Know Your Customers
Guest Contributor: Lewis GreenLewis' Posts
- Lewis' Blog
We have discussed this topic before but I believe it is so important and so ignored that it is worth bringing up once again.
Most of us know that we need to focus our marketing and sales attention on our best customers. Unfortunately, too many of us have not taken the time to identify what those customers look like. Therefore, we plug away daily at tossing out trial balloons to see where they land. And that is no way to run a business.
Instead, we should take the time to first understand ourselves, who we are, who wants to work with us, who wants to buy from us, and why. Usually, those most interested in us will be our best customers. But they shouldn't have to stumble upon us. We should identify them and then communicate messages that let them know we exist and that we are a great solution provider for them. Whether we sell products, services or both, we need to determine what it is we sell and who wants it.
The first step is to understand that seldom do we operate in a vacuum. It is unlikely that our products and services are so unique, that we represent a buyer's sole choice. Therefore, we have to reach out to our ideal customer and become the buyer's first choice. To do that, we first define our solutions, dissect their value for the customer, and then identify the customer most likely to buy those solutions. What do they look like and how do we reach them?
For today, let's focus on what they look like? Here are the questions needing answered:
1. Where do they do business?
2. Why do they do business in those places?
3. What is their annual revenue?
4. How many employees to they have?
5. What kind of solutions do they need?
6. How do they choose those solutions?
7. Why would they want to do business with us?
8. What drives and motivates them?
9. Who are their customers? What do they look like?
10. What professional organizations do they belong to?
11. How do they reach their customers?
12. What single thing about them makes them different from their competitors?
13. How can my business solutions make them better?
These are the starter questions. The deeper the understanding that you gain about your customers, the better chance you have of developing a relationship with them. Everyday small businesses receive marketing messages. The only chance you have of getting your best customers to read and respond to your messages is if you know what makes your customers who they are, and you write messages that show you understand their challenges and that you are about their needs, not yours.
Labels: best customers, buyer's first choice, communicate messages, ideal customer, Lewis Green, marketing and sales, run a business, trial balloons
Are You Getting Enough Small Business Referrals?
According to a selling to small business survey
, 83% of companies who target the SMB market generate sales through referrals. It was the most popular response and beat out the more traditional marketing forms such as direct mail, cold calling and trade shows.
The specific results were:
Referrals are more profitable
- 83%: Referrals
- 52%: Networking events
- 40%: Cold calling
- 34%: Direct mail
- 32%: Trade shows
- 23%: Boards and civic organizations
- 16%: Retail walk-ins
- 9%: Other
Referred customers are not only the most popular form of growing a business, they also tend to buy more, are more loyal, are less price sensitive, and have a shorter sales cycle. According to sales trainer Tom Hopkins, your closing ratio for non-qualified leads is 10% while it is 60% when you are referred to a lead.
Here is a list of what you can do to get more SMB referrals.
Have sales staff who have direct experience with SMBs.
Business owners love dealing with salespeople who understand them. Look to hire sales staff who have either run their own business before or have worked for a very small business in the past. They understand what it's like to be entrepreneurial and can relate to your customers directly. Lowes and Home Depot, for example, hire people who have been contractors in the past so that when contractors come into the store they are all speaking the same language.Identify your champions.
Not all business owners will be great sources of referrals. The 80/20 rule applies to referral generation from your clients which means that 80% of your referrals will be generated by 20% of your customers. Look at who has given you referrals in the past or are likely candidates for being a solid referral partner. Thank them for their help, give them recognition and awards, provide them with behind the scenes access and treat them like an extended part of your family. By giving them the extra attention they will be even more motivated to help spread the word about your company.Give your customers referrals
Small business owners are always looking for ways to grow their own companies. Stay on the look out for business opportunities for them. If you give your clients referrals to new business they will feel compelled to do the same for you. Remember that you are only one of many suppliers to the business owner and can rise to the top of their minds by providing additional help and support beyond what is expected of you. Give referrals and you shall receive.Let them know
Many customers don't give you referrals because they don't know you are looking for them. You can plant the seed in your clients' minds that you are looking for additional business without being pushy. Let them know the type of customer you are looking for. The more specific you can be the better because it will help your clients narrow down to a list of potential candidates. Some will have immediate candidates for you while others will look for opportunities as they come up.Provide excellent service
This seems like a no-brainer but very few people do actually provide excellent customer service. Small business owners are used to dealing with big companies who are unresponsive and offer terrible service. By being the one supplier who responds to calls and emails promptly, checks in to make sure everything is going smoothly, remembering important occasions, and taking the time to follow up, you will be the one company who gets talked about.Get testimonials
If a customer gives you a compliment on an aspect of your business, ask if they would put it in writing and mind if you use it in your marketing materials. Positive testimonials from satisfied clients speak volumes and carry much more weight than messages from your company.Consider a rewards program
Some of the more popular rewards programs including giving cash, gifts, and discounts. They are commonly used in the retail sector and in many service based business. Not all customers will use a rewards program because they don't want to feel like they are "selling" their friends, but many will take you up on your offer if the benefits tie nicely in with the business.Look beyond your current customers
Referrals from current customers are usually the best sources but they are not your only option. Consider looking at past customers, partners, vendors, and other people who are somehow connected to your target market. Look at the other people your clients are buying from and develop strategic partnerships with them.
