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Sales Prospecting

Conquering the Customer Challenge

This is an excerpt from The Startup Owner’s Manual, a recently published step-by-step guide for building companies.

Steve Blank

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There are a million-plus apps for sale on mobile app stores and an infinite number of commerce, social and content websites, so the mere fact that you’ve launched a new one doesn’t make it a successful business.

Building your product is the easy part. The hard part is getting customers to find your app, site or product. It’s a daunting, never-ending challenge to build customer relationships, quite literally, one customer at a time.

Acquisition and activation

Let’s get started with the first two steps for “getting” customers: acquisition and activation.

In the acquisition phase, customers learn about a product before they buy. With web/mobile apps, the effort focuses on bringing as many customers as possible to the company’s “front door” – the landing page. There, they’re introduced to the product and hopefully buy it or use it.

The second phase – activation – is when the customer shows interest through a free download or trial, a request for more information, or a purchase. Customers should be considered “activated” even if they don’t purchase or register, as long as the company has enough information to re-contact them (whether by e-mail, phone, text, etc.) with explicit permission to do so.

Pull, don’t push

Unlike the door-to-door salesmen of yesteryear, your job on the web is to “pull” customers to you rather than to push your product at them.

Your first step in customer acquisition and activation is understanding how people buy or engage with your product. Here’s how it happens:

  • Step one: People discover a need or want to solve a problem. They say, “I want to throw a party,” or feel lonely and decide to find a hot party or a dating site. Then what?
  • Step two: They begin a search. Overwhelmingly, in this century, that search begins online. It often happens at Google.com, but it can happen on Facebook, Quora or hundreds of other special-interest websites from Yelp to Zagat to TripAdvisor.com.
  • Step three: They don’t look very hard. In fact people often only pay attention to the first few things they uncover (how often do you search beyond the first page of results on Google?). You must make your site, app or product as visible as humanly possible, in as many of these places as possible where your customers are likely to begin the search.
  • Step four: They go where they’re invited, entertained or informed. You don’t “earn” interest from your customers with hard-boiled sales pitches or bland information. You earn it by providing inviting, helpful or entertaining information in lots of formats (copy, diagrams, white papers, blogs, videos, games, demos, you name it) and by participating in the communities and social media your customers are likely to be.

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How to Handle Big Corporate Clients

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Free or paid tactics – they both work

When it comes to acquisition, you can use free or paid tactics. Free is obviously the best cost, and includes public relations, viral marketing, search engine optimisation and social networking.

After you get the free acquisition programmes going, you should start to test paid tactics, such as pay-per-click advertising, online or traditional media advertising, affiliate marketing and online lead generation.

You’ll want to run some quick and simple acquisition tests to gauge customer reaction. Try controllable, inexpensive, easily measured tactics:

  • Buy R2000 worth of AdWords and see if they’ll drive customers representing five or 10 times that amount in potential revenue to the site or app and at least get them to register. Monitor performance and drop ineffective ones.
  • Use Facebook messages or Tweet to measurable audiences to invite at least 1 000 people to explore the new product. If none of the messages work, the product or offer may well be the problem.
  • Buy an e-mail blast list of targeted customers for R2000 or R4 000. Send at least two versions of the offer and expect to generate at least three times the potential revenue to at least sign up, if not purchase.
  • Find traffic partners, which are typically contractual relationships with other companies that provide predictable streams of customers or users to your company while you provide either customers or fees to the partner.

For web/mobile businesses, activation is the choke point – the make-or-break place where customers decide whether they want to participate, play, or purchase.

Quick activation tests include:

  • Capture the customer’s e-mail address and get permission to follow up with further information. Follow up with 1 000 customers and expect at least 50 or more to agree to activate.
  • Offer a free trial, download, or white paper or a significant discount to 500 or 1 000 customers. Try this with at least three different offers, hoping to find at least one that generates a five percent or greater response rate.
  • Call 100 prospects who don’t activate immediately. See if the phone calls generate enough of a response-rate improvement to warrant the cost. Three times the response rate is probably needed.
  • Try free-to-paid conversion: Offer a seven- or 14-day free trial of an app, service, or web/mobile product. Or offer the use of some but not all of the site or app’s features.
  • Monitor the results of all tests and, when you’re not satisfied, revise the programme and test again.

Steve Blank is a professor of entrepreneurship and former serial entrepreneur. His latest book is The Startup Owner's Manual.

Sales Prospecting

Want Higher Response Rates? Start Treating Your Sales Prospects Like People

You can’t expect to sell anything if your prospects don’t trust you.

