When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Start Selling

March 28, 2008 at 11:17 am | Posted in sales, small business | Leave a comment

It’s tough out there!

With a slowing economy comes a fiercer, more competitive market that will require you to set yourself and your products apart from your competitors.  It’s easy to make excuses for poor sales performance in an economic downturn, but a successful salesperson will find opportunities to increase revenue.  Here are a few ideas to help you reach your goals:

 

Set Goals and Plan Accordingly

When the economy turns sour don’t put yourself in a position of scrambling for business. Take a look at your target market to reevaluate how you’ve done business in the past and determine how your customers’ needs have changed as a result of the economic climate.  Once you have an understanding of these fundamentals, you can set realistic business goals and charge forward until they have been met.

 

Invest in Training

In a down market, you will be competing against the best and the brightest.  It’s imperative to have cutting edge knowledge and experience to take the lead in the sales force. Play it smart and invest in ongoing training even though it may seem counterintuitive to be spending money during a bad economy.  You’ll find the return to be well worth the investment. Don’t hesitate to inform your clients of any up to date information you may have learned. They will be impressed that you are taking the initiative.

 

Networking Strategies

Networking can be a powerful tool for developing new business relationships.  However, not every gathering has the potential for making quality contacts.  Selectivity may be in your best interest when it comes to attending networking events.  This will ensure that you have a target audience filled with potential customers. Remember that your ultimate goal for the event is to make contacts. Successful salespeople are assertive and are able to introduce themselves without being forceful.  By the end of the event you should have a list of contacts.  Whatever you do, don’t make the ultimate mistake of forgetting to follow-up.

 

Don’t Wait for Your Clients to Call You

Existing clients are your best resource.  Customers are all too often lost because their salesperson never took the time to follow-up after the initial sale.  Staying in close contact with them builds trust and long-term relationships.  It’s important to keep the client up-to-date on new products and marketing materials.  However, it’s also vital that you keep yourself current on the ever-changing needs of your clients.  The doors to new sales and cross-selling opportunities will open by just listening.

 

Ask for Referrals

A referral is commonly thought of as the highest form of compliment you can give a sales professional.  However, customers rarely provide a referral without being asked. Most often, it’s up to you to take the initiative to ask for additional contacts.  All too frequently, sales professionals are afraid to ask, don’t feel they have a good rapport with the client, or simply forget.  The proper timing of asking for a referral can depend on the situation. Most often, it is appropriate to wait until you build a relationship with the client, although, it might be acceptable to ask if you know the client is excited about a recent purchase.  Don’t be discouraged if a referral doesn’t have a need for your product or service.  It is possible they will in the future or know someone who does.

Most importantly, keep a positive attitude and don’t let a slump get you down.

“Meatball Sundae” by Seth Godin

March 20, 2008 at 8:52 pm | Posted in Marketing, Seth Godin | 1 Comment

I went to see Seth Godin today and came away with a (signed) copy of his new book (“Meatball Sundae…Is Your Marketing Out of Sync”) as well as a bunch of new / refreshed ideas to put to work immediately. That’s the thing about Seth. He makes it all so doable….and makes you want, no need, to do it–like now!  Can’t say that I’m really a Seth “groupie” although the audience did seem to be peppered with quite a few of those, but you have to hand it to him, he can really get you thinking.  So that”s the task for tonight. Finish the book, jot down some new ideas and get working on getting my product (me!) and my marketing in sync.     

A Primer on Providing Professional Customer Service

March 8, 2008 at 2:15 pm | Posted in Customer Service, small business | 1 Comment

In an increasingly competitive market, the difference between you and your competitors often boils down to one crucial factor – customer service. The reality is that it has been proven time and time again that a company’s success often hinges on how customers view the service provided. While it’s certainly helpful to utilize technology to increase customer loyalty, oftentimes it’s the basic customer service 101 that makes all the difference in the world when it comes to turning a one-time customer into a long-term client.

You Are How You Sound
It’s a given that using a negative voice and tone with a customer is an absolute no-no. However, there is frequently an overall acceptance for an unenthused, neutral voice. Call it what you like – blah, bored, tired, or detached. Customers will perceive a monotone voice as negative and unhelpful. Paying attention to voice, tone, sounding positive, energetic, and consistently upbeat should be right at the top of the list of ways to improve your customer service.

The Delight is in the Details
Your customer service team needs to be able to manage the basics of their jobs, and customers expect that. But, what makes the difference between so-so service and helpfulness that keeps customers returning is paying close attention to details. Following through, keeping promises, and going that extra mile for a customer is the key to loyalty. Customers will always appreciate that personal touch that makes them feel appreciated and special.

You Said What?
With more and more communication taking place online, often delivered in bullets or short quips, it seems that many have forgotten the benefits of courteous dialogue. “Please,” “thank you,” and “How may I help you?” are far too frequently forgotten. By focusing on using those tried and true words of good customer service, you can go a long way towards differentiating yourself from a pack of poor communicators.

Frankly My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn!
We’ve all had the experience of being circulated around a complex phone system, trying to reach a customer service representative – punching buttons, being redirected, then placed on hold, and finally hung up on. What’s the message that a company projects with this lack of respect for their customers’ time? A message of indifference; and it’s a surefire way to make your customers run straight towards a competitor who can manage to pick up their phones. While this is one example of a lack of concern for customers, there are countless other ways that companies show they just don’t care. The bottom line here – it behooves every company to review their entire customer service process to seek out those deficiencies that create challenges for their customers.

Comfortably Numb
Your market is continuously changing, and so are the needs of your customers. This requires a customer service team to be adaptable and flexible. For this reason, watching out for signs of complacency and an inability to make improvements is crucial and must be corrected before your competitors surpass you with more innovative ways to better provide service to your customers.

It’s easy to go after the quick fix, particularly when it comes to customer service. You can certainly improve the efficiency of a team with a new phone system or software program, but it won’t necessarily improve quality. At the end of the day, successful customer service still boils down to people working with people. Treat your customers the way you want to be treated, and you will be rewarded with the loyalty of your customers.

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