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Sales Strategy & Management

The Word-of-Mouth Trap

Word-of-mouth referrals are great, but be aware of the negative side of this sales strategy.

Axel Rittershaus

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Do you like selling your services or products to unknown people? Or do you prefer having new customers calling you, because one of your clients told them about you?

Many people love the idea of ‘word of mouth marketing’. It makes life so easy because the new client has already been influenced in a positive way by their referring (and trusted) friend.

It sounds like the perfect strategy to avoid that unpleasant task called ‘sales’.

The danger of word of mouth

Businesses with great products and happy customers believe that their happy customers will tell others about their experience. Sometimes this really happens, nurturing the belief that word of mouth it the best way to get new clients. These companies stop investing money into marketing and reduce their sales activities.

But this is a very risky move. It could be the beginning of a slowly dying company with happy clients that is nevertheless running out of new customers.

If you only rely on word of mouth, you’re putting the destiny of your business into the hands of someone else; into the hands of someone who doesn’t even know that he has become responsible for your success and your future!

It’s like owning the world’s best football team and hoping for the fans to tell the players what to do, while you’re sitting on the sideline not saying a single word.

When you don’t get referrals

Think about yourself: I’m sure you’re quite happy with some companies you are the client of. Do you run around all day long telling other people how great their stuff is? I’m sure you made some recommendations in the past, but how many? I assume that even if you’re happy with ten companies, you might have mentioned just one or two of them to your friends; even if the other eight or nine are great as well.

This doesn’t only happen to you – it happens to all of your clients as well regarding your company!

There are several reasons for not getting referrals and some of the most common ones are:

  • They don’t know that their friends are looking for your product/service
  • They know that others might need your service, but the last time they met you was two years ago and they simply forgot about you
  • If the other person’s issue is not exactly the same issue you solved for them, you won’t come into their mind
  • They don’t know that you are looking for new clients
  • They don’t want the other person to hire you

And there are many more reasons…

But it can get even worse: In some businesses you might be the best in the world and never get a single client through word of mouth.

Let’s assume that you are a top executive coach or consultant. You are only hired by the CEOs, VIPs and A-list celebrities. You think: “They are well known and are surrounded by other successful people that could potentially be my clients. They like my services, because I really help them become more successful. I’m sure they will tell their friends more about me and I’ll get more VIP clients.”

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen for one of these reasons:

  1. Your client is scared to let other people know that he needed help. He regards this as a weakness and he will never ever tell anyone that he is weak.
  2. Your client sees you as his competitive advantage and doesn’t want to let others become more successful, because he knows you will be able to make others soar as well.
  3. Your client doesn’t want to create a shortage of your services, and they don’t want to make you too busy so you wouldn’t have time for them anymore.

The recipe to make ‘word of mouth’ work

Since you’re aware of the fact that word of mouth is not reliable and should never be the single source of new clients, I don’t deny the fact that it is an outstanding way of getting new clients.

Instead of just waiting for new clients, you can become a ‘word of mouth-superstar’ by following some of these rules:

  1. Be a well-known expert/be the provider of unique tools solving clearly defined problems, so your clients know exactly for which special topics you are the best one to send their friends to.
    (If you’re a ‘Life and Executive Coach’, people might not think about you if their friends want to lose weight. If you are the ‘Weight-loss-expert’ they will!)
  2. Position your services or products in a way that your clients use it to show off or to label themselves with.
    (Nobody needs a 720 horse power Lamborghini on a public road, except for making a statement about their wealth.)
  3. Stay in touch with your clients all the time; send birthday cards, new information and success stories on a regular basis.
    (The best sales man ever, Joe Girard, sold 13 001 cars within 15 years – that’s a staggering four cars/day. Every single day! How? Because his customers always came first and he sent post cards to each client every month (This equals thousands of cards/month to ensure that none of his clients would ever forget him.)
  4. Depending on your business, you can offer referral gratifications for your clients. But you have to be aware that this is just the icing on the cake! If your client doesn’t love your service or product, he will never recommend you, because the value of his friendship with someone else is much higher than your gratification!

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find new clients, but you mustn’t be sitting on the sideline waiting for it to happen. You have to work hard and make it easy for your clients to refer someone to you while you continue running sales activities.

