5 Unique Approaches to Cementing Customer Trust

5 Ways to Earn the Trust and Loyalty of your Customers
Depending on who you ask, acquiring a new customer can cost between five and seven times the resources of simply cultivating ongoing relationships with existing customers. Bain & Company is the most prominent purveyor of the statistic, but the lesson is clear – cementing customer trust is essential to growing a business.

The modern customer has more choice than ever. With more than 5 exabytes of data hitting the Internet every two days, the noise is overwhelming for a distracted customer. Keep their attention focused squarely on your offerings with the following approaches.

Start with Empathy

It is always easier to learn the nuances of a sales funnel when you put yourself in the shoes of your customer. If you can really feel the pain of those you serve, it will come across in everything from your sales scripts to your daily customer service interactions. You may also be able to predict the needs of your customers before a problem becomes apparent, something that will definitely win you points with legacy customers.

Become a Truth Teller

No matter your industry, customers will appreciate a company that tells the unvarnished truth. A savvy marketer can even elicit some humor from this technique. One strategy that works well is to advertise in a way that turns an exaggerated industry motif on its head. Calling out the overbearing nature of industry standard advertisements instantly sets you apart from your competition. You gain trust because you are pointing a finger at confusing or misleading advice while attaching your brand to the high road.

Customers Do the Best PR

We have entered an age of ubiquitous advertising that has oversold almost everyone. The average customer can see right through an actor or a script. The result is an instant distaste for any interaction that seems fake. Savvy companies are fighting back with PR teams that cannot be interpreted as fake by customers – because they are customers.

Your best customers can easily become your best advocates, and they cost a lot less than hiring a professional PR team. For a few free giveaways, you can target the thought leaders on your social media pages, deputizing them to give away coupons for your next sale or tout the advantages of a product that has been showcased to them exclusively before its release.

Own Your Damage Control

When something bad happens, take it on the chin. There is nothing worse than a company that will not take responsibility for the inevitable mistakes that will occur in its lifetime. Anytime you try to cover a mistake with inauthentic apologies or diversions, you risk losing the most loyal of your customers. Keep in mind that these people likely understand your sales process just as well as you. After all, they are the ones on the receiving end of it.

If a batch of products goes bad or you simply missed the mark, own up to the mistake immediately. Your long-standing customers will likely understand and stay with you as long as you tell the truth and make strides to honestly fix it. The fair-weather friends that you may have earned during a single sales cycle might leave, but they should have never been your priority in the first place.

Continuous Improvement

The successful modern company always has an eye to continuous improvement. If you are still working within the traditional iterative product cycle, consider allowing your customers in on the production process. With their feedback coming at you 10,000 miles per hour, you will be able to consistently improve your products. Your operations and administration will necessarily have to speed up in order to keep up with suggestions.

You can learn of the improvements that your customers want through social media for free. You no longer have to spend thousands of dollars on third-party focus groups and surveys – all of the information that you need to constantly improve is given to you on a daily basis. Refusing to use it is almost a sin, and ignoring it is a surefire way to lose the trust of your customers.

The successful companies of the future will engender trust with their customers today. Although every company’s strategy will be unique, you can certainly follow the tips above to properly order your steps in the right direction. Loyalty is everything – make it a priority to earn the trust of your customers. They are seeking your validation and approval every day through social media, in their responses to your email blasts, and in their opt-in subscription numbers. Give them what they are looking for and solidify your company’s place in the market as well.

About the author:

Reuben Yonatan is the founder and CEO of GetVoIP, a trusted VoIP resource that helps companies understand and choose a business communication solution for their specific needs. With a 10-year track record in building, growing and strategically shaping operational functionality in all his ventures, Reuben assists SMBs align business strategy with culture and improve overall corporate infrastructure.

Don’t You Understand Me?

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.
"That's the 6th time i've said something..." Still convinced everything you say is crystal clear?

The STORY:

Nick figured that Heather was just another one of those prospects that had to run through every objection she could think of before making a decision.  For the past 15 minutes, he had been doing nothing else and he was, he admitted to himself, gradually losing his patience.

“So just what is it that you want me to hear?” responded Heather.

“Well, it looks as if the picture I’m trying to paint for you isn’t what you want to see.  If it isn’t, how do I clear things up for you?”

“That’s simple, Nick.  You tell me that spending this amount of money is an investment, and I have to say that the amount you’ve mentioned is way out of range of what I’ve heard from others who have sat right there in that chair.”

