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Use Social Media to Outsell Your Peers

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Oct, 02, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

social selling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Jill Rowley (@jill_rowley, #socialselling), sales reps that use social media outsell 78% of their peers because they:

  1. Establish credibility with compelling social profiles -- including professional photographs, accomplishments and references.

  2. Build relevant networks of prospects and like minded individuals that help maintain top-of-mind awareness with prospects and channel partners.

  3. Promote thought leadership that captures attention, builds their personal brand and attracts inbound opportunities.

  4. Listen to customers and prospects to understand needs, priorities and topics of interest.

  5. Measure their social activity to understand what's working, what isn't and to refine their approach.

Given that sales are all about relationships, then social media is a great way to initiate and enhance relationships. 

 

 

Are the members of your sales team using social media to make their calls more efficient and successful?

 

Give me a call if you'd like some help teaching them how.

 

Click Here To Schedule a 30-Minute Consultation  to Discuss Marketing or Sales Issues


 

Tags: consumer insights, trust, VoC, voice of the customer, accelerate sales, connecting emotionally with customers, people do business with those they know like and t, customer relationship management, channel partners, Trustability

Nurture Leads to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Mar, 19, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

lead nurturing accelerates sales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have leads in your pipeline that aren't ready to buy yet?

 

Has corporate approved you as the vendor of choice but the franshisees aren't convinced they need your product?

 

Have prospects visited your website but not yet downloaded your white paper?

 

They're not ready to engage with a sales person, let alone buy.

 

They are a marketing qualitifed lead (MQL) as opposed to a sales qualified lead (SQL).

 

You, and your marketing team, need to provide more information of value to help the prospect understand how your product or service can solve their problems and meet their needs.

 

By providing information of value, you are educating your prospective customer, establishing yourself and your firm as a trusted provider of useful information.

 

You are providing value before making the sale.

 

People buy from those they know like and trust.

 

By providing information of value, answering frequently asked questions and educating the prospect you are building awareness of your firm as an industry thought leader and as a trusted source of information and products or services.

 

Once you have established sufficient trust, your marketing qualified lead will become a sales qualified lead and be much easier for your sales person to close.

 

I developed a lead nurturing program for an online aggregator of laboratory products in the early days of procurement portals.

 

The lead nurturing program reached out to prospective suppliers to help educate them on the benefits of putting their thousand-page catalog of products online.

 

The program enabled sales reps to close suppliers in one or two visits versus two or three visits reducing the sales expense, by 33 to 50%, as well as shortening the buying cycle.

 

Lead nurturing programs are a lot like customer bonding programs. What varies is the information you provide and the questions you ask a prospect versus a customer.

 

In order to reduce sales costs and accelerate buying cycles, seek to provide information of value to prospective customers beefore trying to sell them your product or service.

 

Have you used a lead nurturing program to reduce sales expense or accelerate buying cycles?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

 

Tags: trust, information of value, accelerate sales, people do business with those they know like and t, lead nurturing

Differentiate Your Brand: Provide an Outstanding Customer Experience

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Feb, 03, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

outstanding customer experience resized 600

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are now in the age of the customer.

Companies no longer compete on product features.

Customer experience (#cx) leaders like Starbucks, Apple, Zappos and Disney have set new standards.

Consumers have more power than ever.

Your best opportunity to have a sustainable competitive advantage is to focus on the quality of every customer interaction.

You don't have to provide an outstanding customer experience every time but you do need to provide a consistently positive customer experience.

Customer satisfaction and experience scores have strong positive correlations with purchase, repurchase, revenue, profitability, shareholder value and likelihood to recommend. They have a strong negative correlation with likelihood to switch to a competitor.

Show your customers you, and your employees, are listening to them by engaging in a dialog with them online, via telephone and in person.

People like to do business with those they know, like and trust.

Get to know your customers and encourage your employees to do the same.

