The new month began quite unpleasantly for David. His branch manager came up to him and, without asking anything, declared:

- A new adviser is coming tomorrow. I’d like you to show him the ropes, how you serve clients and how you look for new ones. Just show him how we work, okay?

The next day, a new co-worker appeared at David’s desk and immediately started talking about what he doesn’t like about working with clients.

PROBLEM

Right at the get-go, Mike - that’s his name - asked:

- Tell me, are there strict standards here, like when I worked in a bank?

- I also used to work in a bank - David smiled, and Mike immediately got worked up:

- So you know what I mean. I hated it when we were evaluated by secret clients on the basis of criteria that didn’t have much in common with real customer service.

David knew how it was. Strict procedures that, in the end, were supposed to get the client to sign the contract without any doubts or questions. The standards were so detailed that in order to implement them during the conversation, it was difficult to focus on the client and their needs. The funniest thing is that in most cases, employees easily recognise the secret client and only conduct a strictly ‘by-the-book’ conversation with that client.

- I hope they don’t play those kind of games here, I hope they don’t spend money on that stuff.

David, before he answered Mike, thought about it. On the one hand, he understood his fears - he also didn’t like to work using a strict plan. When is rigid adherence to standards ineffective?

1. When the standards aren’t compatible with the company’s sales realities

When David worked in a bank, the standards included a system for presenting the offer in the form of feature-advantage-benefit. However, none of the sales staff used it one-to-one, because it didn’t work in real conversations. For example, it required staff to use overly rigid, formal language, such as the phrase ‘thanks to’: “This personal account provides free withdrawals from all cash points, thanks to which you’ll save money on commissions that are usually charged when withdrawing cash from other banks’ cash points. Additionally, with this account you can make five free transfers, thanks to which you’ll save more money. As the conversation goes on, when the client hears what they’ll save thanks to our products, they have the impression that they’re talking to a machine.

2. When there are too many standards

Sales standards are a frequent phenomenon - not just in banks. The salesperson has to learn so much information about promotions and constantly changing offers and remember about so many formalities that they ultimately forget about the client. If standards are the centre of our attention, rather than clients themselves, it’s no wonder we don’t sell.

3. When standards don’t make sense

If I don’t know why I should do something, I don’t do it. So what about the fact that according to the standard, I should ask the client a minimum of six questions during the needs test - if you previously sold something using only two questions, then no procedure will get you to change your behaviour. With this in mind, David had to get his new colleague up-to-speed on the company rules, advising him that it was best if he understood and supported them. That’s because the standard is there to help us, especially when we face new sales realities.

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