“In light of our reputation for service, can you foresee a time when you’ll need service?”

“I have to say it, Nick…that’s about the sixth time I’ve said something and you just don’t hear the message.  I tell you that your product is high-priced compared to what others sell it for, and you start telling me about my people yelling for service.  I hear them Nick, but I don’t hear you.”

“I was just trying to make the point that while others can sell you the product, can you see them, in the future when we both know service will be needed, servicing it?”

“Let me hear it from you Nick, if I buy from the competition, will you come and fix it later?  Either I pay them for service or I pay you, what’s the difference.  Sounds like I save some money up front, and then get you to service it – music to my ears.”

“How do you know that we’ll provide servicing to someone who didn’t buy from us?  It would appear to me that if I had to see client X who bought from me, or client Y who did not, I’d keep client X in view.”

“Tell you what, Nick,” said Heather with a grimace on her face, “I’m going with the competition.  Hear me?”

The RESULT:

Heather is frustrated with Nick to such an extent that she has made the decision never to buy anything from Nick.  From Nick’s point of view, he’s got a prospect who is just coming up with the standard, run-of-the-mill objections and enjoys playing hard-to-get.

DISCUSSION:

What do you think would have happened if Nick had simply said to Heather, “I don’t think you understand me,” and waited for a response?

She most likely would have responded that she didn’t, and further she would have come back and said that Nick didn’t understand her.

At that point Nick could have said, “What do you want to do about this sorry state?”

Either Heather would have ended it and left, thereby saving Nick from wasting time, or she would have reopened the possibility of a sale happening.

Instead, Nick assumed Heather was just coming up with objectives that he needed to overcome in order for him to do his job.

Wasn’t his job to understand Heather and allow her to come to a buying decision?  Or was his job to continue to misunderstand her and finally drive her from the store without any chance of her buying from his company?

APPROACH:

You can choose to understand what a prospect is saying or ignore the message.  What is easier to do than ask, “I kind of get the feeling that you are talking about X and I’m talking about Y.  How do you feel about it?”

At best, the prospect will say she understands what you are saying perfectly and keep going.  Great, that’s what you want.

However, if you get the other response, that’s your alarm bell to let you know that the two of you are not communicating.  Now you need to restart your communication channels so that you both understand where you are both going.

“Don’t know where I lost your message.  If it wouldn’t be a problem, could we start back at the beginning again?  Go ahead.”

Either the prospect will think you are nuts and leave, though the chance of this happening is minimal, or the prospect will feel that you are one of the only people she has talked to that really wants to understand her needs.  This feeling alone will do more to make the sale than anything else you do.

THOUGHT:

Most of us are absolutely convinced that everything we say is crystal clear and that no one could ever misunderstand a single world – now did you read that as “word” or “world?”

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

Define Prospecting – Then Do It!

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.
Prospecting how-to: Buy a mule, grow a beard, don't wash and wander around the desert...right?

The STORY:

What I really need to do, thought Ray looking out his window, which overlooked the parking lot in which he could see three of his fellow salespeople smoking cigarettes, is more prospecting.  Look at them out there, at least 15 minutes down the drain.  Not me, I’ve got to get involved with some serious prospecting.  No more parking lot trips for me.

“Where’s that article I saw in the business section of the local newspaper?” he muttered to himself, thumbing through at least six separate piles of paper on his desk.  “The one about contacting customers and getting referrals.”

A few minutes later, article in hand, he headed to the photocopy machine.  Make a copy for my files, take one home, and start cranking out the money.

Two weeks later, Ray had sent out over 500 cards to businesses in the area telling them to stop in and see “What’s happening?  This is what’s happening!”

In addition, he was going through the customer lists that had been collecting dust for the past year, finding the unassigned former customers and working on a telephone script.

This is just great, thought Ray.  By two months from now, I’ll have tons of fresh blood coming through the door and calling.  Maybe I’ll even be able to get the sales manager to get me that upgraded computer system for that sales tracking software I bought with my own money.

Three months later all of Ray’s prospecting projects had fizzled out.  Not a single one really produced any results that he could point to.  All they did, it seemed, was take a lot of time, and the postage costs were astronomical.  Not to mention that his closing rate had gone into the toilet because of all the time his prospecting projects took.

By mid-December, the smokers in the parking lot once again included Ray.  He still wanted to get a good prospecting system in place.  Maybe the software he bought, once he got the upgraded computer system, would finally produce results.

