Posted on 08 November 2011.
In this age of consumerism and abundance of choices for every product, the customer is king. Keeping a customer happy, and having him return with repeat orders, is a necessity for businesses to be sustained. It is here that building relationships with customers come in, since this will help in keeping them involved with the business. This is likely to require an investment of time and effort from the entrepreneur, who will have to extend himself and reach out to his present and potential customers.
Analysis of data collected from various businesses reveals that repeat customers spend over 33% more than first time ones, and more likely to provide referrals than new ones. This is the rationale behind building relationships with customers, which may prove to help in the survival of the business in the highly competitive environment.
Building relationships with customers is easy for extroverts who love meeting people, though introvert entrepreneurs may have to make a conscious effort. Customers are real people with feelings and emotions which can be tapped to establish a bond. Customers are not nameless faces in the crowd or a faceless voice on the phone, but for a business, each customer is a distinct individual who matters.
How to build relationships
- Common courtesy, personalized treatment- Customers being crucial to the survival of a business, deserve the best possible behavior. Being courteous and respectful with sincerity, helps in having them warm up to you, and professional attitudes help you win their respect. This is the first step to thawing the ice.
- Sincere advice and sharing of knowledge- Customers really appreciate sincere advice, and if as a businessman, you are able to display your knowledge and expertise in your field, they are bound to warm up to you. However, staying professional in approach and demeanor is essential.
- Knowing their environment and needs- An entrepreneur needs to understand where his customer comes from, since this helps him understand his perspectives and preferences. Customers also feel special when you know more about them, and this is one more step to converting them into permanent clients.
- Never lose track of a customer – A customer must not disappear into oblivion, rather he must be tracked. A bad experience they may have had, must be remedied, rather then letting them walk away in disgust.
- Join social networks- social media networks are a great way to stay in touch with customers and building relationships. The network is a great way to stay in touch with the latest developments in customers’ lives, and commenting or ‘liking’ their posts will show your interest, which will help the relationship.
- Special offers for an exclusive group of customers- Customers feel rewarded when an exclusive offer is made to them, or only to a select group of permanent ones. This helps in further cementing the relationship.
- Responding fast to queries- A customer’s query, immediately answered builds goodwill and chances of his returning for a purchase increase.
Building customer relationships is the only way to sustain businesses large and small, and is worth every bit of investment of time and effort.
Posted in Sales Strategy
Posted on 11 October 2011.
Price objections are the most dreaded hurdle in a prospective sales deal. It appears like a big letdown for the sales representative who feels he was on the verge of closing a sale and the opportunity might just slip out of his hands. However, seasoned sales experts believe that price objections are disguised sales opportunities, and do not imply rejection and refusal to buy. Price objections indicate an inclination to buy the product, but perhaps the price quoted seems unjustified. They can therefore be handled in various ways so as to retain the prospect and close a sale.
Ways to handle price objections
- Convince further- A price objection is an indication that the prospective buyer is not entirely convinced about the product. Therefore, he needs to be convinced more about its qualities, superiority over other similar products, durability, customer service and so on.
- Negotiate and leave price till the end- The battle to be won is negotiating the details of the deal and keeping price undisclosed till the end. This helps since there is no room for price objections, that is, preventing rather than curing.
- Be well informed about competitor prices and products- A commonly used reason for price objections is lower prices of competing products. It is for the salesman to be aware of competing products, their prices, and arguments to prove that he is selling a superior product. He must add the better customer service, warranties, delivery and other services to his product, to make it a more appealing package.
- Prepare a case to justify prices- When price objections are anticipated and dreaded, it is imperative that counter arguments are prepared beforehand. A well articulated argument has a better impact than one presented on the spur of the moment.
- Be convinced as a salesman to convince others- The best arguments can be provided only when the salesman himself is convinced about the price. It is only then that he can provide a convincing argument to counter price objections.
- Focus on value more than price- While countering price objections, the focus has to be on the value and utility of the product to justify the asking price. Another way to establish value is by checking what benefits are sought by the customer and how they these can be converted into value.
