Monday, April 21, 2008

Sales Advice Courtesy of Star Trek

I came across this post on Scott Sheaffer's Sales Vitamins blog. The nerd in me just loved it - it's a great piece of sales advice based on a Star Trek episode. If that doesn't intrigue you, I don't know what will. Read on!

Scott writes, "In an old episode of Star Trek, the Starship Enterprise was completely outgunned by multiple Klingon starships. There was no way that Scotty was going to be able to work his engineering magic in time to pull them out of this one. At just the moment that most captains would have made a desperate and feeble attempt to fire on the Klingon starships, Captain Kirk told Sulu to 'lower the shields.' That's right. He instructed his helm officer to turn off all of their remaining defenses and become completely vulnerable."

"What happened next? The Klingons were so surprised by this 'laying down of arms' that they followed suit. They stopped attacking and opened up communication with the Enterprise. They started talking and a compromise was reached. Captain Kirk's insight saved the day."

"While this is science fiction, the principle is not. If you want to open up the lines of communication with your customer, especially if there is conflict, then 'lay down your arms.' Defensiveness and aggressive behavior toward an unhappy customer only serve to make the situation worse by making them increasingly defensive and aggressive."

Consider this scenario and possible responses:

Customer: You guys completely messed up our last order and caused our production line to be down for 48 hours, costing us $450,000.

Salesperson #1 response: That may be, but I can prove you ordered the wrong parts. I'm not taking responsibility for this one.

Salesperson #2 response: I know that having your production line down for that long is completely unacceptable to your company. I want to do a post-mortem with you on this order and let's see what we can do to ensure that this never happens again.

"The first salesperson only caused the customer to get more upset and defensive. This salesperson was ultimately going to lose the battle. By 'lowering the shields' Salesperson #2 started to immediately diffuse the customer's anger and laid out a blueprint for future business."

"We're all human," continues Sheaffer. "Our natural tendency is to respond to a customer's anger with defensiveness. But it doesn't work very well. 'Lowering your shields' provides a pathway for communication and inspires your customer to turn off their phasers. Captain Kirk knew best."

Do you have a customer service issue that could be addressed by "lowering your shields?" Try it, we don't know if you'll live long, but we're sure you'll prosper!

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to read more from Scott at
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