The RESULT:

Everyone knows what prospecting is…correct?  Did Ray ever define what was meant by prospecting and then define measurable goals to see if it worked?

DISCUSSION:

You know how to go prospecting, don’t you?

Well, the first thing you do is buy a mule, grow a beard, don’t wash and wander around the desert for a couple of years.  Right?

Oh!  That’s not what you meant.  You mean I should call 10 new people a day and ask them to buy our product.

That’s not it either?  Then you must mean that I create a letter, buy a 500 name mailing list and send the letter.  Then wait for the people to start coming in.

Wrong again?  Okay, this time I have it.  You want me to call up all of our existing customers and offer them 10% off their next purchase if they give me the name of two other companies that might buy what we sell.  I’ve got this prospecting thing down, right?

Not exactly?  Well, just what do you mean?

APPROACH:

When was the last time you heard that someone had to do more prospecting?  This morning?  Yesterday?  Two days ago?  When you heard that more prospecting needed to be done, did anyone list exactly what this “more prospecting” consisted of?  Probably not.  The result of this sloppy use of language is that “more prospecting” could mean anything, everyone was left to figure out for themselves what to do.

Never state that more prospecting needs to be done.  What you need to state is exactly what behavior will be done to accomplish more prospecting.

If more prospecting means that “every customer who bought more than X amount in the past six months will be contacted by phone for a referral within the next 14 days,” then say it.  What are you going to specifically do with those referrals?  Don’t say you are going to “prospect” or “contact” them.  What specifically are you going to do?

“A salesperson will be assigned to each referral, and within 48 hours the referral will be contacted in person by phone.  Should an in-person phone call not happen, an overnight Express Mail letter will be sent.  The following is the exact text of that letter.”

How you define prospecting is up to you, but make sure you define it in specific behaviors to be followed.

THOUGHT:

Everyone knows exactly what prospecting means, right?  Everyone will have the same answer, right?

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

Is it Time to Reengineer Your Sales System?

Don't be left in the wake of those who are streamlining their sales system | Kahle Wisdom
By Dave Kahle

There was a time, just a few years ago, when a smart distributor knew how to organize a sales effort. The conventional wisdom dictated that you hire “outside” salespeople, assign them to geographically-defined territories, set up a straight commission plan, and challenge them to “go forth and sell a lot.” You hired nice guys with some experience in the business, expected them to learn on the job, and set them free. As business grew, you just hired another one and duplicated that approach.

Easy. Simple. This “traditional” approach has worked well for years. Many distribution businesses are built, at least in part, on this system.

But the last few years have brought with them radical change. You know the litany: Growing competition, increasing rate of change, new channels of distribution, increasingly sophisticated customer expectations, mergers and consolidations at every level of the business, new strategies and demands by manufacturers, pressures on margins – too much to do and not enough time to do it. The world surrounding your business is dramatically different than it was when you first created your sales approach.

All that means is that it may be time to question the way in which your sales efforts are organized.

In order to think clearly about this, it’s necessary to understand a concept – “sales systems.” According to the dictionary, a system is “an orderly, interconnected, complex arrangement of parts.” You have a number of systems in your business. For example, you have a system for receiving and processing a purchase order. That system involves certain processes, certain equipment (like computers, printers, etc.) certain people, and a number of policies and procedures. It’s easy to understand that particular combination of people, resources, and processes as a system. In the same way, it’s easy to understand the way in which you receive inventory, pick and ship an order, create and collect an invoice, etc., as various systems. Your business would not exist were it not for effective and efficient systems to handle these important functions of your business.

Now, think of the way in which you create a customer and acquire an order as a system also. That system has been simple in the past. You followed the approach discussed above. You just hired a salesperson and expected him to do it. That’s the equivalent of hiring a customer service person and charging them with the task of receiving and managing orders without providing any other pieces of the system. You wouldn’t think of doing that. You’d made sure you have the best computer system at his disposal, clearly defined expectations and procedures, and a set of effective resources for him to use – all elements of the customer service system. You’ve probably been personally involved in the development and refinement of those and other systems in your business, understanding that your business’s success depends on the effectiveness and efficiency of your systems. Now it’s time to become just as sophisticated in your sales system.

