There is no question we are navigating some choppy economic waters. Businesses have become far more cautious and mindful with their spending, and consumers have followed suit with their purchasing. Times are tough. Money is tight. And, as a result, we’re all trying to be a little smarter.
But, as is often the case, crisis begets opportunity. For businesses, the opportunity is to streamline sales strategies – to sell smarter – by better targeting customers so you can truly give them what they need. There are three things every business should do to boost sales in these trying times: (1) improve your message and how it is delivered; (2) look at your customers’ current state versus their desired state; and (3) strengthen and foster the customer relationship.
Improve Your Delivery
The first thing you need to ask yourself is: How can I more effectively reach customers? As the economy has faltered, the consumer window for messages has narrowed. This means your message has less chance of reaching a consumer than it did, say, five years ago. It also means you need to make a greater effort to truly engage your customers.
One way to do that is by utilizing the phone. Next to a face-to-face meeting, a phone call is the most interactive method of communicating with a customer. TV commercials can be fast-forwarded. Direct mail can be discarded. E-mails deleted. But with a phone call, you at least get your foot in the door. If nothing else, you have the opportunity to get your company’s name heard and present a value proposition. And, with people traveling less because of the economy, the likelihood of reaching customers at home has increased.
Tailor Your Message
The next step is to take aim. I’m talking about precise, laser-beam targeting. You have to set your sites on a single, highly-specified member of an audience. To do this, you need to access a consumer database that allows you to screen and profile the audience both demographically (by traits like age, income and occupation) and psychographically (by traits such as values, buying habits and lifestyles). You can use these traits to identify people most apt to buy specific products or services.
After pinpointing your target audience, you need to take everything you know about them and produce a persuasive hook – one that speaks directly to the individual. Say you are targeting mid-level income families with two or more kids who have taken at least one vacation in the past five years. You could use the economy as your hook, contrasting a trip to the beach or Disney World with the cost benefits of a special-offer water park vacation.
Address Customer Need
To make your message stand out, you have to know your customer. It’s Business 101. Ask not what you want from your customer, but what your customer wants from you. You need to know your customers’ current state versus their desired state. Where are they now and where do they want to be? How can your service help get them there?
For example, there are thousands of different attributes people look for when they buy a car – status, comfort, fuel economy, family transport. Your sales people need to identify which holds the most weight for a customer and tailor the pitch accordingly. This is another instance where the phone is a superior delivery method. On the phone, the sales experience becomes much more consultative. Consultative salespeople dig deeper, as a friend or adviser would. They educate and dissect the customer’s needs and point to better options.
Earn Customer Loyalty
To build market share, you either need to get more customers or get more from the customers you have. With the economy having a limiting effect on customer acquisition, it is perhaps more important than ever (though it’s always important) to keep the customers you have loyal. Now is the time to get close to your customers; to earn their loyalty. Now is the time to be more proactive in protecting your existing customers and the business you have.
Set up quarterly review calls to check in and find out what your customers want and need. These are the calls where bonding takes place. They build trust. Customers are more likely to come back to you tomorrow if you help them meet their goals today. They will have confidence in you and your product. Customers will stick with the businesses that stuck by them in tough times. CIS
Rick Lawson is vice president of new business development at InfoCision (News - Alert) Management Corp. Reach him at email@example.com. In business for over 25 years, InfoCision is the second-largest privately held teleservices company and a leading provider of customer care services, commercial sales and marketing for a variety of Fortune 100 companies and smaller businesses. Along with call center solutions, InfoCision offers business intelligence, digital printing, direct mail solutions and fulfillment services. For more information, visit www.infocision.com.
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