Selling is like a love story. Make sure yours has a happy ending.

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at

Some years ago, I thought I’d found the one. Yes, the one garage that truly understood me, and my lack of technical sophistication. The one mechanic who was in tune with what I needed, and didn’t hold out false hopes or far-fetched dreams. Every time I took my car there, the bill was less than I expected. But that’s not all. There were little touches that made me think he really cared. Extras that I hadn’t asked for, and things fixed that I didn’t even know were broken. And all at no extra charge. They were small things, and just a moment’s work for somebody who knew what they were doing, but they made a difference. And truth be told, I’d have paid a lot more than I did, simply for the feeling that I was in a mutually beneficial relationship. He won, I won. We had a future together. We shared our problems. In my case, they were mostly mechanical. In his, financial: he mentioned he’d moved house, had another kid and got some unexpected bills. Times were hard, he told me. I commiserated, but thought no more of it. Until the next time I visited.

(Grease) monkey business

This time, the bill was higher than I expected. Not only that, there were some other things he’d spotted that needed attention. They were serious, he told me, and shouldn’t really be left. So I agreed, and ended up with a bill almost three times what I was used to. Oh well, I thought. These things happen. It’s just the once. Except it wasn’t. The next time, it was other small niggles that couldn’t be left unrepaired. There was much sucking of air through teeth, and standing back to get a better view of the impending disaster that was my car. The free extras had stopped. The paid extras had kicked in. I went from a feeling of being in safe hands to one of being exploited. And then one day I left the abusive relationship, and found a mechanic who understood me. If my story sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve got one just like it. The nice coffee shop that turned nasty. The hairdresser who hiked her prices with no warning. The gym that refused to offer you the same deal as new members. The list goes on and on. Trust takes a long time to earn, but is very quick to lose. Change the service, push your prices up, behave out of character and your clients get twitchy. Buying – just like dating – is difficult and stressful when you’re faced with with a stranger, which is why people stick with what they know. Until that changes. Until you change it:
  • You raise your prices because you need more revenue. (Hint: find new customers instead.)
  • You change your offer because it’s been too popular. Or you discontinue it for the same reason.
  • Your response is ‘you should have read the small print’ when somebody complains.
  • You stop being flexible and bending rules when you know you could (or should).
  • You forget that clients are humans just like you, and that you can hurt their feelings (which hurts your bottom line).
  • You behave unpredictably or unreliably, and they realise they can no longer trust you to be predictable or reliable.
  • You take them for granted.

Spanner in the works

It takes a lot to win a client, and not very much to keep them (do what you do well, keep up your standards, and make them happy). But it takes very little indeed to lose them, when you lose sight of what matters. Selling is like dating – you’re looking for a long-term relationship. But when it’s over, it’s over, and they’re not coming back – so make sure you keep them, by getting all the little things right. If you don’t, there’s always another mechanic with a cheeky grin and a winning way. And those all-important extras.