- The last resort-switch to another product within the customer’s price expectations- When no other argument works, one option may be to reduce the price. This has its own issues, since it counters all arguments presented before, and dilutes the value and brand image of the product in question. The last resort then, in a desperate bid to sell, is to offer a slightly lower grade product which fits in with the customer’s budget. Chances are, that he will agree to the better product at the old price and forget his price objection.
Price objections are a part and parcel of a sales deal, and it is for the salesman to counter them effectively, while respecting the customer’s viewpoint and amicably closing the sale.
Posted in Sales Strategy
Posted on 09 August 2011.
LinkedIn is a social network for businesses that links people professionally and helps them engage with others to share knowledge and take advantage of available opportunities. As a valuable networking tool, LinkedIn helps not only businesses but also helps to establish the credibility of its sales staff who must be encouraged to create their own LinkedIn profiles. This is not just to use social media for business benefits but also because social media uses all its members in numerous ways.
Sales staff may feel that a LinkedIn profile is an unnecessary waste of time, but the need can be explained with the following points:
- The LinkedIn brand is important- It has become common practice to search for the profile of people we meet. This is a way to establish trust and reliability. When sales people create a LinkedIn profile they reveal information about themselves and your business, which can work to the advantage of both.
- LinkedIn helps to create a professional identity- in the highly populated real world, every individual is an anonymous drop in the ocean, but in the virtual world, LinkedIn helps to give him a visible online identity that is easily traceable.
- LinkedIn is a way of engaging- With sales tricks like cold calling dying out and public being resentful of encroachment of personal space, LinkedIn can help to reach out to the highly targeted customer group, and save time, effort and energy, while also seeing a higher success rate.
- Joining sales groups helps- LinkedIn has numerous sales groups which sales teams from other businesses join. This helps them share information, learn from experiences and network beyond the confines of their business.
- Sales staff can improve performance- For the highly motivated sales staff driven by numbers to achieve targets, LinkedIn can help him use it to post information, updates and relevant content and reach out to more people, many of whom may become customers.
- LinkedIn adds credibility and brings respect- Sales teams may never be asked about their track record, positions and successes, but a LinkedIn profile will show customers, their past impressive record, accomplishments, awards and accolades. This enhances the standing of the sales personnel and brings a new kind of respect from customers which eventually ends up convincing them to buy.
- >LinkedIn profiles show the business united in outlook and perspectives- When a sales team has LinkedIn profiles with the same keywords used as the business, it reveals the united front and similarity in perspective helps customers see the business in a positive light.
- LinkedIn to build lists and tag contacts- Sales staff can build lists of contacts and then tag them to send targeted emails messages that may be of interest, besides events and promotions.
- LinkedIn is part of digital sales strategies- When real world sales take more time and effort, digital sales show promise since they are faster and place more resources at the disposal of the sales staff.
Thus LinkedIn is not for businesses alone. It makes perfect sense to have sales staff join this network too, and create a profile that will further their own interests and that of their business.
Posted in Sales Strategy
Posted on 03 August 2011.
A virtual market place exists on the internet with thousands if not millions of prospective customers being wooed by numerous businesses. Twitter is one of the various social media options available to businesses to communicate with their prospects. Engaging them in the business and what it can offer is one way of persuading them to buy. Twitter is a micro blogging social network site that has millions of members and helps to update people about latest developments, small details and big time plans, with the idea of establishing and maintaining a rapport with hundreds of people. The micro blogging feature ensures that the posts are short, crisp and precise, and yet managing to create the desired effect.
- Twitter is free and more effective as a communication channel- Businesses initially used advertising features on search engines like yahoo and Google to increase their brand awareness. However the potential of being proactive through Twitter holds far more appeal and chances of success since it is possible to engage people individually and personally. It is the ideal medium to send out meaningful messages targeted to increase sales but with empathy and sincerity though effective communication.
- Tweet to understand customer needs- Businesses can use tweets to elicit a response from customers about their needs and issues that they would like addressed. A product that targets specific needs has a higher chance of success than others.
- Twitter to release information on new launches- Instead of spending millions on advertising, Twitter is the best medium to communicate with prospects about new products on the anvil, some innovations and new additions.
- Twitter for promotional discounts- Discounts and special offers and other promotional rebates can all be communicated to prospects through Twitter.
