Paul Raggio | The importance of stewardship

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It starts with a simple thank you. However, that’s not where it should end. I recently made a significant purchase. I bought a new car. The salesperson was pleasant, not pushy, and worked with me on my truck’s trade-in value. The sales cycle was quick. I understood what I wanted and knew the approximate trade-in value I would use to negotiate a deal. They didn’t have to sell to me, and I would be an easy close if they met my conditions. I selected a vehicle on the lot, and the initial parlay ended because they didn’t meet my trade-in value. I left the dealership without the car and did more online research.  

I found another dealership with a like model and a web-based tool that provided an estimate on my trade-in, which was much closer in value than the previous dealer’s offer. I contacted the salesperson and told her I would like to close the deal with her if she met my trade-in value, which she finally did after talking to the dealership manager. I was happy, and she was delighted, and the sales cycle ended with her saying thank you for my business and me driving off the lot in a new car. 

For many salespersons and customers, this is where the sales cycle ends, and if it does, what a shame. There is a lost opportunity for future sales. Business development is an essential activity for companies to survive, and exceptional business development means a company thrives. It requires investment both of money and time. There are three legs to the business development stool: marketing, sales and customer service. Marketing generates interest in your product and services and produces leads — sales close deals and converts interested parties to customers. Customer service cares for past buyers and ensures they purchase again or refer your products or services to other interested parties with a need. This third leg, customer service, is often paid little attention to in developing strategies for revenue generation. Customer inattentiveness is a massive mistake on the company’s part. 

Recently Lisa and I had Michelle Rey, executive director of the College of the Canyons Foundation, as a guest on our weekly webcast sponsored by The Signal. This very inspiring, engaging and dynamic executive coached us on the importance of stewardship! She enthusiastically projects her passion and purpose. In other words, “WHY” she does what she does in the nonprofit sector and attributes much of her success to this stewardship concept. Stewardship, the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care, easily can replace the old, tired and overused term customer service.  

In Michelle’s case, her stewardship of existing foundation donors, people who give their treasure to benefit the college, and their loyalty means authentically expressing gratitude, not just when they give a monetary gift, but throughout the year. Her actions are abundant and meaningful to the donors. As she stated, the most important value she can establish with donors is trust. Trust that their treasure is being used prudently and with purpose. Trust that their wealth is impacting the college and student population positively. Michelle believes in establishing trust by authentically demonstrating gratitude and caring for the donor! Imagine filling your business pipeline with referrals — prospective customers anxious and waiting to buy your product and satisfy a need. Picture not only your sales team but also any of your employees who engage with the public, establishing trust by expressing gratitude to existing customers for their loyalty and prospective customers for their interest.  

The customer loyalty ladder starts with a suspect who may or may not be interested in your product and services. If interest is expressed, the party turns into a prospect, and if there is an immediate need on the prospect’s part, they evolve to a shopper. Suppose your product and services and sales approach appeal to the shopper. Then they will buy and become a customer. Everything after becoming a customer depends on your stewardship. They will return for future purchases and become a member of your loyal base if you demonstrate some level of stewardship. However, if your stewardship wanes, they likely will look to your competitor for bargains. On the other hand, if you create an exceptional stewardship program, your existing customers become your fiercest advocates and ultimately raving fans. They are an extension of your business development team.  

I’m thrilled with my new car, and the buying experience was good. Time will tell how suitable the salesperson and dealer’s stewardship is and whether I become their advocate and raving fan. This concept is essential for business sustainability and growth. Once again imagine, if an interested party asks me about the features of my new car. If all I am is a customer of the dealership my car came from, I’ll tell the prospect to do your research and find the best deal among competing dealers. 

On the other hand, If the salesperson and dealer, through their stewardship, convert me to a raving fan, undoubtedly, I’ll refer the prospect to the salesperson and notify the salesperson of my referral. Therefore, I help them build a sustainable and growth-centric pipeline! This is how you lead, think, plan and act. Now let’s get after it!   

      Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions. 

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