Tag Archives: sales process

4 things customers don’t want to hear

ID-100235409I’ve had the pleasure of making some big purchases recently and have come across both good and bad sales and service in the process. The products in question were a kitchen and new flooring. Both come with a degree of risk for the seller in as much as there is an element of the unknown – what state will the sub-floor be in when the existing flooring is removed, will the old kitchen come out without pulling plaster off the wall or will we find some, yet unseen, horror when we start work?

I’m under no illusion, it’s a tricky balance between telling a potential customer all they need to know and scaring them half to death with too much information. You run the risk of putting a potential customer off by giving them every horror story or  what-if scenario. Equally though there is nothing more damaging long-term than a customer that thinks they have been cheated or not told the whole story.

It’s important to try to get to know your potential customer and to judge how much information they want; some customer want every detail, others prefer edited highlights. Which ever type of prospect they turn out to be, it’s important that you are clear and straight with them. If, after they have signed on the dotted line, you hear yourself muttering any of the following, you know you’ve got a problem:

  • It’s in the terms and conditions: small print is there for a reason and it should protect both you and the buyer. If anything really significant is ‘hidden’ in your terms and conditions, point it out to your potential customer
  • My colleague should have told you that: if you have different people dealing with sales and say surveying or installation, make sure everyone is clear where their responsibility lies.The customer doesn’t care who’s job it is and they will judge your company based on all the people they come in contact with, not just the sales people
  • Lots of our customers complain about that: whether it’s an extra charge for accepting a credit card or something the customer thought was included that you later tell them is extra, if your customers are telling you they don’t like it, do something about it. I’m not saying you have to waive charges, but just make it clear from the outset so that complaints don’t arise later down the line
  • That’s not our job: this is particularly irksome for a customer when they perceive that it should logically be part of the job. I use the example of kitchen installation; if you buy kitchen cabinets and appliance from your kitchen installer would you expect their installation quote to include electrics and plumbing so that those appliances that they have designed into your kitchen, actually work? I suspect most laypeople would answer ‘yes’. Telling your customer that ‘kitchen installation’ only includes the cabinets is likely to leave them with a bad taste. Again, make it crystal clear what you mean, don’t use jargon that is likely to confuse, and you won’t have that problem to deal with.

It’s simple really. Put yourself in your customers shoes –  what do they know, what do they expect from you and how does this match up to what you are giving them. For sure, not all your competitors will be ‘doing it right’ and you may lose a few sales on price but, rest assured, in the long run the good reputation you will build by doing things properly will build  a sustainable business.

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net

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How to combat buyer’s remorse

ID-10087370I’ve just bought a new car – a big purchase in most people’s eyes, and one which reminded me that buyer’s remorse – that awful feeling that you have just made a bad choice – can be a real issue in many markets. It wasn’t a rash decision by any means; my existing car was starting to show signs of trouble and I wanted to avoid it breaking down, and leaving me stranded, at all costs.  I did all the right things to make a good choice – decided what I needed, researched the market and checked out prices. I even had a pretty good sales experience as these things go. But still I had a minor ‘wobble’ when I agreed to the purchase.

If you are involved in selling high value, low-frequency items here are a few things you can do to help your buyers feel good about their purchases:

  • Simple proposition – make sure that your  customers are absolutely clear about what they are getting. This can be tricky when it comes to technical or high spec products  but it pays to spend the time explaining things properly.
  • Understand the customers reasons for buying –  and make sure that the product absolutely meets their needs. Don’t be tempted to sell extras or add-on’s for the sake of your margin, you could lose the sale altogether. If, through the sales process they raise any objections, make sure you handle them, otherwise they are likely to come back to haunt you.
  • Offer a cooling off period – for some types of sale eg distance selling and selling at home, a cooling off period must be given by law. Even if you aren’t legally obliged to offer customers the chance to cancel their order it can be good practice. What it does mean though is that you need plans in place to make sure you keep the order. I received  a follow-up call from the car dealer’s customer service team between signing and delivery which worked a treat.

One final note – once the sale is safely completed, remember to tell the marketing guys to remove the customers name from their ‘leads’ or ‘potential client’s database – an untimely e-shot, outlining the fabulous deals now available on the car you have just purchased, can bring back that feeling of buyer’s remorse all over again (Thank you Nissan!)

image: freedigitalphotos.net

The marketing mix: why it is important to your business

If you treat marketing as being synonymous with advertising, promotions and other forms of communication then you are, almost certainly, missing a trick. This week I came across a great example of how, by taking this narrow view of marketing and ignoring some of the elements of the marketing mix, you can seriously damage your revenue.

I’m currently in the market for a coffee table. I’m looking for something quite specific; a square, light oak coffee table. Having searched online I have a rough idea of the price I’m happy to pay and what I can expect to get for my money. Armed with this information I visited a local, independently run, furniture show room to see how they matched up to the internet.

It all started quite well as I was left to browse for a while before being approached by the sales guy who asked if I was looking for something specific. Having explained my requirements to him he proceeded to show me a number of distinctly rectangular looking coffee tables, and tutting, he said: ‘ how come everyone wants square coffee tables when I only have rectangular ones’. Good question. Perhaps he should check his product range?