Labels: cold calling, customer referrals, direct experience, direct mail, excellent service, generate referrals, networking events, referral partners, small business survey, support champions, trade shows
Become a Better Salesperson by Selling on the Life-Cycle of a Business
Guest Contributor: Albert LukAlbert's Posts
- Albert's SiteThis is an opportune time of the year to talk about the relationship between sales and the life-cycle of a business. As the summer ends and the autumn is upon us, it reminds me that everything has a life-cycle; trees turn leaves, flowers cease to bloom and crops are ready to be harvested. Most salespeople concentrate on product, marketing material and branding, but when was the last time you thought about using the life-cycles of businesses to boost your sales and cement client relationships?
Any regular reader of this blog understands the basis of any good SME sales strategy: establish trust, maintain frequent contact and seek opportunities to help. While these are fundamental basics, the tactics involved in such a strategy depends on the life cycle of the business. Having had the privilege of serving as corporate counsel to businesses in various life-cycles, I share the following experiences:
- The "kids" need help beyond your product or service - be a part of their team. I often define start-ups/early stage businesses as "kids" - full of enthusiasm and energy for their business. At the risk of a gross generalization, most kids are great technicians - they know their product or service inside out; however, they may not have the experience or have developed the skills to know everything about their business (I readily admit there are obvious exceptions to the rule). Kids need a team around them to help them with their business beyond the goods or services they are selling. The priority of a sales-person at this stage is to develop a relationship by providing advice. The advice given may not be about the product or service being sold and it might not lead to an immediate sale, but providing this advice will build credibility with the kids. Those selling administrative support products and services (e.g.: sales tracking software, book-keeping software, computer hardware, accounting and legal services) have a particular built-in advantage at this point. While sales may be modest, it is these types of products and services that most kids recognize they may need. If the salesperson positions themselves as a resource for their team, the kids will turn to them for assistance when needed. This helps build trust and the salesperson may even find they are apart of the team. When a salesperson becomes apart of the team they should be focused on the long term relationship and not an immediate sale because eventually the kids become...
- Teenagers! They need you to maintain constant contact lest you are perceived to be indifferent to their needs: Teenagers form that "mushy middle" of businesses- they are beyond start-up stage but not large enough to be considered "big business" or institutional. I typically define teenagers as businesses with employees and a significant amount of assets but not so great as to employ divisional managers, multiple vice-presidents or a purchasing/procurement department. Teenage businesses are like teenagers in high school - there is always someone new trying to get their attention - your rival is much like that new cute guy or girl in class. Teenage businesses are at a size where they are desirable targets for your competitors. If you have teenagers as clients or want to sell to businesses in this life-cycle, emphasis should be placed on maintaining contact with them, regardless of whether a sale needs to be made, to ensure you are not perceived to be indifferent to their needs. Indifference, whether perceived or real, is a leading cause of business loss and especially so in this business life-cycle.
- Adults are mostly self-sufficient and you need to make sure you maintain their trust. Businesses in the "adult" life cycle are mature business with significant revenue and assets. Much like being an adult, their "team" has been established. They are not likely to make too many new friend/service providers. You are already part of the team or they are occupied by so many competing priorities that maintaining constant contact is neither required nor welcomed. At this point, the largest priority is maintaining trust. In my experience, most businesses in this life-cycle only switch service providers and/or product lines if there has been a betrayal of trust (e.g. quoting one price and billing substantially over that, openly putting your needs before your clients) or the product is notably inferior to the competitors. Thus, most salespeople and sales teams need to concentrate on ensuring they do what they say they are going to do and otherwise maintain trust.
There are always exceptions to the rule, but this may be an effective general guideline to help sell based on the life-cycle of your potential clients or clients. Best of luck!
Labels: Albert Luk, client relationships, establish trust, life-cycle of a business, maintain frequent contact, marketing material, salespeople, seek opportunities to help