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Sales Strategy & Management

5 Tips for Coping with Cranky Customers

Unreasonable customers are always a pain, but they’re especially prevalent and stressful during the holiday shopping rush.

Lisa Girard

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Just ask Anton Skorucak, founder and CEO of xUmp.com, an online retailer of scientific educational supplies, toys and gifts. The company used to give customers a choice between ground and next-day air shipping on holiday orders. Often, they would choose the cheapest option, ignoring the details and later accusing the company of “ruining their Christmas” because their package didn’t arrive by December 24.

To try to eliminate such frustrating experiences, xUmp last year launched a “Guaranteed in time for Christmas” shipping offer. When customers choose this option, the onus falls on xUmp to select the shipping method that will ensure the package arrives in time.

The company adjusts the cost of this option daily, with the price increasing as Christmas Day draws closer. “I am happy to report that last year as a result of this, we did not ruin anyone’s Christmas,” Skorucak says.

To help you cope with difficult shoppers this holiday season, consider these five tips from customer-service experts:

1. Remember: The customer is always right.

The old “customer is always right” philosophy may still be the best approach for dealing with obnoxious shoppers. Customer service experts have long said that a happy customer tells one or two friends, while an unhappy customer tells several – or in the age of social media, hundreds of his closest strangers. And these statistics can be magnified by the emotions related to holiday shopping.

“Businesses spend so much of their money acquiring customers, yet can lose them over one complaint,” says Ken Varga, a marketing strategist in New Jersey. After all, he adds, 99% of customers will obey the rules, so it’s about appeasing that difficult 1%.

So when someone returns a product beyond the 30-day money back window, for example, you’re probably better off giving a refund with a smile. Otherwise, “they can hurt you badly,” Varga says, especially by badmouthing you on Facebook and Twitter.

2. Train employees to cope with problem customers.

Donna Fluss advises her small-business clients to hold staff meetings between the end of October and Thanksgiving to do scenario training and discuss best practices for dealing with nightmare customers. “Give [employees] as many options as possible, especially in a season when people are short on time and short on money,” says the founder of DMG Consulting in New Jersey.

Staff members should be trained to be sensitive and make a reasonable effort to solve a customer’s problem, Fluss says. “If a customer is over their credit limit, see if you can get them a one-time credit increase. Or if you know you can’t get them a gift item in time for Christmas, suggest where else they may be able to find it, even if it’s through a competitor.”

3. Hire enough holiday help to minimise customer frustration.

Staffing up adequately during the holidays can prevent a lot of aggravation for both customers and employees. If someone is already upset and then has to wait a long time on line or on hold, this will only add fuel to the fire.

Overworked employees also may mishandle customers. If there aren’t enough employees to deal with the increased holiday demand, Varga says, “the individual handling the disgruntled customer will try to rush, and as a result, the outcome won’t be good.”

4. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.

You may want to appease an angry customer by promising to get a package delivered by Christmas Eve, but resist the temptation if the chances are slim. The last thing you want to do with a disgruntled shopper is make empty promises, says Esteban Kolsky, founder of thinkJar, a Kansas-based firm that focuses on customer service strategies.

“If you say you’re going to try to do it and you don’t do it, their problem becomes your problem,” he says. “They don’t use common sense, and then they expect the store or company to perform miracles. You always try to please your customer, but don’t give them a reason to heap blame on you.”

5. As a last resort, be willing to lose the customer and the sale.

If you offer your best plan for resolving a problem and the customer is still being difficult, it’s okay to part company and refund the purchase price.

Your generosity of spirit should have limits, says Varga, whose rule is: Only one chance to break the rules per customer. “Times are going to get very tough and people will begin to make demands that are unrealistic just to see what they can get away with,” he says.

Lisa Girard is a freelance writer who covers topics as diverse as golf fashion, health and beauty, the hardware industry and small business interests. She also has been Senior Apparel Editor for PGA Magazine for more than a decade. Lisa lives in New Jersey with her four children and two dogs.

Sales Strategy & Management

3 Ways You Should Use Data Science to Skyrocket Sales

This post will show you 3 ways to keep your business stable and profitable, successfully.

Olivia Ryan

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Sales business is getting harder and more competitive day after day. Both physical retail and e-commerce offer a wide variety of brands and products, which makes it more difficult for an average sales person to seal the deal with potential customers.

Sales professionals have to be clever and extremely analytical before even approaching their clients. That’s why they use data science to skyrocket business. Data science is a contemporary statistical model which seeks to provide meaningful information from large amounts of complex data.