Axel Rittershaus is an internationally renowned C-Level / Executive Coach & Author who started as an entrepreneur in the IT industry in 1993. He knows that success is the result of hard work and determination even more than innate talent. A master of maintaining focus and follow-through, Axel supports C-Level leaders globally in achieving goals. Axel is dedicated and passionate to see clients succeed beyond their expectations. Axel is also the president of the International Coach Federation South Africa and a multiple Two Oceans and Comrades finisher. You can follow him on twitter.

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Sales Strategy & Management

(Podcast) Are All Prices Negotiable?

Person, socialisation, product, place – what are the key differentiating factors between those who negotiate price and those who don’t? And who determines the value of a product?

Nicholas Haralambous

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What is up for negotiation? When should you be negotiating prices, and when should you be open to negotiating prices with your customers?

Person, socialisation, product, place – what are the key differentiating factors between those who negotiate price and those who don’t? And who determines the value of a product?

Listening time: 8 minutes

Related: (Podcast) Phone Calls Often Solve Email Problems

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Sales Strategy & Management

Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

The Leadership skill of Influencing people increasingly trumps “hard selling techniques” as people enjoy the feeling that they are forced into buying a certain product less and less.

Dirk Coetsee

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“Once upon a time only certain people were in sales. Every day, these folks sold stuff, the rest of us did stuff, and everyone was happy. One day, the world began to change. More of us started working for ourselves- and because we were entrepreneurs, suddenly we became salespeople, too. At the same time, large operations discovered that segmenting job functions did not work very well during volatile business conditions-and because of that, they began demanding elastic skills that stretched across boundaries and included a sales component.” – Daniel Pink

The transformation of sales persons to Sales Leaders is not only the essence of this article but increasingly becoming a necessity, considering the skills demand required to convince people to buy your product or service within an modern environment wherein the consumer is spoilt for choice.

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

In general staples in the make up of old school sales training was and in some cases still is: Product knowledge, fielding sales calls in a friendly way yet creating urgency, learning the ability to overcome client objections and of course do not forget the all-important methods of upselling.

All those elements of selling are still important in general yet “soft skills” such as active listening, handling conflict, and above all removing the emphasis from selling a product or service to selling an enhanced lifestyle or life experience has become the new frontier for the sales game.

The Leadership skill of Influencing people increasingly trumps “hard selling techniques” as people enjoy the feeling that they are forced into buying a certain product less and less. The “parrot method” of drilling sales scripts into the salesforce of the company is slowly but surely becoming obsolete as people want to feel that they are being cared about and considered within the sales process as individuals. “Caring for the other person is the only leverage in any conversation”, Gary Vaynerchuk says.

The above theory calls for a balance between Sales Leaders whom inspires their sales teams to create a personal, professional, and vibrant environment for their customers wherein which they are highly motivated to buy, and Sales managers whom monitor the key sales metrics and checks that sales procedures are being followed. In the modern world both Sales Leadership and management are needed at each end of the balancing scale.

Still, to this day an unfortunate large proportion of sales people are like lambs put to the slaughter, within some situations, as the only weapon taught to them is product knowledge and wearing a smile and then suddenly a very unhappy customer unleashes their anger upon them, and now the poor sales person has no knowledge in terms of how to deal with conflict, generally speaking. How to cope with and overcome conflict and other negotiation skills has become paramount in sustaining very good client relations.

Ethical Leadership is also strongly put forward as a necessary component of any sales training or course through this article. Sales techniques filtered through the companies Vision, mission statement and value system to test its validity and alignment to the companies’ culture can be increasingly effective as opposed to simply applying generic methods of selling which is not always aligned to the company ethos. A high level of ethics amongst Sales Leaders can ensure that after sales promises are kept and that the product sold is in effect as good as propagated by the sales person.

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

When a servant leadership culture is prevalent within your company it goes a long way to ensure that your sales people create a caring and positive experience complimented by an enhanced after sales service. Servant Leadership within a sales context is to put the customers’ and teams’ purpose above the individual team members purpose and that by itself is a potential multiplier of sales performance.

