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Sales Strategy & Management

Encourage Criticism

If none of your customers are complaining, it’s time to encourage them to speak up.

Entrepreneur

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If a complaint is a gift, what do you call it if no one’s complaining? Should you settle for the old axiom that “no news is good news”? Not a good idea. It may be foolish to assume that silence from your customers is a good thing. So what should a company do? Make it easy for your customers to give you honest, regular feedback and then make sure you respond to them. It’s not just what you do when you get a complaint, it’s what you do about the complaint that allows you to keep and grow your client base. If you encourage customers to speak out, be prepared to respond to what they say.

Here are eight tips to add to your checklist:

1. Encourage your customers to become partners. Underscore the fact that both of you can and should work together to make the relationship more productive.

2. Respond to all customer complaints professionally and courteously. Ensure you respond to client complaints politely, avoiding surly or sarcastic responses.

3. Make sure your responses are direct and professional. Give specific and realistic feedback about what the next steps will be in response to a customer’s complaint. For example, will you research why the problem happened and how it can be fixed? Will you discuss it with your staff? And when will you get back to them? Will it be in writing, by phone or by e-mail?

4. Use what’s working well as a model to change what needs to be improved. Pay attention to positive comments too, repeating the actions that lead to that positive feedback. In this way, you will end up with a client-driven solution.

5. Suggest the solution. If a client doesn’t like the way things are going now, suggest other ways they might handle similar situations. Then dig deeper to find out if using one of these alternatives would work better for them.

6. Set a reasonable time-frame for the resolution. Once a client feels safe enough to complain, make sure you have an agreement with them that includes a timeline for a response.

7. Ensure you’re including the right people. If youwant to make constructive changes, details about the problem need to be discussed with the right people on your staff.

8. Respond with a thank you. If a customer opens up with a complaint, what should they expect in return? First and foremost is a thank you. Thank them for being vocal, and thank them for helping you improve the way you do things. Then recap what you heard about the problem to ensure that everyone involved heard it the same way. Lastly, they deserve an honest assessment of how doable any solutions are. The bottom line is this: no news is usually not good news. Cultivating honest and involved relationships with customers is not always easy, but it means they will feel safe delivering complaints that you treat as gifts, not time bombs.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

Sales Strategy & Management

When The Customer Fixates On Price, 
It’s Probably Not About 
The Money

Customers often talk cost when they have vague concerns about the product. Your job is to find out and solve the real problem.

Grant Cardone

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If the person I’m working with can afford the product, but isn’t buying and continues to focus on the money, I realise this buyer has other concerns. While your customer may be objecting to price, know there is something else you might not know. He or she is thinking,

“Is this the right product? Is there a better product? Is this the right proposal? Will this solve our problem? Will I use it? What will other people think about my decision? Am I going to really use and enjoy this? Will this company take care of us? Am I better off buying something else? Will something better come out next week? Do I know enough to make a decision? Should we invest in something else? Is this going to be a mistake? Is this person going to let me down?”

When these other questions are handled, the price will no longer be the issue.

The right product will solve all the customers problems

Let’s say a man is buying a birthday present for his girlfriend. He finds something he thinks she will love. You tell him the price and he says it’s more than he can afford. What he’s actually saying is that he’s not completely sold on that product. If it’s too much for that ring, he either doesn’t love it himself or is not sure she will — or both.

You have to get the right product that solves all of his problems. Address other concerns and price won’t be the big issue. You can justify the price with other inventory. Don’t make the mistake of offering something with a lower price when you get a customer making price objections.

This is not a way to resolve the money problem. When you move the customer down to offer something cheaper, they are actually more likely to like the product even less than the first one. This will cause your buyer to believe you don’t have a solution.

Instead of moving them down, try moving them up. This will get the customer thinking in terms of value, not price. This will also determine whether the price objection was even valid or not. If a guy is looking at a R6 000 ring and objects to the price, show him a R9 000 ring. The R6 000 ring may become more attractive to him.

Help the customer feel like they’re making a good decision

Buyers are more concerned about making a good decision than how low the price is. What’s the worst that can happen by moving someone up in inventory?

  • He will look at something more expensive, which means he wasn’t committed to the original product.
  • He needs to move in the other direction, something cheaper. That makes the price objection valid.
  • He looks at the more expensive item but sees value in the original item.

