Changes are often associated with uncertainty and raise many questions, especially in business relationships. Why are things changing? What does that mean to me personally? Can I handle the new realities? Is it still worthwhile for me to buy or continue using the product or service? How can I help the client through the changes without losing them?

Communicating changes to clients

The most important thing is... to start with yourself. The change you’re about to communicate to your client shouldn’t cause you fear that your clients will leave, that they’ll complain, that they won’t understand what the changes are for. You know that quality comes at a price. What’s more, price is often a factor by which customers evaluate you, your company, and the quality of its products.

Each change takes place in three stages:

  1. The thaw - a reflection that something no longer works or does not work well enough, and that a new and better solution is needed.
  2. The change - the step of experimenting, trying, and getting used to new things - in this phase, you communicate with the client.
  3. The freeze - introducing mechanisms that support change, streamlining new procedures. In this phase, client relationships are deepened and re-arranged so that each side feels comfortable again.

If your company has raised the price of the product or service or changed the terms of business, it means that you’re in the second stage - see how the changes are working out. In order for you, as a salesperson, to support this change and properly communicate it to the client, you need to know why the change happened in the first place.

Emotional phases of change:

  1. The displacement phase - this phase involves some anxiety - what does this change mean for me, and where do I fit in the new circumstances? These questions are the first to come to mind for a person faced with change.

    Example:

    Client: How am I supposed to change the cost calculations for our business in the middle of a year? Will my lawyer have time to review the contract changes?

  2. The resistance phase - at this stage, anger is a common emotion. After the first shock subsides, resistance and questions arise: Why all this, when everything has worked so far?! The new system is worse - who came up with it? Fortunately, this phase also passes.

    Example:

    Client: We had everything in order, why do I have to change my calculations now? I won’t sign the new contract!

  3. The experimentation phase - this is usually accompanied by sadness. It is a time of a kind of mourning for what was familiar. We try to familiarise ourselves with and understand our new reality.

    Example:

    Client: I’ll try to analyse these new conditions, and I’ll let you know what I think. I’ll check whether I have to raise my prices in order that we can continue to do business on these principles.

  4. The acceptance phase - the last of the phases. At this stage, we’re getting used to our realities and beginning to accept them.

Example:

Client: This relationship is good for us.

Attitudes to change

In addition to the stages the client will go through when your company makes changes, you’re likely to find that there are four types of reaction to change:

The Victim

This client puts up passive resistance - they won’t process orders, send emails, or answer the phone. They feel angry because they lost something they knew well. Fear and panic may also creep into the relationship, which means this client may call you more often and ask the same thing several times: What documents should I send you now? Who should I call? Consider how you can support them and give them a sense of security.

Example:

I’m at your disposal, please call me if you have any questions at all. I will answer them, and I’ll help you. We’ve introduced improved turnaround times to make your work easier.

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