Whether you like it or not, every entrepreneur is a salesperson. We know that the thought of promoting your start-up and selling your product can be one of the scariest parts of operating a small business. Sales seems stuffy and disingenuous. You don’t want to deliver canned lines to people and you know they certainly don’t want to hear them. Making those contacts with that in your mind can be intimidating.
This is your first mistake. Stop thinking of your sales strategy as something that encompasses cold-calls, massive mailings and expensive advertisements. Yes, some of those tactics still matter, but the days of hard sales are waning. There is new era of sales dawning that focuses on personality, relationships and engagement.
It’s all about Relationships.
Danny Iny, author of Engagement from Scratch: How Super Community-Builders Create a Loyal Audience and How You Can do the Same, describes relationship-building as the process of engaging with your customers on a more personal level to deepen your relationship with them and build a loyal following. (Read our interview with Danny.)
In this new relationship based era of sales, your goal with every customer interaction should be to make a friend, not a sale. We’re not talking about divulging personal information. We’re talking about building trust and showcasing mutual interests. With trust comes loyalty. With loyalty comes long-term customer relationships and better return on the investment.
While there are customer relationship management software programs and other formal ways to organize and quantify your budding customer relationships, the principles behind building customer relationships are no different than the principles behind building any relationship.
Understand Your Customers’ Needs.
A good salesperson knows that selling a product starts with finding out what your customer needs and helping them to find a solution to that problem. Customers don’t buy products or services, they purchases solutions that solve their problems. Everything about your business, from product development to sales, should be about solving a problem.
Listen More than You Speak.
Closely related to understanding your customers’ needs is listening to them. You should listen to your customer at least twice as much as you talk with them. Notice our word choice there. We want you to speak with your customers, not to/at them. Relate to them as people, not dollar signs. Before you even open your mouth to speak about your business, you should have a complete understanding of who your customer is as a person. What do they need? Why do they need it? What are their priorities? What do they expect from you? Ask questions if you aren’t clear on something and repeat their answers back to them to make sure you are on the same page. Everything you tell them about your product should stem from what they’ve told you they want. Let them lead the conversation.
Treat Them like People First.
Your customers are people before they are anything else and people want to feel that you care about them. When a person feels that you care about them, they’ll feel secure and they will trust you. Be genuine in your sales strategy. Yes, you can be genuine and still close the deal. You can keep a business relationship professional and still make someone feel special by asking how his daughter’s wedding was or how she enjoyed her recent vacation to Hawaii. Things do not need to get overly personal. Authentic light chatter is enough.
Keep in Touch.
Maintaining a relationship requires regular, positive and genuine contact between people. If you haven’t heard from a customer in a while, drop them a line to ask how they’re doing. Ask them what they think of the product. How are they using it? Do they have any constructive feedback? If you find a solution to one of their problems, a referral they need or a news article you think they might like, send it to them. Show your customers that you really want to help them and they’ll be more likely to choose you over the competition.
This is so much easier thanks to social media. You can tweet them or send them a Facebook message. Remember not to be overzealous, you don’t want to spam people or seem salesy.
Everyone likes to be appreciated. Periodically rewarding your loyal customers should always be a part of your sales strategy. Rewards can be anything from a free or discounted product to a gift card for a restaurant they enjoy to a simple card that says “thank you” and acknowledges that you know how vital they are to your success. Again, this is something that is made simpler with social media. You can thank people via a social post or get interactive and encourage loyalty through fun contests.
When implementing your sales strategy, remember that sales is about people first. Approaching people with authenticity will build trust, engender loyalty and ultimately increase sales. It’s also a lot less intimidating than a cold-call.
For more information on implementing your sales strategy, contact one of our CxOs.