Your sales system consists of these elements: purpose, people, processes, and paraphernalia. The purpose is to acquire orders as well as to expand the relationship with customers of various types. The people are not only the outside salespeople, but everyone involved in helping to acquire orders and grow customers. So your customer service or inside salespeople, as well as your technical service people, sales managers, and yourself are all part of your sales system. The ways in which you identify, approach, understand, present to and service a customer are primarily the processes. The paraphernalia refers to the tools used in this process: the brochures, computers, call reports, telephone scripts, etc., that go into the process. Put all this together, and it becomes a sales “system” – “an orderly, interconnected, complex arrangement of parts.”

The first step in becoming more effective in your sales efforts is to understand that you don’t just have salespeople, you have a sales system.

Now, when you reengineer your sales efforts, you reconfigure elements of your company in order to create a system that more effectively and efficiently acquires orders and creates customers.

Most distributors who have reconfigured their sales systems end up with a system composed of a combination of many of the following elements:

  • a set of highly specific job descriptions and expectations for a number of different kinds of salespeople
  • a well-defined role for customer service
  • a concentrated and targeted direct mail/fax/email marketing campaign
  • a contact management software system
  • a highly specific list of targeted accounts
  • a highly visible sales role for the company’s executives
  • a set of specific expectations and measurements for the system
  • a database of customer information that enables the company to make informed marketing and sales decisions
  • a variety of sales methods tailored to different market segments.

Compare this with the simple, old days of one person/one territory, and you have an idea of what your organization may look like after you have finished your reengineering process.

There are a number of compelling reasons to consider reengineering your sales system. Money is probably the strongest. Carefully examine your P&L statement. You’ll note that sales force compensation is the largest single deduction from gross profit, far outdistancing anything that is a close second. In most distributors, sales force costs approximate 30% of gross margin. The distribution executive in search of costs to cut and productivity to improve would do well to look first at the sales force. It could be that your current sales efforts aren’t as effective or productive as they could be.

If you’re concerned about the future of your business, and worried about reducing costs so that you can operate profitably in light of those steadily shrinking margins, doesn’t it make sense to look closely at that portion of your business that represents your single largest cost category? Of course it does.

Next there’s the issue of productivity. Your are probably on your third generation computer system. You’ve streamlined your inventory and warehouse operations, learned how to pick an order with fewer errors and less cost than ever, figured our how to process a P.O. ever more efficiently, have cleaned up your receivables and invested in relationships with your key manufacturers. But in all of this, you probably have done very little to improve the productivity of your sales force. In all likelihood, your salespeople are doing the same thing today, in the same way, that they did five years ago. For most distributors, the operant rule has been, “Hands off the sales force.” As a result, you probably have not had productivity improvements among the sales force that compare favorably to other areas of your business. Maybe it’s time to scrutinize that part of your business.

Then there are the customers. Customers are expecting both more and less from distributors. They are expecting more service, quicker response, more knowledge and more information. At the same time, they have less time to spend with salespeople. If your salespeople have not adjusted to these changes in your customers, and are continuing to do business the way they did a few years ago, it’s likely that your current sales system doesn’t adequately meet your customer’s needs.

Let’s not forget about the strategic reasons to reengineer your sales system. From my vantage point, I see more and more manufacturers who are reshaping their distribution strategies and channels, and expecting their distributors to help implement those new strategies. But, too often, the distributors are unable to accomplish the manufacturer’s strategy because their sales force is unable or unwilling to implement their bosses’ commitments. The manufacturer-distributor relationship is jeopardized as a result.

On the other hand, a number of perceptive manufacturers are looking for genuine and concentrated sales efforts for their product lines as well as ways to cut their costs. The distributor sales system which can provide the sales power for manufacturers will be a highly prized organization. One of my distributor clients successfully grabbed this opportunity by working very closely with their primary supplier to streamline the combined sales system. As a result, the supplier’s sales force was reduced from 59 to 16 people, and the distributor was far more important to that supplier. It’s likely that your sales system isn’t up to this emerging challenge.

Unfortunately, too often the sales force is undependable when it comes to carrying out the distributor’s strategic plan. More and more distributors, seeing the value of creating a strategic plan, are developing initiatives and priorities designed to guide them through these turbulent days to success at the end of the tunnel. However well-conceived these initiatives may be, they are often stymied at the point of implementation by a sales system that is a vestige of the past. It’s difficult to implement a strategy that demands sales calls on new niche customers when the sales force is content to visit with old friends at established accounts.

