sales skills

Ten Ways For Salespeople To Gain Customer Loyalty

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Most successful salespeople and marketers use the “rule of reciprocity” when working with their customers. This time-honored tenet simply means that customers will return favors they have received. One should not think of this rule as a method of manipulating customers, but more as applying the “golden rule”. That means to treat customer as you would want to be treated.

In the graphic communications industry, we commonly see suppliers and print providers shower their top customers with trips to headquarters, customer events, business development resources and business insights. The “rule of reciprocity” draws on a powerful human tendency for customers to respond to a perceived gift from a supplier. There has been ample research in many areas of human interaction that confirms this process.

In his popular book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini shares research and information that describes the power that reciprocation has on impacting customer behavior. It explains why so many great salespeople and companies expend time and money to provide offers and added value to customers.

For the best results, salespeople must be more than courteous, generous and kind. It requires a deep knowledge of the customer’s needs and wants, followed by a response.

Successful Marketers and Salespeople Use The “Rule of Reciprocity”

Some large suppliers within our industry have been successful in creating a sense of obligation with customers by providing first-class venues where products and services are demonstrated or presented. This has helped establish long-term loyalty. And for individual salespeople and small businesses with limited marketing budgets, very small actions and favors can have the same large impact on sales performance. Though lavish lunches and high cost events have lost favor with most buyers, there are some much less costly ways to provide “valuable gifts” to customers. 

Here are ten examples of how printing salespeople can influence customers using the “rule of reciprocity”.

1.       Apply the “Golden Rule”

Simply treating every customer as you would want to be treated pays dividends. Being on time, living up to commitments, taking accountability for problems and following up are becoming increasingly rare. The simple act of treating your customer with respect can be a low cost differentiator from your competition.

2.       Create first class customer knowledge events

A great way to gain loyalty is by offering timely and impactful customer events. Every company should provide at least one event a year. There is no better way for customers to learn about new products, services and applications. Spending entertainment money wisely, along with providing valuable information for customers, will gain a disproportionately high return.

3.       Help with business development

Getting inside and helping build profitable applications provides a huge value to customers. Not only are customers appreciative of the support, they will repay the salesperson with more business.

4.       Give a gift

Providing small and relevant gifts is often well appreciated. Gifts such as business books and company promotional items are still welcomed by customers. A thoughtful gift will be remembered.

5.       Give them content

Providing relevant case studies, research and examples of high impact business successes helps customers reach their goals. For time- starved customers, receiving relevant and timely content is well appreciated. 

6.       Get personal

Taking the time to know and show interest in a customer’s career objectives, personal challenges and interests is useful in developing a productive business relationship. For instance, participating in a customer’s favorite charity event can be a great way to gain loyalty.

7.       Provide useful insights

Time is precious. Customers appreciate salespeople who can make them more successful by providing high impact recommendations and suggestions on how they can improve their business. A salesperson who knows their customer’s business is invaluable.

8.       Give free education

Millennials love educational opportunities. Offers to teach customers about substrates, color, winning applications, file management and cross media workflows are a few knowledge areas that print providers can offer.

9.       Take them out to the ball game

Knowing what is important to customers and accompanying them to sports events, concerts and restaurants is still a great vehicle to share business knowledge and build business relationships.

10.   Stay current

Sharing the latest in technology trends and applications is an important “gift” that salespeople can provide. With all the changes taking place in business, no customer can stay on top of what is going on without some help.

Applying the “rule of reciprocity” in all customer interactions is a powerful business approach that provides a huge ROI in time and money. Do not treat the “the rule of reciprocity” as a one-time event. Like many other things in selling, many customers have short memories… keep on giving. If done sincerely with the customer’s best interest in mind, it is very difficult for any customer to resist.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) is a consulting and training company. They work with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness.  Joe can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS

How Great Salespeople Follow Up and Reap the Benefits

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The speed of the internet has greatly affected the way salespeople and customers interact. We often ask customers what they expect from salespeople. They respond that they want sales people to take accountability and respond quickly.

One of the least discussed behaviors of salespeople that has a huge impact on sales performance is follow up. Within the printing industry, following up means responding to leads, moving customers through the sales cycle and responding to customer problems.

Great Salespeople Follow Up Better

If 20% of salespeople generate the vast majority of business within our industry, what are they doing differently? Great salespeople seem to be able to prioritize and effectively manage customer communications at every step of the customer life cycle.  

I am not completely sure why many salespeople do not follow up better. My suspicion is that salespeople are so busy managing customers and issues that they do not always prioritize their time most effectively. We do know that top salespeople set customer expectations, identify opportunities and are able to pounce on ready prospects faster than lower performers.

Areas Where Follow Up is Required

For salespeople, there are three critical customer interactions that require great follow up:

The Lead

Quickness and timeliness is vital when a lead comes in. These are when customers express interest on line, on the phone or through a reference. All research affirms that a quick response increases the chances of closing business.

The Harvard Business Reported, “U.S. firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.”

The Sales Process

Moving customers through a sales process and follow up requires good judgment, great listening skills and the ability to set expectations.

For instance, how quickly should a salesperson follow up on a quote or presentation that has been presented? Ideally, follow up should take place within 24 hours. Each customer may be different, but all sales steps require timely follow up.

