Over the last couple of weeks we have focused our attention on how to retain your most valuable customers by building brand loyalty and securing repeat sales.
Although retention is vitally important, let’s switch our focus today to attracting new customers in order to expand your customer base.
Focus On Engagement, Rather Than Promotion
As sales professionals and business owners, it’s crucial that we acknowledge our modern prospects’ desire to interact with us on their terms, how and when they choose. There has been a fundamental shift away from outbound sales techniques and the ‘hard sell’ – cold calling, for instance. In fact I would say that the challenge for businesses like ours today is to sell without selling; modern consumers are simply turned off by what are perceived as old-fashioned methods, preferring to deal with suppliers who let them control the pace and direction of their buying journey.
Today’s smartphone society increasingly rely on social media, blogs, peer reviews and comparison sites to self-educate on products or services they are interested in. This is a trend which is accelerating fast, and is part of the growing appetite for engagement rather than overt promotion. People are seeking more authentic, personalised and emotional connections with their chosen brands, which of course is partially driven by the immediacy of the online world. A Forbes article recently stated that over 60% of Millennials “are more likely to become brand loyal if a company engages with them, sincerely, on social media.” This is likely to hold far greater sway these days than anything sent to them directly by a traditional sales rep.
As such, when prospects do reach out and make contact, they are further along in their decision-making process – with some commentators estimating that 75% of the buying journey is already complete.
From Hot Prospect To Customer
So with this in mind, how can you seal the deal and convert prospects’ interest into sales and revenue? Actually, the fact that prospects are further along their buying journey than ever before should make closing the deal easier. Here are some key points to bear in mind to avoid potential customers slipping through your fingers.
Use the wealth of customer data already at your fingertips through business tools such as CRM to identify new prospects and to deliver the truly personalised level of engagement expected today. This involves profiling customer segments to paint a figurative picture of your likely prospects. But it’s important to go beyond this and drill down deeper into your company’s data to individual customer level, analysing key information such as purchase, billing and service history alongside communication preferences such as which online or offline channel they use and at which time of day. It is this degree of insight which allows you to personalise the all-important final steps in their journey to purchase.
When building any relationship it’s always a helpful strategy to ‘stage’ commitment by breaking it down into manageable steps that feel less intimidating. Start by asking prospects to make small pledges of loyalty to you, such as booking meetings, engaging with you about an email you sent them or completing an online survey. These all help to pave the way for future, larger commitments, as well as giving you actionable business intelligence on their preferences that will influence the nature of future interactions.
As we mentioned earlier, today’s consumer is likely to verify your claims through a range of online means, from peer reviews and press articles to demo videos and blogs. Improving your visibility and customer reviews on the right channels will help you to progress prospects to the next stage. Remember, over 80% of consumers seek peer referrals before making a purchase.
Giving tends to inspire a reciprocal gesture, so bear this in mind in your interactions with prospective customers. You could offer consultancy sessions, webinars or useful content such as eBooks – all of which satisfy the prospect’s preference to self-educate but at the same time make them feel valued and help to create stronger, more enduring relationships.
5. Effective Sales Process
Research shows that the difference between a sales team that executes and one that struggles to hit targets is process, so the importance of a trackable and repeatable sales process can’t be emphasised enough. Teams who work in a consistent way are more likely to move deals through the pipeline and close them. Developing a Sales Playbook will help define your process and provides a transparent, detailed, honed roadmap for you team to implement, evolve and adjust to your new customer journey and buying behaviours.