When sales are not coming in as steadily or as easily as they once were, too many business owners sabotage their sales efforts further because they have gotten caught in a transaction mindset versus a relationship mindset in their marketing approach. Or has this been what has caused sales not to happen all along?
When you are in a transaction mindset, you are caught up in signing the deal versus building relationships. High growth companies understand and never lose sight of the fact that a relationship for life is always the goal over a quick sale. Notice I said a relationship for life versus a customer for life? The reason this is important to emphasize is that viewing all interactions within your company from employees to vendors to customers as relationships to be nurtured ultimately helps you better serve your customers and build better relationships with them as a result. Additionally, your business model may be such that a customer for life is not a goal, as strange as that may sound, but taking care of a customer is of paramount importance. Ensuring customers have a positive, memorable experience so they encourage others to use your business results in valuing the relationship for a lifetime of referrals even though they may not use your service again due to the type of business you are in.
Consider these areas and how you can better approach each.
1. Sales Goals: One of the first indicators that you may be caught in a transaction mindset is in only focusing on the sales and profitability numbers versus how you are going to achieve them. If the only goals you have are increased percentages of sales and profits over last year, then you are in a transaction mindset. Take a look at your goals for the year. Your goals should go beyond dollars and include measurable benchmarks for how you expect to get these numbers. Do they include increases in the number of referrals from customers? Do they include any retention expectations compared to sales from new customers? Do they include increases in sales among existing customers through expanded capability areas or product offerings as a result of knowing your customers’ needs and your competitors’ shortcomings?
2. Before the Sale: When you are communicating with prospects, are you promoting your services and products before really understanding where their pain or needs might be? Before you can give answers, you need to get some answers. Never assume before confirming what is most needed and why. There is no better place to start than with existing customers. If you have added a product or capability, was it based on getting feedback from your customer base and are you first offering it to those who already know you before you go after prospects? I am simply amazed at how often I see businesses forgetting their existing or past customers when introducing something new in their business. Keep in mind that those who know you and like what you have done for them will be happy to share and encourage others to do business with you even if what you are offering as an addition is not a perfect fit for their needs right now.
3. During the Sale: What are you doing once a sale has been made or is in progress to keep the relationship top of mind? How are you showing your customer that having a relationship with them is valued and appreciated? How are you keeping them informed of progress, sharing insights or information that might benefit them while the service or product is being prepared or finalized?
4. After the Sale: While some businesses may engage customers for an extended period of time with the product or service provided, others have a sales cycle and completion that requires a conscientious effort to keep the interaction relationship-oriented versus transaction-oriented. This means having a communications program in place to keep in touch and proactively keep customers in the loop. And what about prospects who haven’t used your business yet? Qualified prospects should also be in your communications queue. Keeping them informed of what you have done for others turns into sales and the beginning of a new customer relationship because they begin to see you are making a difference for others on a regular basis. Giving them a taste of how you think and approach business gives them confidence that you value them beyond the sale.
5. Ongoing Sales: What growth companies understand is that the key to ongoing sales is in the follow up, follow through, and building a following. If you have perfected all three of these areas, you understand the powerful impact that building relationships has on your sales, your bottom line, and your rapport in the marketplace now and in the years to come.
Making your sales efforts about the relationship first and foremost will ensure that sales keep occurring with your customers. When customers feel like they matter, then how they spend with your matters even more too.
Sherré DeMao is author of the nationally acclaimed books, 50 Marketing Secrets of Growth Companies in Down Economic Times, www.50marketingsecrets.com, and Me, Myself & Inc., www.memyselfandinc.com. Her column seeks to help business owners build and grow sustainable enterprises and businesses with economic value and preference in the marketplace.