it has studied the market i.e. customers, noticed an existing need and went ahead to satisfy it. That how best FSPs are surviving in an environment others find uninhabitable. Innovation in its plain definition is a betterment process which service quality seeks to achieve.
Public image and future customer base reserve
No all willing potential customers are in a position to buy services or products at a given time. However, they know and had ideas of what they want. Given a chance, they can choose from which service provider they would like to buy from. Let consider young potential investors. Before they start earning, they know where they want to invest their money. They are a future customer reserve for the companies they have in mind. Such decisions are based on public image of a financial company that is largely dependent on quality of services it provides. When opportunity comes and they start earning, these young investors will just approach the companies they had in mind previously.
Service quality is the fuel that runs business after the selling process. Acquiring new customers is not an end to itself. They must be satisfied, appreciated and their concerns considered. Otherwise, the contemporary financial market is very hostile, versatile and customers are as free, focused and adaptive as their needs demand. They want nothing short of the best. Companies with excellent service quality do not have to worry but they will survive if only they continuously improve their services perpetually.
Bedi Kanlshka. “The service quality conundrum”. n.d.
Dolak Dave. “Sales and personal selling”. 2010.
Ghobadian Abby, Speller Simon and Jones Matthew. “Service Quality: Concepts & Models”. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management 11. 9 (1994): 43-66.
Grönroos Christian. Service Management and Marketing. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1990.
Mathews Peter. “The selling process. Steps to success”. n.d.
Robinson, Stewart and Pidd Michael. “Provider and customer expectations of successful simulation projects”. Journal of the Operational Research Society 49. 3 (1998): 200-9.
Silvestro Rhian, Johnston Robert, Fitzgerald Lin & Voss Chris. “Quality measurement in service industries”. International Journal of Service Industry Management 1. 2 (1990): 54-66.
Voss Chris. Field Service Management. 1985. in Voss Chris, Armistead C., Johnston B., and Morris B. Operations Management in Service Industries and the Public Sector. London: John Wiley & Sons.