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If Your Client Doesn’t Know What You’re Doing, You Aren’t Doing Anything

In keeping your promise to help your clients produce the outcomes that you sold them, inevitably, there will be problems and challenges. The more important the outcome, or the more difficult it is to obtain, the more certain you can be that there will be issues and challenges that take you and your team to the edge.

You may know how to put the train back on the tracks, but unless your client knows what you are doing, you aren’t doing anything.

Let Them Know That You Know

Sometimes your client won’t call you to report that there is a problem. Sometimes you will find out there is a problem only after someone on your team informs you.

As the person who sold and promised the outcome that is in jeopardy, you are responsible for letting your client know that you know there is a problem. Your call means that you care, and it means that when your client looks over their shoulder, you are going to be right there in the foxhole with them. You can be trusted.

This doesn’t mean you are necessarily the right person to solve their problem. It means that you are going to take responsibility and own the problem. It means that you are going to ensure that it is eventually resolved.

No call means you are doing nothing to help your client (even if you are).

What Action Are You Taking?

Sometimes you and your whole organization may be making every effort to help resolve your client’s problem, but if no one informs the client, they believe you are doing nothing.

Your obligation as a professional salesperson (and as a trusted advisor, if that is what you aspire to) is to let your client know exactly what you are doing and when they can expect their problem to be resolved.

If your team is taking action, let your client know that you are taking action. Otherwise . . .

What Are You Doing Now?

If your client’s problem can’t be quickly resolved, long periods of time without updates quickly descend into a belief that you aren’t doing anything—or that you aren’t doing enough.

You need to give your client a status update as to what actions are being taken, what results you expect, and when you will give them another status update. The bigger the problem and the more critical the outcome, the more frequent the updates.

Is this always your job as a salesperson? It probably isn’t. But you do have to make enough of these calls yourself to help prove that you care and that you and your team are still pulling out all of the stops to resolve the problems.

What Will Prevent Future Problems?

When it is all said and done and the problem is finally resolved, you owe your client another call. You owe your client a call to tell them how you resolved the problem and what will prevent a reoccurrence. This probably isn’t a call for you as a salesperson to make. But it is your job to make sure that the call gets made.

Not calling to inform your client what you are going to do to prevent having the same problem again in the future means you aren’t doing anything.

It is your job to make sure that the problem is resolved to the client’s satisfaction, and that they believe it was handled properly.

If you would have deep, trust-based relationships and referenceable clients, you don’t need to never have any problems. That isn’t realistic and businesspeople know it. You do have to handle the problems well and professionally, and that means communication.


When you have a problem with something that you have purchased and you report an issue, what do you believe is being done if no one gets back to you?

What would make you feel that someone cared deeply about helping you?

If a salesperson sold you something that wasn’t getting the result they promised, who has the responsibility to communicate and own that problem for you?

If the salesperson never communicated with you about the problem, how likely is it that you would buy from them again?

(These are harder questions when framed this way, no?)

As a professional salesperson, what are your obligations in communicating what you and your company are doing to resolve the problem? What obligations belong to someone else and why?

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  • Anonymous

    I agree with you on taking ownership of a problem. So many salespeople are great at getting the sale but collapse if anything goes wrong. They look the other way and pretend that nothing is happening.

    By owning an issue, you are proving that you are there for the customer for the long haul. They usually understand if you alone cannot solve the problem, but you are involved and care about the results. Thanks for the great post. Miriam

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Miriam!

  • TJ

    I think a lot of salespeople get that they should recognize and own up when a problem arises; the part I don’t see as much is the follow-up, the status updates to let me (or the customer) know you’re what exactly you’re doing to fix the problem. If I call my cable company with a problem only to get a “we know there’s a problem, please stand by” one more time, so help me I’m going to scream.

    Anyway. Great post Anthony!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      A little follow up goes a long way! Thanks, TJ. 

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  • Wim @ Sales Sells

    While in theory it would probably be not only easier, but also more efficient to leave support and customer care to the designated departments, this is where you can really make a difference as a salesperson. It’s not always easy though. Where to draw the line?

    I share Mike Weinberg’s concern that sales ‘hunters’ are way too often limited by tons of other tasks (like support, administration, customer care). Top performers are not necessarily good account managers and vice versa, so that’s definitely something to keep in mind here.

    Thanks for an excellent read again Anthony,

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I agree that the line is sometimes blurry. But, sales hunters can still be hunters and orchestrate their team, when they have to. It’s not a matter of making them account managers; that would take to much time from a pure hunter. But it is a matter of walking your talk and making sure your client receives what it is sold and promised. 

      Can we agree upon having the sales person enter their clients into their cellular and calling somebody between meetings? There are lots of more time-consuming things we ask them to do that create way less value, no? 

      What sayeth @mike_weinberg?