Sujan Patel

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Sales isn’t an easy job. It takes the right personality and a certain set of skills to be successful. That’s why whenever I’ve hired for a sales position, I’ve found that it’s very hard to find that right person.

That’s because so many salespeople have the wrong attitude when it comes to communicating with their prospects. They’re so focused on the numbers game – from pricing to commissions to quotas – that they forget that they’re talking to real people.

I can’t tell you how many times a sales rep has come to me complaining about how a prospect has ghosted him (or her), and wondering what he did wrong.

But the truth was, he was the problem. You can’t come charging out of the gate, pushing the sale and expect the prospect to fall in line. Sales is about communication, about nurturing that relationship and building trust. And you can’t expect to sell anything if your prospects don’t trust you.

Why your prospects don’t trust you

Sales reps already have a reputation for being shady. In fact, according to research from HubSpot, only 3 percent of buyers trust sales reps. And for good reason! After all, sales reps are doing so many things wrong:

  • Talking too much and not letting the prospect share his or her needs
  • Grilling the prospect with too many questions
  • Being overeager when it comes to making the sale
  • Going into a conversation with a prospect unprepared
  • Not taking the time to understand the prospect.

Related: Sales Strategy Example

The point is, it’s through trust that you find success. Prospects know when they’re being treated like dollar signs, when you’re talking through a script and focused only on the transaction. And the minute they feel mistreated, they’ll walk away. Believe me.

That’s why when talking to the prospect, you have to forget about the sale. I know that sounds like the exact opposite of what you should do, but hear me out. If you’re too focused on the sale, your prospects won’t trust you. They won’t open up and share their needs, and they won’t believe in the value of your products or services. So, you have to forget about the sale – at least temporarily.

What do you focus on instead? Building that trust. And the best way to build trust is through open and honest communication.

How you can improve your communication with prospects

In any relationship, communication is key, and sales are no different. How you communicate will dictate how your prospect responds to you and whether or not he or she will ultimately buy from you. That’s why having strong communication skills is essential.

Here are the three things you need to do to communicate effectively with your prospects:

1. Connect

The first thing you need to do is slow down. Don’t be in such a rush to talk about your products. You need to nurture the prospect and ease him or her into the idea.

Start by getting to know this person. Ask questions, and let the prospect do the talking. Better yet, research your prospect ahead of time to find some common ground. Maybe you both like the same sports team, or maybe the prospect wrote a really interesting article recently. Whatever it is, lead with that commonality to start building a rapport.

The goal is to get the prospect to feel comfortable around you and then open up more and share his or her needs.

Related: 5 Tips To Generate Sales Leads Through Social Media

2. Listen

Remember how I said you should let the prospect do the talking? According to HubSpot, 69 percent of buyers surveyed said that the number one way to create a positive sales experience with them was to listen to their needs. You need to truly hone in on what your prospect is saying. Then you can identify where you can help.

Sometimes, that may mean you discover that your product isn’t actually right for that prospect. Rather than trying to push the product further, you can part ways gracefully. Don’t look at this scenario as a bad thing; it will free you up to focus on other prospects who are a right fit for your product.

3. Solve

In truth, sales reps are more like consultants – or at least that’s how they should behave. As you’re listening to your prospect’s needs and pain points, focus on what the right solution for those pain points is. Once this person has explained his or her situation, show how your product would be of value to that situation specifically.

The key is to see things from the prospect’s perspective. Put yourself in his or her shoes. You’ll find that your prospects are people just like you, and they want to be treated with respect. They don’t want to be “sold” to; they want to solve their problems. And if you can provide that solution, they will likely trust you.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Sales Prospecting

3 Steps To Healthier Client Relationships

Do you have clients that constantly push the boundaries, who have unrealistic expectations and inconsistent feedback? What if you could have a client base of only people who value your work? Firing the wrong clients can help you get there.

Dominique Sandwith

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It’s not easy to admit that a client is actually doing your business more harm than good. When it gets to the point that you are spending all of your time and energy trying to please one client, then it’s time to look at what they are contributing to your success.

In the early days of your business, it’s understandable to hold on to difficult clients as every penny counts. However, as time goes on, firing a disproportionately time-consuming and challenging client could free you up to go looking for new and better business.

Here are three steps to take to healthier client relationships:

1. Get perspective

Step back from everyday tasks to make some notes about the client relationship in question. Ask yourself what you value in your client versus what drains your energy and puts you in a bad mood.