By doing so, you'll learn:

  • What they like
  • What they don't like
  • What makes you "different and better" in their eyes
  • How they define a satisfactory level of customer service
  • How they define an outstanding customer experience
  • Who they consider to be your competitors
  • What your competitors do well, and not so well
  • How you can improve your products
  • How you can improve your services
  • What problem you may be able to solve for them in the future
The more you know about your customer, and the more they get to know you, your employees and your company, the stronger the customer's emotional connection to you and your brand.
If your customers have a strong emotional connection to your brand, they want to see you be successful and are willing to help you be successsful if you ask.
You'll also be better able to deliver what they customer wants, when they want it and how they want it.
You'll be able to innovate your products and services and offer logical product extensions, up-sells and cross-sells. Your best prospects for a new product or service are your current customers.
You'll know what lingering questions they have and what they consider to be information of value. This enables you to make your communications to them much more relevant. Greater relevance = greater effectiveness.
Being easy and enjoyable to do business with are two attributes of a successful customer experience. Simplicity is key for consumers today. Anything you can do to make your customers' lives easier will improve their experience.
The better the experience, the more likely the customer is to share their experience with family, friends and colleagues. Referral marketing in the age of the internet and social media is more powerful than ever.
Deliver a consistently excellent customer experience or be prepared to lose your customers to those companies that do.
While there are several companies, as referenced above, raising the customer experience bar, most companies are still focused on their own products and services and monthly, or quarterly, revenue ahead of the customer.
Are you a customer experience leader in your space?
What do you need to do to differentiate your brand by providing a consistently excellent, and occasionally outstanding, customer experience?
If you put customer experience ahead of product/service and revenue, you can build a recurring revenue stream with satisfied customers who do a lot of your marketing for you.
Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book
Sources: Forrester, North American Technographics, Watermark Consulting

Tags: outstanding customer experience, trust, dialog, customer satisfaction, customer centric, people do business with those they know like and t

Have Customers for Life, But Not at a Loss

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Jan, 06, 2014 @ 06:01 AM

 

customers for life

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm a big proponent of companies having a "customers for life" philosophy.

I believe such a philosophy generates long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships and more profitably businesses.

However, customers' needs change over time and so will your definition of the "ideal" customer as your business evolves.

While it is worthwhile to have a customers for life philosophy, it may not, and probably won't be , mutually-beneficial for you to have a particular customer for "life."

As a business owner, you need to know the lifetime value of each customer.

What's the cost of serving each customer? One customer may buy less frequently but never make any special requests while one of your most frequent customers may be "nickel and diming" you, or your employees, to death by making special requests.

Be aware of the service cost for each customer and work to reduce it.  If you can't reduce it, you must pass along the higher cost of service to the customer.

Many years ago I had a client that was very particular about what printer printed her jobs and the quality of the work. She sent back every other job to be reprinted. The printer just doubled their price to ensure they didn't take a loss on this demanding customer. Ultimately it was a "win-win" for both parties; however, not for the company that employed my client.

When a client's needs, or your business, changes to where you are no longer the best solution, help your client find the right solution.

For a small client that you've outgrown, this could be a former employee who has set up their own consultancy.

For a client who is a customer service nightmare, send them to your biggest competitor. They'll appreciate the business and if they're not keeping up with the lifetime value of a customer and the cost of serving customers, you're providing them an opportunity to learn.

My best friend owns a bus company.  He quoted a large contract for a local university.  His competitors came in well below him and got the business.  Today his competitors are no longer in business.

You must know your costs and ensure you are making a profit. Loyal customers understand this. That's one reason loyal customers are willing to pay more for great customer service. They understand you get what you pay for.

Strive to have trusting and transparent relationships with customers and vendors. People like to do business with those they know like and trust. They also want them to be successful.

Do you know the lifetime value of your customers?

Do you know the cost of serving your customers?

Do you vary your pricing based on the value and cost to serve?

 

Here's a fun infographic from my friends at The Website Group on different types of customers.

 

Download the Free e-book

Tags: customers for life, outstanding customer experience, transparency, trust, people do business with those they know like and t

Face-To-Face Communications Empowers Employees and Accelerates Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Dec, 03, 2013 @ 06:12 AM

face to face communication resized 600

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently read an article by Cathy-Anne O'Brien in the Communications World Bulletin entitled "Losing Face Time? Recapture That Human Connection."

We all know face-to-face communications are optimal.

E-mail communications lack personality and emotion.

Phone conversations add tone and emotion but you are still not able to see the person's expression to see how they are receiving the message you are attempting to deliver.

"If you want to become a better communicator, you must make a conscious effort to engage other people in person," according to Jo-Ellan Dimitrius in her book Reading People.

In the age of social media, the importance of making an emotional connection is greater than ever.

People like to do business with people they know like and trust.

The best way to build this trust is with an in-person dialog. This way people can see you are sincere in what you are saying and you're able to see their expression while you are delivering your message.

Here are some points to consider when determining when face-to-face communications is the best option:

  1. With whom are you speaking? Do you know the person well? Are they important to your business or career? Do you need to improve your relationship with this person? Whether it's your client, your colleague,boss pr someone you are managing, much more is accomplished in face-to-face communications than e-mail, texting or even by phone.