According to the study, this type of business analytics is expected to generate almost $170 billion in 2018. If you want to keep the business stable and highly profitable, you should consider embracing data science in everyday work. This post will show you 3 ways to do it successfully.

Prospect Analysis

Data science is based on artificial intelligence that has enough analytical power to give you remarkable insights into the traits of all prospects. Using this tool, you can personalise sales negotiations so as to match the exact needs of each client individually.

For example, data science will tell you the basic demographic features like age, gender, and location. But it goes beyond that and reveals income levels, professional titles, or personal interests based on online searches. All these inputs allow you to customise offers according to client’s preferences.

Related: Can Your Marketing Team Speak Data?

At the same time, you can prioritise prospects based on company size, predicted revenue, long-term potential, industry influence, or any other feature you might consider relevant to your business. This way, you can dedicate more time to the more important prospects and increase profitability just because you know who to talk to first.

Upselling

It’s much simpler to sell products to existing customers than to attract new buyers. Data science can help you to upsell products and increase the profit using the base of loyal clients. The system is simple – data science analyses the purchasing history and the preferences of every customer and suggests complementary products. That way, you make sure that your upselling suggestions stay relevant, which not only reduces bounce rates but also strengthens the base of loyal clients.

Create Ambitious Sales Quotas

Creating sales quotas has never been an easy job. Most companies are selling dozens of products in many cities, regions, or even countries, which makes it difficult for sales managers to manually determine ambitious but realistic quotas for their agents.

It’s actually one of the biggest reasons why managers underperform and fail to meet company requirements. However, data science makes this task a lot easier because it can automatically conduct the research and decide how much is enough for every sales representative in your team.

Company Aussie Writings uses data science to make sales forecasts and here’s what they say about it: “The new business analytics model goes through huge volumes of data within minutes, detect sales trends, and gives us a good plan for each agent, product, or region. With such powerful tool at our disposal, we don’t put too much pressure on sales representatives, but we also don’t have to worry about underachievement.”

Conclusion

Data science helps businesses to analyse potential clients more comprehensively and increases the odds of keeping sales high in the long run. It’s a perfect model for entrepreneurs who want to stay competitive in the abundance of brands, products, and services.

In this post, we showed you 3 ways you should use data science to skyrocket sales. Which tip could give your company the biggest boost? Let us know in comments and don’t hesitate to ask us if you need any additional information about this topic!

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Sales Strategy & Management

5 Secrets Of Communicating Effectively With Your Customers

Richard Mukheibir

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Communicate with customers

Standup comedians take cues from their audiences and modify their material as they go along. You can use this technique to watch for cues from your customers as to how they like to be addressed by you and staff.

This might seem like a schlep when things are going crazy at the tills or in the back office but the reward is creating loyal customers. Getting their feedback can also help you build your business. Here’s how to make communicating with customers a win-win scenario for them, for you and for your staff:

1. Listen first

Rethink your relationship with your customers by remembering that they are in control of the cash, not you. Shift your attitude to acknowledge this by recognising that you would like them to buy happily and confidently from you.

Bullying them with an over-the-top sales pitch is often a fast road to customer disappointment.

Instead, take time to guide them to the product or service that suits them best.

2. Acknowledge and connect

Whether you are demonstrating a product or ringing up a sale, allow the time to pause briefly and look customers in the eye. This personal connection makes customers feel that each one of them has been acknowledged as a fellow human being and not just a cash cow.

Related: 7 Steps To Optimise Your Cycle Of Customer Service

Such simple courtesies help you build the loyalty that encourages customers to return to buy again. They also often help take the sting out a disappointment or complaint about your product or service, allowing you to deal with it constructively.

3. What happens in the back office stays in the back office

Be clear in your own mind and also make sure your staff respect the house rule of not pursuing disagreements between colleagues on the shop floor. Most customers who witness something like this tend to back off – perhaps right out of your door.

Some may even film or record it and post it on social media. That is when you realise that there is indeed such a thing as bad publicity and you risk your business’s reputation being permanently damaged.

4. Choose the words

Customers are impressed when they see the boss putting in time on the shop floor or getting involved in customer relations. You can get double value from this time by listening in to the way your staff interact with customers.

Related: See You At The Top: A Guide To Winning At Customer Service

Make notes of what is positive and negative then use them during staff training sessions to role-play the situations again and help staff develop empathetic tones, body language and responses to customers.

5. Value the feedback

Compliments make everyone glow but even criticism or a complaint is valuable to your business – it’s like free market research.

