Customers are feeling pressure to get more done with less, so many of them are reducing the number of companies they do business with. At the same time, companies are urging their salespeople to increase sales to present customers. Unless we nurture our existing customer relationships, it will be increasingly difficult for salespeople to succeed.
Salespeople who stay focused on the needs of customers are less likely to be unseated by special deals offered by competitors. They may also be rewarded with increased customer loyalty and repeat sales.
Creating an emotional attachment with your customers will take your organisation outside the boundaries of your competition. It is a bond that will keep your customers coming back because not only did you meet their physical needs, but you also gave them a memorable experience.
What can you do to improve customer loyalty?
1. Solve problems by examining issues through the customer’s lens
Recognise that the key to selling more to existing customers is in your after-sale support. Customers’ expectations and concerns regarding after-sale support influence their future purchasing decisions. When customers purchase a product or service, they believe they are buying more than the specific item. They usually have expectations regarding the degree of after-sales support the product or service carries with it. After-sale support determines whether they will increase future orders or switch their loyalties to another company. Salespeople who increase sales to existing customers usually view after-sales support as an opportunity to strengthen their relationship. Try looking through the “lens of the customer”. Ask your salespeople to consider these two simple questions when they interact with a customer: What are the emotions? What are the needs? By understanding the customer’s emotions and understanding their needs, the sales professional will be in a better position to build an emotional attachment.
2. Own the problem
Sometimes it may be tempting for salespeople to distance themselves from a problem by stating that it is not their responsibility and that another department will need to handle it. Expressing that you do not have ownership of the problem or the potential resolution gives the customer a feeling of being adrift and powerless. It does not matter who created the problem or what transpired – by helping your customer resolve the problem, you create increased loyalty. Tell the customer that you own the problem and will apply your personal effort to achieve results. If the customer senses that he or she is communicating with someone who is powerless, it will create a reason to place their business elsewhere. Even if you do need to work with other departments, get manager approval or coordinate some other type of response. Reassure the customer that you will use your knowledge and experience to coordinate the best possible resolution, even if you need to get the assistance of other parties to achieve it.
3. Assume that the customer has a right to be angry
The most common response is to evaluate the merit of the complaint while you are listening to it. Try to curb that common response and replace it with the assumption that the customer has a right to be angry, even before you know the details. Perhaps the customer feels betrayed because the product or services did not meet expectations. The customer may be angry because he or she made incorrect assumptions that led to improper expectations. Regardless of the circumstances, acknowledge that the customer has the privilege to be irate.
Listen carefully to how the anger is expressed so you can find the root cause of the emotion. Place the customer first and the problem second. In most cases there are two conflicting issues that occur simultaneously when dealing with irate customers. The first issue is the customer emotional distress. The second is the technical or administrative issue that caused the emotional distress. It may seem logical to focus first on the technical or administrative issue that caused the emotional distress, however, it is important to acknowledge the customer anger first and the technical issue second. Sometimes the technical problem may require much more attention because it may impact other customers.
4. Ensure salespeople have the ability to connect
In today’s highly competitive marketplace, businesses need more than excellent products at competitive prices; they also need salespeople to connect with customers through authentic, human-to-human interactions that satisfy both their practical needs and their emotional wants. Cutting-edge technology is great, but it won’t suffice: just as you can’t raise your children with an iPad, you can’t serve your customers with computers unless you have caring, competent salespeople with the ability to see through the lens of your customer.
Maurice Kerrigan Africa’s 3-day Creative Sales Professional programme will best assist you to plan for better client interactions by taking into account your clients’ needs and motivations within the context of their organisation, the project you are involved in and your role in the overall client engagement process.
Click here to look at Maurice Kerrigan Africa’s public course training schedule.