  2. What are you communicating? According to Kathleen Begley, author of Face-to-Face Communication: Making Connections in a Technology-Driven World, "Face-to-face communications remains the most powerful human interaction. As Wonderful as electronic devices are, they can never fully replace the intimacy and immediacy of people conversing in the same room." This is particularly true if you are delivering sensitive news. You want to be able to see how the recipient of the message received and reacted to your message to ensure you communicated effectively.

  3. When do you need to communicate the message? While you may need to initiate a message after traditional business hours, it's important to have a face-to-face follow-up as a next step in the process to ensure the message was received and interpreted as you intended.

  4. Where is the audience located? Though geographic boundaries may limit the economic feasibility of face-to-face communications, "it's astounding what can be learned from eye contact, facial expression, body movements, space, time distance, appearance -- all non-verbal clues that influence the way the message is interpreted, received or decoded by the receiver," according to Mary Ellen Guffey in Business Communication: Process and Product.

  5. Why are you communicating? Identify what you want to accomplish from the communication. If give-and-take is required or the objective is to create good feelings and teamwork, then face-to-face communications work best.

As Tom Peters has said, "Technology is the great enabler. But now, the human bit is more, not less, important than ever before."

Face time may not only be the most appropriate in many situations, it can also ensure a successful outcome for the project about which you are communicating.

What percent of the time do you communicate face-to-face versus telephone versus e-mail?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: trust, dialog, connecting emotionally with customers, people do business with those they know like and t, face to face communications

9 Rules for Building Trust to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Oct, 07, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

I've written numerous posts on The Integrity Chain and how integrity leads to trust which leads to repeat business which leads to profits.

Consumer insights on building trust

Here are nine rules, from Jerry Acuff, author of The Relationship Edge: The Key to Strategic Influence and Selling Success.

1. Be yourself.

Everybody on the planet has had unpleasant experiences with salespeople, and many have walked away from a sales situation feeling manipulated. So, rather than acting or sounding like a salesperson, simply act the way you would when meeting with a colleague.

2. Value the relationship.

If you want people around you to value having a relationship with you, you must truly believe that relationship building is important. You must also believe that you honestly have something of value to offer to the relationship.

3. Be curious about people.

People are drawn to those who show true interest in them. Curiosity about people is thus a crucial element of relationship building. Having an abiding fascination in others give you the opportunity to learn new things and make new connections.

4. Be consistent.

A customer's ability to trust you is dependent upon showing the customer that your behavior is consistent and persistent over time. When a customer can predict your behavior, that customer is more likely to trust you.

5. Seek the truth.

Trust emerges when you approach selling as a way of helping the customer–so make it your quest to discover the real areas where the you can work together. Never be afraid to point out that your product or company may not be the right fit.

6. Keep an open mind.

If you're absolutely convinced the customer needs your product, the customer will sense you're close-minded and become close-minded in return. Instead, be open to the idea that the customer might be better served elsewhere. In turn, customers will sense that you've got their best interests at heart.

7. Have a real dialog.

Every meeting should be a conversation, not a sales pitch. Spend at least half of every customer meeting listening. And make certain the conversation is substantive and about real business issues, not just office patter or sports chit-chat.

8. Be a professional.

Customers tend to trust individuals who are serious about what they do, and willing to take the time to achieve a deep understanding of their craft. Take the time every day to learn more about your customers, their industry and their challenges.

9. Show real integrity.

Be willing to take a stand, even when it's unpopular with your customer or your company. You don't need to be adversarial, but have the ability to make decisions based upon what you know is right. And on a related note: Never promise what you can't deliver.

Adopt a philosophy of having "customers for life."  When you have this philosophy, you take a long-term view of the relationship and continue the dialogue with the customer long after the sale.

What do you do to build trust with your customers and prospects?

Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: transparency, trust, empower employees, honest communication, people do business with those they know like and t, reliability

5 Reasons Customers Leave and 9 Ways to Keep Them

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Sep, 24, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

5 Reasons customers leave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Ken Dooley and the Sales and Marketing Business Brief for these reminders (http://bit.ly/q4wSfk).

5 Reasons Customers Leave

  1. 1% pass away
  2. 3% move
  3. 14% are lured by a competitor
  4. 14% are turned away by product or service dissatisfaction
  5. 68% leave because of poor attitude or indifference on the part of the service provider

Control what you can

The survey points out that salespeople have little control over the first four reasons why customers leave, which account for 32% of those that depart. But salespeople and business owners have complete control over at least 68% of the customers who leave.