So encourage your staff not to argue with a critical customer or try to prove how wrong they are. Respect their perception of their experience and use it to improve your range of products or services and help your business thrive.

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Sales Strategy & Management

What Really Drives Sales Growth And Repeat Business?

Hint: It’s neither your prospects’ ability to buy nor how great your product or service is.

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Have you ever analysed what really drives sales in your business? Most people tie their answer to marketing or new leads. Those can be drivers but not the main driver for small businesses.

What causes one person to shop with you for years, driving out of their way to get to you, while the guy across the street won’t set foot in your door? Typically, when I ask this question, I get feedback about how great the product and service is. When I ask why the guy across the street won’t use you, I typically get some explanation of a lack of need or ability to buy.

Those answers can all be true, but that doesn’t make any of them correct.

I have spent the last seven years studying these questions and searching for both the truth and the correct answer. Surprisingly, the right answer is far easier to understand than I thought it would be. Instead of you having to become an expert on the subject, I’ll save you years and tell you what I found.

The truth and the correct answer

If you want to drive sales growth and repeat business, it boils down to understanding and then implementing one strategy: Content builds relationships, relationships build trust, and trust equals sales. Think about that statement for a minute. It is true in your personal and business life right now.

Related: Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

Content builds relationships

Since the dawn of man, how did we build relationships? We create content. If I found myself to be single tomorrow and on a date, I would work to build a relationship with the person I was dating by talking to them – that is, by creating content.

In B2B sales for many years, people created content by having all the knowledge and telling sales prospects about the great features and benefits of new, amazing machines. Today, we create content for our websites and e-books, as well as for downloads or videos to post on YouTube.

Why do we do all of this? Simply put, content builds relationships. And if your customer is looking to purchase anything of significant value from you, you will first need a relationship to make that happen. Once we have a relationship, what happens?

Relationships build trust

shaking-handsMost people don’t fully trust someone they just met, regardless whether it is a business relationship or a personal one. Human nature is to give a little bit of trust and to see if someone is worth giving more trust to. In other words, make them earn it. This is why delivering, at a minimum, what you said you would is so vitally important.

This is where good customer service, the person who answers the phone or sits at the front desk, can make or break a new relationship. As the relationship continues, more and more trust is given; and if the experience remains positive, the amount of trust you get grows still more. As the trust in you grows, then what happens?

Trust equals sales

The more a person trusts you, the more they will buy from you.

One bit of good news with all the competition that is popping up is that it is super easy to stand out, because there are so many poorly run companies and untrustworthy people in the world. All you have to do is do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Also, treat people the way you’d want to be treated. Since so few will do that, it is not that hard to stand out from the pack.

Related: 3 Strategies For Closing Sales Without Picking Up The Phone

Once a person has a relationship with someone, and they always get what they expect, changing from that person or business is not easy or even desirable. Because you gave good content, you created a relationship. Through that relationship you worked hard and developed trust and now, that trust you earned turns out money through, year after year. When you have 500; 1,000; 2,000; or 5,000 of those trusting relationships, they become assets of your amazing business.

If you’ve read me before, you may have heard me say that you should use a newsletter to build a fence around your customers. They will stay longer and spend more. Well, this is what I’m talking about. Had I been more sophisticated in my understanding of how all of this works seven years ago, I would have switched out the word “newsletters” for “content.”

I tell people all the time that a newsletter isn’t a magic tool. If anyone is selling you a magic solve-all-your-problems tool, you should run very far away and very fast. A newsletter is simply a vehicle to distribute content that builds relationships. It nurtures those relationships over time. You have to respect the relationship and earn trust by delivering on your product or services. If you don’t, can’t, or won’t do that, you could deliver all the content and send all the newsletters, and it simply wouldn’t matter one bit.

How to implement this in your business

The challenge with any idea is implementation. With most ideas in business, you typically have four choices, and this one is no different.

You can do the following:

  • Do nothing. This is what most people do, which is good news for you, because it is also what most of your competitors are doing. That makes it very easy to stand out.
  • Do it yourself. Content has to be created, and maybe you’re the best person to do that right now in your company.
  • Hire an employee to do this for you. Of course, you could hire and train a content creation person and outsource editing, graphic design, etc.
  • Find a company to help you implement this strategy.

Related: The 5 Best Actions You Can Take To Improve Sales Calls

Regardless of your decision, if you want to truly grow, or if you want to beat the competitor down the street, or if you want to increase the value of your company, it starts with this strategy: Content builds relationships, relationships build trust, and trust equals sales.

This leaves you with one thing to as you finish this article: Look back at the four options and make a choice.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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