A highly important factor within the context of sales performance is the sales Leaders’ ability to formulate the right questions to be asked of the client in order to create a very pleasant experience. Statements in general can be quite dangerous as it is normally viewed as final and very hard to take back once communicated. Questions on the other hand requires an answer and when posed in a caring way can quickly establish rapport with a client.

Subtle nuances picked up by the Sales Leader through asking the right questions can greatly assist in creating positive client engagement. A practical example would be to refrain from the very obvious question of:  how are you? People are so used to being asked this question that they are not likely to give you a very open and honest answer and will be likely to provide you with very generic answers such as, “Fine thank you, “Well thanks and you”, and so forth.

By very simply changing the question to: “How are you feeling today? “, the very perceptive Sales Leader can relatively easily pick up on the client’s emotional state and adjust the conversation from there in order to create rapport.

In Summary, this writing actually asks one question to all CEOs’ and/or boards that must take their companies forward towards a desired future state: Do you want sales people and managers whom are likely to maintain the status quo, or do you seek Sales Leaders whom will challenge the status quo and will always be willing to ask more of themselves in terms of increased skill levels and performance?

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Sales Strategy & Management

You Have Less Than 7 Weeks Left To Turn Your 2017 Around

Implement these 5 steps and achieve 2017 revenue targets and set up a great start to 2018.

Charles Hsuan

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It’s no secret that 2017 has been tough for the majority, with less than 7 weeks to go before business winds up for the year. I’ve summarised an effective sales plan that will help you accelerate your way to success before the year ends.

Referred to as the “championship rounds” in boxing, the last few meters of a 100M sprint, be smart with the last bit of mental energy you have left and sell, sell, sell.

Implement these 5 steps and achieve 2017 revenue targets and set up a great start to 2018.

1Be Laser Focused on Your Customers

You’ll never be one size fits all to everyone, review your client base and define 3 to 5 groups of customers that your business serves, and solves problems for.

Grouping Map

  • Customers that behave similarly, have similar problems and face similar circumstances.
  • Define the groups by age, volume, category, geographic location, and similar demographics. The more components you assign to each group, the better you understand them, and effectively communicate your services to them, ultimately solving their pain points.
  • Personalise with a name it e.g. Sarah is a 30-year-old white collar worker that lives in the urban area, earns R30 000 a month in household income, she sends money back home each month “Black Tax” to support family members that lives in a rural area.

Related: Have We Lost Our Face-To-Face Sales Ability?

2What Goes Through Their Minds Before Making a Purchase?

  • Whether it’s subconscious or psychological, people buy solutions to problems, especially in a tight economy.
  • In order to stay relevant to your customers yesterday today and tomorrow. Continue to evolve and develop your products and services to ensure you are solutions driven.

3Build The Right Pitch

As each of your customer group face their unique challenges. Build a pitch that positions your communication for each customer group to maximise effectiveness.

Follow these 5 important pitch building steps

  • Who is the consumer?
  • What is the pain point that you’re looking to solve?
  • What is the setback for your consumer to not have that pain point solved?
  • What do you do to solve that pain point?
  • What is the result for your consumer, of having that pain point solved?

Once you’ve built the pitch, utilising them adequately, and start selling!

4Implement Your Strategy

This revenue-generating strategy has 2 aspects: hunting (Active) and farming (Reactive)

  • Hunting takes on the form of outbound action. Searching, meeting and engaging with your potential clients. In short, stepping out and finding your customers.
  • Farming is more reactive, it is known as inbound selling. You farm by leaving breadcrumbs that lead your customers towards your services. This is done by generating practical content and using digital platforms to attract attention towards your services or products.
  • Build a calendar for your hunting and farming activities, for the next 12 weeks, and specify tasks for each day.

Related: Savvy Sales Skills To Grow Your Franchise Footprint

5Execute, Measure, Adjust

  • Hunting: Make 10 calls before 10 am each day, make use of a sales script, this forms part of your daily activities.
  • Farming: Schedule a week’s worth of social media content to post.
  • After week one find out which group gives you the best response, tweak it & carrying on.

This plan will help you to notice which approaches yield the best results. You’re able to remove what doesn’t work and focus your time on what leads to the most sales. May this help you turn the last 7 weeks of the business year into a profitable one.

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