Your business is nothing without its clients. Whether you provide products or services, you won't survive unless individuals or other businesses keep interested in your offerings and want to pay for them. In a difficult economy, your sales personnel fight a constant battle with competitors for new customers and to retain current clients — which itself has become a critical aspect of sustaining business.
Achieving customer satisfaction that keeps clients coming back entails much more than selling a good product or service or having a good sales process. Here are some tips business owners can share with their sales managers:
1. Only put your best people on the front line — Let's face it, not everyone is well-suited to interact with clients and provide great customer service. Unique personality traits are required — positive attitudes, great listening and problem solving skills — and only people who possess them should be in contact with your customers. Assign responsibility based on each employee's core competencies.
2. Know what your customers want — Client feedback is one of the keys to successful business. Knowing what customers think about your products and services and making improvements, perhaps based on their suggestions, should be part of your strategy. Also, don't underestimate the value of negative feedback. Letting clients know and see you are taking their thoughts into consideration shows you truly care and increases the chances they will stick around to see those improvements. And you don't have to always go on gut feeling. Listen and keep records, track social media and email campaign activity. By taking sincere interest you'll find what works.
3. Think relationships and sales will follow — When business is slow and the sales team feels pressure to improve numbers, it is easy to focus on new sales opportunities that arise and forget about developing true relationships with buyers. Customers can sense when a salesperson is impatient to close a sale and, even if they purchase now, they may think twice about returning. Concentrating on what's best for them, even if it means admitting one of your products doesn't fulfill a need, can make a more lasting impression.
4. Connect without overwhelming — An important aspect of keeping your customers is reminding them you are there when they need you. Keep in touch periodically when you have relevant news for them, just don't overdo it. Product updates, deals, improvements, and helpful tips for using your products in news ways are several types of applicable news. If you don't already have these materials, consider developing a content marketing plan to support their development.
5. Track, track and track — Keeping records of your customers — purchase history, call notes, feedback, appointments — and tracking sales trends is vital to customer retention. This information helps you understand customers better and plan how to retain their business. Depending on your size and needs, consider either a contact management or customer relationship management tool to track these relationships more effectively. One or two extra sales can often return your technology investment while giving sales managers and field reps a productivity advantage they need.
6. Be there 24/7 — It's all about presence. Whether using social media, email or phone, organize your team so they can answer customer questions or requests when they are out of the office and after business hours. Your team should be able to access client information remotely so they are able to provide whatever a customer needs ASAP. The recent boom in mobile devices is helping sales teams be more connected and available to customers. Your sales team should not be an exception.
7. Audit customer experience — Lastly, put yourself in your clients' position and make a list of all the ways their overall experience with you could be more satisfying. Something as simple as noting a specific customer likes their product to be delivered on Tuesdays can make a positive difference. Cater to your clients in ways that will make their lives easier and their experience more gratifying, and they'll gladly cater to making your sales processes more successful.
Brandon Balsley is director of Sage ACT! Product Management and a small- and midsize-business technology evangelist with Sage North America. His team builds and supports contact and customer management, Social CRM and mobile sales systems for more than 3 million customers worldwide.