After this rather awkward moment, he told me that some of the ranges included a square coffee table, and we were back on track again! I chose a style I liked and he scurried off to get a brochure. We then discussed price and, whilst his first offer was more than I wanted to pay, I could see that he was up for a negotiation. I asked about delivery and he agreed to deliver free of charge, so that was another tick in the box.

Finally I asked when the coffee table could be delivered…and it all started to fall apart (again). ‘Before Christmas’, was the response I got. ‘Before Christmas’ I repeated, ‘Yes, before Christmas as opposed to after Christmas’ he said. A little dumbfounded I asked if he could be more specific. Apparently not. The result, a lost sale.

For your marketing to be successful you need to consider all the elements of the marketing mix. It’s less important which definition of the marketing mix you prefer (the 4Ps, 7Ps , 4Cs…the list goes on), just that you have a joined up approach to marketing that puts the customer at the centre.

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

Why low tech, traditional marketing methods still work

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve read that ‘traditional’ marketing techniques are dead. It would seem that if you don’t have an app, mobile website and a presence in every form of social media channel you must be doing something wrong. Last week I came across a company proving that simple, low tech marketing techniques are still very much alive.

I had arrived early for a meeting and, having a few minutes to kill, opted for a bit of window shopping. I was approached by lady carrying a tray of freshly baked cinnamon and sugar pretzels and, naturally, stopped to taste one. As I exclaimed: ‘ummm, it’s lovely’ the lady simply smiled, pointed in the direction of the outlet and handed me a sheet of discount coupons.

I didn’t give this a second thought until I emerged from my meeting feeling a little peckish. I fished out the sheet of coupons, selected the offer that was most appropriate, and duly went off to buy a pretzel.

From product sampling to buying in the space of 90 minutes – what would you give for a response like that?

Whilst this is a very specific example, the principles behind why this particular promotion worked are well worth exploring for your business:

  • Timing – when are your potential customers most receptive to trying or buying your particular product?
  • Opportunity – how can you get in front of your potential customers and give them the opportunity to trial your product?
  • Incentive – what can you do to encourage your customers to buy after they have tried your product?

If you can think through these questions, you may well be on the road to finding a simple marketing approach that will work wonders for your business.

Don’t waste your money on advertising

I saw an, almost perfect, advert in a local magazine the other day. So, almost perfect in fact, that I contacted the advertiser  immediately and almost purchased!

This is why I think the advert worked:

  • It had a great headline which promised to solve a problem for me
  • The text was backed up by simple and relevant images which told me, at a glance, what the service was
  • It had a strong call to action
  • It was perfectly targeted; the adverts was appropriate for the publication and was extremely relevant for the target readership
  • Not only was it relevant but it was also well timed.

So why did I only almost purchase off the back of a seemingly well thought through piece of marketing? You guessed it… lack of follow through.

I googled the company in question, sent them an email enquiry littered with buying signals …and then…heard nothing. A couple of days later I phoned the number in the advert and got the response ‘ what advert is that then love?’

Will I buy from this company? Unlikely. Don’t waste your money on advertsing, however good, if you can’t get the rest of the sales process right.

Don’t miss the buying signals

I had a call from a bank last week and, since I was considering changing my business account, allowed the caller to launch headlong into his well prepared sales pitch. After a good three minutes of my time he had managed to miss all the buying signals and went away empty-handed. Why?

It often happens. I’ve done it myself. You have done your preparation, thought about the questions you are going to ask and outlined how you will answer any objections. You are finally in front of a great prospect…it’s all going to plan…and then they say something you weren’t expecting. Instead of listening, taking stock and changing tack, you blindly battle on with your prepared ‘script’ because you don’t want to waste all the time you spent preparing!

All too often your prospect is actually interested in what you have to say and simply wants to get to the information that they want.

Quite how my caller missed: ‘ I might be looking to change my business bank account’, as a buying signal I’m not sure, often they are more subtle. If your prospect asks specific questions about price, delivery, specifications or who else you work for, take it as a sign of interest. If they actively agree with you and are talking positively about how your product or service could help them, take note.

It’s hard enough to get in front of a real prospect; make the most of the opportunity by listening and responding to the buying signals that are probably staring you in the face.

Good marketing scuppered by missing detail

Thinking about a brainstorm meeting I was due to have with a new client, I decided I needed a good, old-fashioned flip chart. Something simple, something portable that looked vaguely professional. A quick google search uncovered a handful of supplier websites and I’d soon selected the product I wanted. So far so good.

Before making my purchase there was just one detail I needed to check…the size of the flip chart. I clicked a tab entitled ‘product information’ to find… well… not a lot really. The distinct lack of detail stopped me in my tracks. I was ready, credit card in hand, to complete the purchase but one crucial detail was missing.

Mildly irritated, I picked up the phone to the customer services team; at least the number was easy to find on their website. The call was answered promptly and I felt sure I was on my way to finalising my purchase. Not so. The operator could not find the information and promised to call  back. Which, inevitably, she didn’t.

What a waste of some really quite good marketing. Google ads taking them right to the top of the rankings, an easy to navigate and clear website plus a responsive call centre…but without the right basic product information for me, the customer, all utterly fruitless.

Look at your customer journey from end to end, including all the small stuff. It could just mean the difference between as successful marketing campaign and one that falls at the final hurdle.