- Twitter to influence and engage prospects- Twitter is the perfect medium to provide appropriate information that can influence prospects and keep them engaged while ensuring they are not overburdened with information.
- Twitter to connect- As a resource available to businesses Twitter is useful to connect with people, follow them and have regular conversations and interaction. For prospective and new customers this is especially useful since it helps to build relationships and raise the comfort level to build mutual trust.
- Diligence through Twitter- As a prospect becomes a client, his Twitter account is a great way to check his credibility and reputation. Conducting due diligence helps in preventing fraudulent deals and ending up with a bad customer.
- Twitter for more prospects- As existing prospects become customers, their network connections can be tapped to add to new prospects and pursue them as future customers. This places a vast network of people at the disposal of businesses to tap and explore for expanding clientele.
- Twitter for feedback- This offers the perfect platform to get an earnest feedback from prospects about how they rate the products offered by a business, whether or not they will buy, and how to make it more attractive for them.
Twitter is a safe communication medium that can reach prospects both far and near. Not using Twitter is a big sales and marketing mistake due to the loss of opportunities it provides to all types of businesses.
Posted in Sales Strategy
Posted on 03 August 2011.
Social media though meant for networking has proved to be highly beneficial in augmenting sales for businesses. While social media is not a direct sales platform, it accomplishes this by influencing people, by exploring preferences and interests of potential customers and using social media to address them. Social media offers an open platform for people to share brands and products they like or have problems with, and this turns out to be the most effective marketing technique. For businesses social media offers an initial opportunity that can be grabbed and used to persuade potential customers to buy the products on offer. Marketing experts believe that social media is the gateway to social enablement that offers opportunities too good to be missed. This makes it the right route to increase net revenue through increased sales.
Social media is preferable to cold sales calls which may or may not be well received. It helps businesses gain ground with friends and groups, thus opening a world of opportunity as word about a new launch spreads virally on social networks. It also provides businesses an opportunity to get closer to people and have a more human face which people can relate to.
Social media helps sales in numerous ways some of which include:
- Opportunity for personal one-on-one contact – Businesses get an opportunity to interact directly with potential customers and answer their doubts and queries.
- Increase products’ and brand awareness- Social media offers the ideal platform to businesses to popularize their products and give their brand an online presence.
- Get more referrals- Brands and businesses get more orders and increase sales through recommendations of friends and peers than other advertising tools. Social media is being increasingly used by consumers to spread word about how good a product is-people like to share experiences which works to the advantage of a business.
- Relationship building- this is possible primarily through social media where a business creates its online image. By maintaining contact and reaching out to people businesses are able to resolve doubts, address issues and answer queries and also understand their needs.
- Lead generation- perhaps the biggest benefit of social media is that it helps to generate leads since people recommend and refer businesses to others. Thus the biggest source of new orders, new customers and new business comes from social media. This helps to augment sales.
- Helps in evaluation- Social media helps in evaluating what exactly people want and changing or modifying product lines to meet those. It also helps in evaluation current trends and promising business avenues worth exploring while introducing new products.
- Building trust- eventually most people buy brands that they can trust. Trust can be built through social media since communication is possible and sharing of knowledge and expertise will reveal the superiority of a brand over others. Additionally, customer inputs can be used to reinforce claims. Once the trust is established, more and more orders will push sales higher. Repeat customers are crucial to sustain a business.
Social media is an inexpensive medium to establish a rapport with current and prospective customers, which can then translate into higher sales.
Posted in Sales Process, Sales Strategy, Sales Tips
Posted on 12 July 2011.
In the age of social networking LinkedIn has emerged as the most successful social network for businesses. With its ‘pull’ rather than ‘push’ mechanism, it establishes a highly relevant, quality network of people who have some common interest. LinkedIn appears as a compilation of business and individual profiles updated with images, links and photos, but additional features have made it a goldmine of information. It is this information that can be used to make a sales pitch, and by not incorporating LinkedIn in the daily sales process, means losing out on valuable sales. This is because it is possible to get in touch with people with similar interests within a territory and approach them to make a sales pitch. Finding such customers would ordinarily take longer, and the LinkedIn connection makes them approachable and accessible.