Understand what the deal-breakers are and whether the client in question has crossed the line. It’s possible that you just need to have a frank conversation with the client, but often these kinds of client relationships are too far gone.

Related: 1 Simple Rule To Avoid Bad Client Relationships

2. Fire the wrong client

There’s no one-size-fits-all for this process – you have to do this in your own way, but be clear on the reasons. If the client has been as unhappy as you are, they will most likely understand that this relationship is not a good fit.

However, there are times when a client has no idea that they are being unreasonable or thinks that this relationship is productive. That’s when it’s difficult to explain why you are deciding not to take their money.

Make it factual and don’t bring in your feelings. If you have examples of situations or email threads as proof show them that this is not how you believe a successful relationship should be. Be clear on your values and what you envision for your business.

Be polite and professional throughout the conversation and focus on the relationship fit, rather than pointing out their personal flaws. Explain the next steps and how the handover process will take place. You want to make sure that the end of the relationship is as amicable as possible.

3. Find the right clients

Firing a difficult client is likely to affect your bottom line in the short term but it will give you the motivation, and headspace, to go looking for the right clients.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you know what you want in a client – make a list of things you won’t stand for again with future clients, and one that describes your dream client.
  • Use your time and resources wisely, and aim high to secure clients that will be worth your while.
  • Identify potential clients and projects that are profitable, that will inspire you and that you enjoy working with.

Tip: make sure the Terms and Conditions on your website, and in your quotes, are well-defined. State your prices clearly, don’t leave room for interpretation. Don’t back down if a new client quibbles over a cost estimate. Take complaints of this nature as a warning sign and walk away.

Related: How Well Do You Really Know Your Customers?

Don’t ever think that you’ve wasted your time with the wrong client. Each client you work with helps you to refine your offering and progressively understand what you’re good at. Firing a client is never easy, but sometimes it’s a necessity for the successful and sustainable future of your business (and your sanity).

When you fire the wrong client, you can streamline your business to play to these strengths, and ensure you offer a world-class service or product.

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Sales Prospecting

7 Steps To Master The 80/20 Revenue Model

Imagine a world where 80% of your revenue came from 20% of your customers. Now what will it take to make it your reality?

Emma Donovan

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We are often so focused on new leads that we forget to master the art of upselling and cross-selling. To generate more income from existing customers you need to focus on quality over quantity, and be strategic in your approach. Here are seven steps to help you on your way.

Understand what you want to achieve

When you upsell, you encourage customers to buy a higher-end product or service than the one in question – such as an airplane seat with more leg room. Whereas cross-selling tempts customers to buy related products that satisfy additional, complementary needs. A simple example is when you check out of an online store and the shop tempts you to buy similar or complementary products that you suddenly just can’t live without!

Tip: Identify which one makes sense in your business, and what the additional or complementary offering will be.

Nurture relationships

Long-standing relationships and loyal clients are worth their weight in gold. Make sure they know they will remain a priority, even when you are busy with bigger or more profitable projects.

Constantly over-deliver and exceed expectations. Make yourself ‘irreplaceable’. 

Related: This Is What Bevan Ducasse Did When He Realised wiGroup’s Revenue Model Wasn’t Working

Provide solutions

Don’t presume you know what your customers want or need – do your homework and ask them. You need to understand their hopes, dreams, fears and challenges. Three simple ways to do this are to:

  • set up regular one-on-one calls
  • catch up over coffee
  • or email them a quick survey to complete.

Add real value

Ask yourself, ‘how can I help this client achieve their goals or overcome this challenge?’ You need to find ways to add real value to make the additional expense worthwhile. Also make sure your pricing is fair and competitive, without selling yourself short.

For example, one of the products we cross-sell at Yellow Door is video content. It’s a key part of a holistic marketing strategy and is a great way to bolster content for launches, social media and newsletters.

Paint a picture

To excel at upselling and cross-selling, you need to help customers visualise the value they will get from the higher-priced item. Whether it’s a 30-second video, an infographic, or a well worded email – take the time to explain not only what the product is, but how it will benefit them or their business.

Incentivise

Offering a reward or incentive can increase your upsell or cross-sell conversion rate. For example, offer free shipping or a discount if the client purchases two or more products or services.

Related: Bob Skinstad On Making An Impact With The 80/20 Principle

Create capacity

Ensure your team has the expertise and capacity to deliver the relevant service or product at the right standard. Alternatively, find a non-competing service provider to complement your offering and agree on a referral or commission structure. This way you can expand your offering without increasing your overheads.

The key to success is to understand what your customers value and then respond with products, services or features that meet those needs.

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