Here you are: Sensational Mr. or Ms. Business Person. But the sad truth is, if your company is selling a product or service, it's probably viewed by customers as a commodity they can get anywhere.

It's hard to earn and keep loyal customers. Even though you know your industry inside and out (and customers would be foolish to purchase with someone else), you need to demonstrate and prove it consistently. You have to stand out. Not just your product, but your marketing, your sales team and your service.

When you've lost in a sales pitch, have you ever asked why? It's great to ask for feedback, which hopefully you do. But if you're ever wondering why business is going elsewhere, some self reflection on these 3 basic service characteristics is warranted:

1) Hear the need, not just the request.

A client calls to place an order. Sometimes we're so eager to provide an answer that we forget to listen—actively. Active listening includes asking follow up questions to clarify what you've heard and digging deeper to understand the problem the customer is trying to solve. Perhaps the customer calls to ask you for a widget. But a follow up question reveals that a wocket would serve the client much better than the widget. You won't know that until you probe deeper into the situation to understand the need. This moves you from being an order taker to a problem solver.

2) Follow up and follow through.

Say what you're going to do, and then do it. It sounds simple. But a promise of service has no value unless you actually follow through. This means understanding the timeline and then meeting—or beating—it. Don't make the customer chase you down. Manage expectations on when you will provide information or deliver an order. If you can over-deliver, you will delight customers and make yourself even more indispensable to them for future orders.

3) Be nice.

Conduct business cheerfully. If you can't do that, you're probably in the wrong line of work. Have you ever sat in the chair to get your hair cut only to hear the stylist talk about how long his day has been or how tired his feet are? Makes me want to jump out the chair and run to different salon. Make sure you and your team work with customers in a friendly, courteous and professional manner. If they feel like their calls are an inconvenience, they'll look for someone who is more eager to serve them.

Most of us are in competitive businesses. Customers have choices. If you don't listen, follow up and follow through—cheerfully—then customers can buy somewhere else.

Don't just assume your sales team is doing these things well. Find out. If you need help with customer intel,secret shopping or branded sales training, give Alex a call at 785.383.3689.