How LinkedIn Helps Sales
- Provides customer leads-With customer profiles visible, it is easy to find friends and colleagues in common who can be used to make a connection and serve as a lead.
- Helps to keep in touch with the latest in your business- People connected through business can be kept updated with latest news on the business front to keep up their interest.
- Helps to sell through networking- Selling is largely a networking exercise, and LinkedIn provides information about individuals and how to enter their network and approach them for sales.
- Enables reestablishing long lost relationships – LinkedIn helps find old colleagues and business associates whose acquaintance can be leveraged for sales.
How LinkedIn Can Help to Increase Sales
- Get a first basic network in place perfectly- The first step to augment sales is to get the right profile that appeals and impresses. A clear picture of the target customer and how to approach him will help in establishing a strategy to get to him. Establish the basic network of known people so that they can be used to reach others.
- Extend business and sales network- Since LinkedIn is a business network and sales essentially a networking exercise, these can be augmented by extending the network to include more targeted clients who can be visibly impressed with your profile and introduce you to their network-thus placing a huge clientele at your sales doorstep.
- Joining groups- Groups like professional organizations and industry groups, alumni and peer groups, all help to create a visible presence and make people aware of your business. This improves chances of getting direct sales calls.
- Build your brand and company image- LinkedIn can be used to enhance the brand presence by placing the same brand and company details on the profile of the sales team. This consistency helps and with links to the website, targeted traffic will increase along with probability of sales.
- Credibility of team can be built by highlighting their achievements and accomplishments besides their qualifications. Customers take better to well qualified and successful sales personnel and willingly get persuaded to buy.
- Recommendations from customers are the best sales pitch for a business. When prospective customers find a product endorsed and recommended by others, they are more willing to buy it themselves.
- Stay actively connected- Being active on LinkedIn helps to stay in line of vision of people and staying connected helps to remind them about your existence. This will make them come to you to buy when they need your product rather than go to your competitor.
Posted in Sales Management Tips, Sales Strategy, Sales Tips
Posted on 10 May 2011.
For all businesses to survive, sales may be critical, but customer satisfaction is even for more critical and the decisive factor that helps to sustain businesses. This is because a satisfied customer will keep returning for more and this will drive sales higher. This fact has made customer service an important part of business and since it holds the key to long term business relationships, In today’s world the customer is king and he needs to be handled well or else he will move to competitors of the business.
Customers are very clear about what they want and will not hesitate to complain if they feel they have not received what was promised. Businesses have to handle customer sales complaints right if they wish to retain customers. In fact, the manner in which the complaints are handled, defines the long term relationship with the customer.
Steps for dealing with customer complaints
- Courtesy and patience while hearing a complaint- The most important thing when an angry, dissatisfied or unhappy customer contacts you, is to show him respect, courtesy and patiently hear him out. It may be difficult since the first inclination is to deny the faults found, but this would put off the customer.
- Log the complaint and acknowledge its receipt- The customer must be told that his complaint has been accepted and logged so that corrective action can be taken. This appeases the customer and he would like to believe that it has made an impact.
- Investigate and inform- As a matter of policy, any sales complaint received, must be investigated. It has to have an element of truth however small, and it is essential to identify the source of the mistake, and immediately rectify it. Whatever action is action, must then be communicated to the customer, so that he is satisfied. The faster this is done, the better for the business, since the customer will be impressed with the promptness of the action, and he will feel good that the business cares about what he has to say.
- Following up later- Once the complaint has been addressed it is a good strategy to follow it up after a few days or weeks with the customer to know whether he is satisfied.
Some rules for handling customer sales complaints
Irrespective of what the product or service is, some universal rules apply for handling customer sales complaints. These include the following:
- Honesty and ethical behavior- is always appreciated by customers and helps a business rise in their esteem.
- Being fair rather than partial- an impartial approach is important to do justice to the staff and the customer
- Efficiency and quick action- it helps the business and pleases the customer
- Accountability- Giving contact details to a customer, makes him believe that the business is accountable and helps its image.
Customer relationships need to be maintained for successful businesses and handling their complaints well is one critical step in the larger game plan.
Posted in Sales Strategy, Sales Tips