Customer Complaints or Questions

Anytime a customer has a concern or complaint, a direct call or email should be made by the salesperson within an hour. If that is impossible, a designated CSR should respond letting the customer know when someone will get back to them and respond to their problem.

How To Ensure Great Follow Up

Here are three recommendations for better follow up:

1.    Build a Professional Process

Don’t wait for sales managers or customers to complain. Create a personal follow up plan. Make changes and adjustments based on results and customer feedback. The first step is to set a follow up guideline for leads, customer complaints and sales process follow up. The last step is to review your results.

For instance, you may want to set an objective to follow up with a phone call or email within an hour for every lead that comes in. The idea is to quickly qualify the lead and arrange with the customer a good time to talk or meet to further discuss the opportunity. For customer problems the goal could be for a CSR to contact the customer in one hour and you follow up in two hours.

Another potential objective is to contact a prospect who has not responded to your calls at least three times and then wait a period of time to contact them three more times.

2.    Set Expectations Early And Often

After each customer contact always gain agreement and set an expectation for the next step in the sales process. Too often salespeople forget to do this.

For instance, if you had a meeting with a customer who is asking for a print sample, negotiate a time-frame with the customer as to when they want to receive the sample. Some customers will expect it in one day and others may want a week. Gaining agreement with customers up front will ensure a satisfied customer.

A common printing sales scenario is when a customer is unhappy and requires the salesperson to fix a problem. Again, testing to make sure you understand the problem, setting expectations for resolution, gaining agreement on what and when things need to get done is good selling.

3.    Get Customer Feedback

There is no better way to know if you are doing a good job or how good your follow up process is than by just asking the customer.

In the printing business, salespeople and relationships make the difference. A key driver to higher sales performance is effective follow up. Getting better at follow up may very well be the key element required to move up to the next level of sales.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) works with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness. Joe can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joe.rickardis. This article was published October 1, 2015 in Printing News Magazine.

 

 

 

Great References Create a Selling Advantage

One of the most powerful selling tools is a customer reference. Customers like nothing better than networking and identifying successful solutions being offered to similar organizations. Putting a customer reference on a website, or providing references to existing prospects, is a smart thing to do.  Obtaining customer references to prospect and identify new opportunities should be a part of any sales plan.

It is time well spent developing customer references

Most printing companies are facing changing market conditions. Differentiation is difficult and price pressures are intense. Gaining opportunities to separate from the competition to build trust and credibility with their customers is a key to success. We define a good customer reference as an advocate who has a set of products and/or services that has solved a specific problem or generated a significant opportunity in a specific market. 

We are finding many print providers may have forgotten this proven marketing method to develop new sales opportunities. Research has shown that customer references help companies attract new customers and shorten sales cycles.

The best salesperson is a satisfied customer

Why would a prospect buy a high cost and high risk solution from a company that can’t produce a genuine customer reference? Sharing with potential prospects how a specific print-based offering has solved a problem that generated great results is a powerful selling tool. Not only will customers gain confidence in a particular solution, but salespeople will also build their own credibility and confidence with their prospects.

Customer references should be part of a company’s marketing strategy

Almost all salespeople agree that using customer references increases their chances of closing more business. The problem is that individual salespeople often guard their references. Then when there is a need for a reference everyone is scrambling. This usually does not end well.

What makes a great reference?

The value of a great reference can be substantial. For instance, a great reference would be an insurance client who is soliciting customers through direct mail. The problem is that they are getting a very low response rate. The print provider helps develop a direct mail piece that includes personalized content. The result is that the client gained a much higher response rate and subsequently gained 12% in sales revenue.

To capitalize on references, we recommend companies approach references in an organized way.

Set a guideline and target

You should look for clients that have had a business issue or opportunity which was solved by using a print solution that resulted in a great ROI.  The sales team should have a specific type of client they are targeting for a reference. This should include the size of an account, type and size of offering, the market, the problems solved or opportunities created. It is best to have a specific format for them to follow.

Ask them for a reference

Most satisfied customers are happy to provide a great reference. Sometimes customers will not have the time to provide a written reference. A good practice in these situations is to draft one for the customer and then get their approval. Occasionally larger clients do not want their successes publicized outside the company due to fear of competitors getting a good idea. We find getting a good reference is part of good selling. Great salespeople get great references.

Document each reference in a consistent format

We recommend a simple but well-branded three part approach: what was the problem or opportunity faced by the customer, what was the solution provided by the print provider and what were the results generated for the customer. Having some information about the client such as industry, type of services, location, size will make the reference that much more powerful.

Market your references

How a reference is presented and displayed makes a difference. The reference should be branded, designed and part of an overall marketing strategy. It should be created to potentially be used in case studies, websites, printed collaterals, social media, PR and sales presentations.

Integrate them into the sales process

Once the customer references are obtained and completed, then it is time to ensure that they are used within the sales process at the appropriate time. Don’t wait until a customer asks for a reference. Use these to develop new markets and prospects. They attract attention and interest of clients.

For some, it requires closing the first deal and gaining a reference that can open the door to a new market segment. For others, they already have great customers that just need to be asked. Printing is a relationship business built on trust.  Customer references have traditionally been an integral part of the selling process.

Using satisfied customers is essential to managing new opportunities and overcoming competition. Print providers selling large and complex programs, products and services are missing a big opportunity if they don’t use references from satisfied customers.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com)  works with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness. He can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS. This article was published in Quick Printing Magazine and MyPrintResource.com