As such, it's in your best in your best interest to empower your employees to be engaged and encouraged to provide an outstanding customer experience.

9 Ways to Keep Them

Here are nine critical skills that will help you, and your reps, establish and maintain the right attitude with your customers — and keep them from jumping ship:

  1. Exceed expectations. Personalize your service. Instead of promising more than you can give, give more than you promise -- under promise, over deliver. Deliver a "wow" customer experience.
  2. Always be available. Be there to serve customers whenever they need you to be there. The Internet has enabled companies to have a constant presence with their customers, “24/7.” Reliability and availability are vital. Make sure your customers know you are available on demand. Be involved in the same social media channels as your customers.
  3. Customize how you serve. Find or develop solutions that fulfill your individual customers’ specific needs. Successful salespeople customize their business relationships with customers. They pride themselves on their one-on-one interactions. These salespeople value the differences in customer needs and respond with customized solutions.
  4. Be easy to deal with. Make doing business with you easy and pleasurable. Assume the burden of relieving inevitable aggravations for your customers. Salespeople who exceed their customers’ expectations do so by creating hassle-free experiences.
  5. Put the customer first. Don’t wait for opportunities to present themselves. Seek them out. Give customers more than they expect.
  6. Resolve conflicts and solve problems. When conflicts arise, some salespeople have a tendency to deny them, debate them, shift responsibility for them, place blame for them, or hold their breath hoping they’ll go away. Top salespeople accept ownership of the problem, collaborate on a solution, and take on the burden of finding a resolution regardless of fault.
  7. Handle complaints. Complaints usually have some validity and can be an “early warning system” of conflict on the horizon. When you view complaints this way, they can become your ally, helping you resolve problems and minimize their impact. Complaints that go unattended may evolve into conflicts that could have been avoided.
  8. Communicate constantly. Ask questions that result in a dialogue. The more the customer talks, the more you’ll learn. Continue questioning until you understand and have uncovered all the information required to proceed. Try to avoid jumping to conclusions with customers.
  9. Remember nonverbal communication. When communicating with customers, observe their non-verbal signals. Take note of their body language, appearance and posture. Look for signs of distraction. Pay attention to their facial expressions and eye contact. Listen to the tone of their voice as a means for understanding what they may be feeling.

Adapted from the book How You Do … What You Do: Create Service Excellence That Wins Clients for Life by Bob Livingston, CEO of REL Communications, a sales consulting group. 

How do you keep your customers and clients for life?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: transparency, earn your customers trust, honesty, honest communication, people do business with those they know like and t, extreme trust, integrity chain

No Values, No Trust. No Trust, No Customers.

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Sep, 05, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

Values, integrity, trust

 

I recently had a second telephone interview for a chief marketing officer position with the CEO of a start-up.

The first interview lasted one hour and went very well.

We agreed the CEO would send me a non-disclosure agreement and several documents for my review to provide more insights on their technology and market opportunity.

During the second telephone interview I shared my observations and opportunities as well as where I believed I could contribute to help the company achieve its growth goals.

I suggested we meet in person and that's when the CEO said this was a "hybrid deal" and I would be expected to invest $300,000 in the company in order to be considered further for the position.

If the CEO had told me this up front, I would not have continued the conversation, signed his NDA, spent the weekend reviewing the documents he sent, nor share my thoughts on how they could successfully approach the market.

The CEO's lack of transparency and ethics has left me feeling very negatively towards him and the company. 

He asked me to send any one else his way who may be interested in the opportunity.

Why would I want to do that to anyone I know?

I looked on this company's website for their values and didn't find any. I guess that's better than finding some that are not lived up to.

People like to do business with people they know like and trust. If I don't trust you, I don't want to do business with you.

If this company treats prospective members of their management team with this level of disrespect, openness and lack of integrity, I can only imagine how they treat prospective customers.

Treat a customer or prospect in this way, in a very small and insular industry, and word will travel fast.  

While you may have bleeding-edge technology, no one will want to do business with you becase they can't trust you to be forthcoming or to do what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it.

Personal integrity is "doing what you say you'll do when you say you'll do it."

Corporate integrity is when every member of the company follows the same philosophy.

Integrity leads to trust. Trust leads to repeat business. Repeat business leads to profitiability.

Does your company have values? Do you earn your customer's trust?

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

 

Tags: transparency, earn your customers trust, honesty, honest communication, people do business with those they know like and t, extreme trust, integrity chain

Why Don't Your Customers Want to Talk to You?