Here’s one final reason to consider a dramatic reconfiguration of your sales system. Technology has produced opportunities to dramatically increase productivity. There are a multitude of technology advancements that can be used to streamline sales systems. Fax on demand, Internet web pages, intra-net networks for customers, sales force contact management programs – these are just some of the more dramatic tools developed in recent years. Forbes Magazine recently ran an article that reported that in circumstances where contact management software was successfully implemented, sales force productivity rose between 10 and 40%. Distributor sales systems which make use of these new technologies bypass their less sophisticated competitors like a Ferrari passing an Escort.

All this means that it is a new day for sales efforts. The distributors who rely on the simple systems of the past will be left in the wake of those who are streamlining their systems. Now is the time to reengineer your sales system.

******************************************************************
Copyright MM

Originally published on davekahle.com

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every salesperson at every level. To connect to the Sales Resource Center use this link:
http://www.thesalesresourcecenter.com

Let Go of Unproductive Behavior

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.
Sales Goals - Sandler Sales Training

The STORY:

“The best sales thing I ever did,” said Melinda between sips of soup at lunch, “was give up trying to reach a dollar goal.”

Bob stared with a shocked expression on his face.  “Sure,” he said, “you who could coast for a year on what you’ve closed in the last fourteen months.  Easy for you to say.”

“I suppose you could say that, but that’s not how I got to where I am.”

“Come on; get real.  It’s me, Bob.  Remember we both started the same day three years ago?”

“Sure,” she replied, “I remember.  I also remember that for the first year, I had a sign hanging up on my bathroom mirror that had the monthly amount I needed to make on it.”

“Yeah, and you hit it more often than not.”

“Yes, I did.  But that’s when I discovered something else more important.”

“What’s that?”

“That not a single prospect or customer gave a damn whether I reached it or not.  As far as they were concerned, there were 10 other salespeople selling the same thing; I just happened to get there first.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“I just did; you just don’t want to hear it.”

“What?”

“Here, I’ll make it simple for you.  They don’t care about me, but I need their money.  To get their money, I have to give them something they need.  The more energy and time I can spend on their needs, the more I can give them.  The more I give them, the more money they give me.”

“Hate to admit it, I still don’t get it.”

“You’re thick.  I have a new sign on my bathroom mirror.  It reads, ‘What prospect needs have you discovered today?'”

“And this makes you more money.”

“Who’s the one, as you put it, who could coast for the rest of the year?”

“A low shot, Melinda, a low shot.  Finish the soup.”

The RESULT:

Melinda has discovered for herself that no matter what she wants, her customers and prospects are the ones who put money in her bank account.  The only Melinda behavior that counts is what makes those deposits happen more and more often.

DISCUSSION:

Why do some salespeople insist on using a certain pen?  Why do some have a lucky tie?  Why are others convinced morning appointments are “closable” and afternoon appointments a waste of time?

Simple.  At some point in time, a sale was made and a certain pen was used.  Or, that blue tie was worn when the Jones account closed for seven figures.  All of these could be dismissed as salespeople exhibiting superstitious behavior.  Unfortunately it’s not that minor.

All of these beliefs have a common element underlying them.  In essence, the reason the sale closed had nothing to do with the customer’s need or had nothing to do with the ability as a salesperson; the sale closed for some other reason.

What other reason is there?  If the customer didn’t need what was being sold, would the tie make the slightest bit of difference?  If the customer did have the need but the salesperson was a bumbling idiot, would the felt tip pen matter at all?

APPROACH:

Ask yourself a question.  Do the prospects care whether I put money in the bank or not?  Are they going to stay up all night worrying about my personal financial condition?  Probably not.  Why should they?  Absolutely no reason in the world they should.

Consider this line of thought.  Why should I waste my sales time thinking how much this sale would mean to me if I made it?  My prospect doesn’t care about my needs; he only cares about his needs.  If I take time to think about my needs, that’s time away from answering the needs of my prospect.  That lessens the chance of the sale being made.

Thus, the more of my time I can devote to my prospect’s needs, the more sales I will make.  Seems pretty simple.  It is.

Does each task or behavior you engage in during the sales day solve a prospect’s need?  If they do, you have let go of unproductive behavior.  If there is any behavior done during the sale day that does not attempt to solve a prospect’s need, it should be done on non-sales time.

What’s non-sale time?  Those are the hours when you could not possibly make a sale.

THOUGHT:

Does a salesperson put money in the bank by focusing on a monthly sales amount or by closing sales?  Pick one or the other.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.