Sometimes telling a customer “no” is better than the cash register ringing open.

I have a lot of conversations with customers.  Probably averaging about 7 per day – sometimes many more per day.  I love talking to customers, and I love that I get paid to do so.

This Monday night I talked to a customer that wanted something I could not offer them.  I could get them close, but I just knew I could not make them really happy.  Sure – I could have “sold them”.  Taken their money for a few months until they realized that what I told them was true – they were not a good fit at our company, and we could not truly satisfy them.  And it was good money.

I could let them spend a lot of time and trouble learning that, or I could spend over an hour on the phone talking them into using another service, from another company that was just better suited to the unique way they wanted to build their solution.

Nobody is happy hearing “your money is not welcome here”, so how the message is positioned is important – that is why it took over an hour to say no.

I don’t believe this customer knows I did them a favor (yet).  They will, and soon.  I moved them to the best place for them, and that was a competitor.  And I have no problem with that  – and I know my employer has no problem with that.  First – it is rare that this comes up.  Second, when customers come and go in a short window they create “churn”.

Churn is expensive.  It is not good for us, or for the customer – there is no win with churn.  Churn is caused by selling the right customer the wrong solution, or the right solution to the wrong customer.  And a lot of things can be responsible for this – a customer that won’t listen, the wrong incentive plans for sales teams – and sometimes just a lack of real communication beween the buyer and the seller. Sometimes it is just a matter of the right solution at the right time.  Selling for “fit” is complex – but rewarding – to everyone involved in the transaction.

So I love really being able to spend enough time with customers to really figure out what they need – and if I have to send them to “the store down the street”, well, I am good with that.  As long as the store down the street will treat them well.

Don’t give up next quarter to meet your quotas today.  Sell what you do well that can help your customer well.  Don’t give in to the temptation to “just sell”.  Selling is pretty easy.  Selling the right solution, to the right person at the right time – that is kind of magical.

BTW – clarification – I am NOT in Sales, I am not on commission, and I have no quotas.  For the purposes of this post I think my point applies even if you are in Sales, you do have quotas, and you are paid on commission.  You can’t screw customers over and expect to win.  Not over time.  It is just another Ponzi scheme.