Exhaust your inventory, not your price. You are losing just as many customers to more expensive products as you are to less expensive products. Your buyer would rather pay more and make the right decision than pay less and make a mistake.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Your Business Is Losing Customers

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Sales Strategy & Management

Take Your Sales Skills To The Next Level With These 5 Simple Steps

Learn to sell nearly anything.

Brian Tracy

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Entrepreneur Network partner Brian Tracy says one of the most valuable skills a person can have is the ability to sell anything to anyone.

The motivational speaker provides a few tips to help even the most beginner of salesman to improve their skills dramatically:

  1. Understand the needs of your customers.
  2. Sell yourself.
  3. Do research on the client.
  4. Ask questions and engage in a dialogue with your customers.

Finally, keep in mind that you should not only be selling – but also helping your customers. Selling is part of a relationship and the more established the relationship, the more effective your sales tactics will be.

To hear more about selling from Tracy click on the video below:

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Related: How To Find The Right Salespeople: And Attract Them To Your Business

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Sales Strategy & Management

Boost Your Business With Smart Delivery

Differentiate your business in the one way that customers value the most: deliver the goods on time.

Morné Stoltz

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It can be difficult to carve out a competitive advantage in today’s cutthroat business environment. For some companies, investments have been focused on creating digital advantage through measures like apps or fancy websites, or improved processes with clever technology to make things run faster and better. While all those strategies have their place, there could be a far simpler way to put your business ahead of the competition. Deliver the goods, in a very literal sense.

The Internet revolution has made today’s markets very competitive in all sorts of ways. Barriers to entering many markets have tumbled and new competitors are everywhere. Consumers have greater choice than ever and can easily compare prices and service. That is good for consumers, but it makes it hard for companies to attract and retain a loyal following.

By now, it should be no secret that people are willing to pay for convenience. In fact, many of the digital initiatives we see today are succeeding because of the convenience they provide. Take the Uber example: Using technology services, it brings together willing sellers with willing buyers, with the ultimate convenience of being able to see where your Uber is, who the driver is and what car to expect. Even more convenient, your Uber shows up when you need it.

Related: A 7-Step Guide To Starting Your Own Trade Business

Extend the same concept to physical goods, no matter what they may be and it is not difficult to see how a delivery service can easily put a big smile on your customers’ faces. Whether you are selling horse saddles, operate a bicycle store, run the local grocer, hardware outlet or restaurant: bringing your goods to your customers saves them time, makes it easier to buy and has the added effect of establishing further rapport to build trusted relationships.

According to Forbes, the Internet has habituated today’s shoppers to instant gratification. While physical goods obviously cannot be accessed at a click, there is no doubt that speedy delivery has become a driver of competitive advantage.

Getting a delivery service set up can be easy and low-cost provided your market is fairly local and your product relatively easy to transport. There are a range of options for vehicles, from a versatile bakkie or minivan capable of handling large loads or bigger items, through to a delivery motorbike or scooter. For those providing smaller items, scooters or motorbikes are a great option, as they enable convenience when your customers might most need it: during rush hour. A bike can zip through the traffic, impressing your customer by ensuring that they get what they need, without wasting time stuck in the car due to traffic or lack of parking.

A big question would be whether your deliveries are handled in-house or by a third party. There are pros and cons, but there is an increasing trend for many smaller businesses to make use of specialised logistics/ delivery operations. After all, this means you do not have to make the capital investment in a vehicle or scooter, pay a staff member to do the job and take on the insurance and management issues. Not only are you engaging an expert, you are also doing your bit to support another business.

Third-party delivery partners also work well for deliveries in far-flung areas, or if your product is bulky.

It is a good idea to see what other businesses of your size are doing and who they are using. It is important to choose a delivery partner whose service ethos matches your own.

Related: 5 Success Hacks To Grow Your Business

Whatever option you choose, make sure you understand the risk and have the right kind of business insurance in place. It is also a good idea to have the ability to monitor where your deliveries are in real time. If you have a third-party partner, they should  be able to provide this for you.

With most big stores offering delivery services as part of their value proposition, adding this choice to your service offering increasingly makes good business sense. Customers are quite prepared to pay a slight premium to get what they want, right to their front door – and they will keep on coming back for more.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)

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