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Aug, 13, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

Intense listening

 

 

Are you providing a product or service that addresses a problem or concern of your customer?

Do you make it easy for your customer to buy?

Do you try to engage your customer in a conversation:

  • What's driving you to buy our product?
  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Have you used our product before?
  • How's our service?
  • What can we do to improve our product or service?
A lot has been written recently about how customers don't want to have a relationship with a brand. A brand is not a person.
I believe customers do want to have a relationship with a representative of the brand. Someone with whom they can share a comment or suggestion and know that it will be heard and acted upon.
Typically, the people interacting with your customers are your employees.
Do you encourage your employees to engage customers in a conversation to learn more about their needs and wants?  What they're happy with and what can be improved?
Your customers probably don't want to talk to you because you've shown no interest in talking to them.
They may have no emotional connection to your brand and don't care whether you succeed or not.
You may send them a customer satisfaction survey or mine their sales data, but have you, or your employees, had a conversation with them?
People like to do business with people they know, like and trust.
People also don't care how much you know until they know how much you care about them.
This is done person-to-person, not by analyzing data.
This is how you build an emotional connection between a customer and a brand.
This is a function of having empathy and being sincerely concerned about why the customer is buying your product versus your competitors -- B2B or B2C.
In an Harvard Business Review blog, Matt Dixon and Lara Ponomareff wrote about, "Why Your Customers Don't Want to Talk To You."
They use examples of customers who go straight to kiosks at airports rather than to empty ticket counters and banking customers that bank online or go to ATMs rather than into the bank to interact with a teller as examples of customers not wanting a relationship with a company.
I do both of these things, as well as use the self-service check-out at my grocery store because it's more convenient for me.
I also realize it's more convenient for the vendor to serve me with technology rather than a real person.
However, if I didn't already have a relationship with the airline, the bank or the grocery store, I don't think I'd trust their alternative distribution channels. I certainly wouldn't be familiar with them, they'd be less convenient to use and I likely would not use them -- it would no longer be the most efficient way for me to do what I need to get done.
Customers want relationships with brands and product and service providers on their terms. They want to be able to talk with a real person with some knowledge and authority if they have a question, suggestion or complaint.
The customer wants what they want when they want it and it's up to the service provider to figure out what it is.
Empower your employees to find out what your customers and prospects want to know and how they want to find out about it.
By finding out how different customers want to learn about your products and services, you'll be able to differentiate and segment your customers thereby providing them more information of value that's relevant to them.
You must provide your customers the options they want to keep them satisfied. If you don't, they will find someone else who will.
In order to understand your customer's needs and wants, you need to have a relationship with them so you'll be able to fulfill their needs on an ongoing basis.
If customers don't want to talk to you, it may be because they don't have a need right now, or they're pressed for time. However, they are not saying they never want to talk to you or give you feedback.
Don't ever stop trying to have a relationship and dialogue with your customers. Don't stop trying to gather real customer insights.
Be there for your customer when they're ready to talk.  If you're not, they'll go to someone who is.
Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: dialogue, emotional connection to the brand, loyal customers, earn your customers trust, empower employees, consumer insights accelerate sales, people do business with those they know like and t

Integrated Marketing Accelerates Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Aug, 13, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

Integrated marketing accelerates sales

 

The latest debate in the marketing industry -- inbound or outbound marketing?

The answer's the same as it was 30 years ago -- TV, radio or print?

All of the above.

Unless you are selling in a VERY unique industy, your prospects are using a number of channels. More today than 30 years ago because there are many more channels available.

So how do you know what channels? Ask them.

The effects of all of the channels are additive -- as long as the message is consistent, coming from one brand, one voice reinforcing the strategic positioning of the brand.

A fully integrated marketing plan is the only way to reach your target audience with a consistent message across different channels -- the channels in which they are engaging.

The channels, the messaging and the tactics must be aligned. Any misalignment will cause confusion among prospects and customers which will result in a loss of trust.

Consider building relationships rather than chasing transactions. People buy from those they  know, like and trust. Work on getting your prospects to know, like and trust you before selling them something.

Do this by providing information of value -- exclusive content, behind-the scenes access, unique expertise and excellent customer service. Again, your customers and prospects will tell you what is valuable to them.  You just need to ask.

What can you do to ensure you are delivering fully integrated marketing across multiple touch points?  Make sure the people developing and implementing your marketing communications understand the meaning and importance of integration -- not just between Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

It will make a difference in your brand perception.

Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book

Tags: consistent messaging, one voice, people do business with those they know like and t, integrated marketing