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How To Drive Customer Referrals (When You Aren’t Airbnb, Dropbox or Uber)

Build your business through customer referrals by leveraging these five tactics.

Sujan Patel

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customer referrals

customer referrals

By now, you’ve probably realised that your customers trust their peers more than they trust your brand. And those peers are constantly sharing what they like and don’t like with their networks.

Just look at social media. Your friends are constantly talking about businesses just like yours. They may even be offering glowing recommendations – recommendations that you and other friends of theirs will pay attention to. According to Mark Zuckerberg, “Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a friend.”

Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful form of marketing, but extremely difficult to control. We can’t all be like Uber, Dropbox or Airbnb, businesses that were built on word of mouth. But it is possible to grow your business through customer referrals.

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

Here are five steps you can take to create a referral programme that works for your business.

1Offer an incentive

Dropbox extra megabytes

You can’t expect referrals to just happen. And asking isn’t always enough to get customers to recommend you. They need to know what’s in it for them.

That’s where an incentive comes in. In exchange for recommending your business and referring a friend, offer a discount, upgrade, free item or other gift. Whatever you decide to give, make sure it makes sense for your business.

It doesn’t need to be a huge cost, either. Dropbox gives its customers an extra 500 megabytes of space in return for inviting a friend. That way, Dropbox gets the referral, and no reduction to its bottom line.

2Get the right information

Referred customers are more valuable than leads since they are already invested in your business. These kinds of customers help you build the right audience. But, how you get the referral matters just as much as getting it.

Acquiring a name and email address isn’t enough. You must go beyond just gathering leads and actually get them to convert.

“The best referrals are where a customer actually facilitates a meeting, visit or purchase by the referred person, in person, by email or otherwise,” says Daniel Kehrer, editor and director of content development for Business.com.

Related: 5 Tips To Generate Sales Leads Through Social Media

3Time it right

Timing is key for any form of marketing, but especially in regard to referrals. Ask for a referral at the wrong time, and you risk being ignored and even losing business.

The best time to ask for a referral is when your customer is engaged and highly satisfied with your business. Then, you can take that person’s positivity and channel it into the action you want him or her to take.

The perfect time could be right after the customer has made a purchase or had a positive customer service experience.

There may be several moments when it makes sense to ask for a referral. Just be attuned to your customers and how they will respond.

4Make it easy

referral programme

Giving a referral shouldn’t be a difficult or confusing process. So, you want to make sure your referral programme is set up in the easiest way possible. Your customers shouldn’t have to work hard or put in a lot of effort to refer someone. Don’t assume that customers already know about your referral programme, either. If that’s the case, you won’t get many takers.

The idea is to create a seamless brand experience that encourages your customers to participate. By making your referral programme a prominent part of your website, and promoting it through multiple channels, you’ll make your customers’ journey easier.

Related: Tips For Redesigning Your Website

5Get the word out

As mentioned, getting people to participate in your referral programme means you have to make sure they know how to do it. That’s why you need to make it visible.

Start by dedicating a page on your website to referrals. Include the details of your programme, and a clear and simple call to action. Consider adding a form to the page to capture your customer’s referral information.

Having a dedicated page also makes it easy to share the link through email, social media and other channels.

If you want to get even more visibility, make your referral programme visible on your home page. For example, Prize Candle placed a call to action for its referral programme in the upper left of its home page. This makes it easy for customers to see it, and ensures that everyone who visits the website will know about the programme.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

In his more than 10 years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic, sales and strengthen brand reputation online. Sujan is the VP of marketing at When I Work -- an employee scheduling software solution for small businesses.

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Techniques

The 5 Best Actions You Can Take To Improve Sales Calls

Ditch your script. Record your calls. Analyse your patterns. There are new, non-conventional ways to approach calls. Have you tried them?

Anna Johansson

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sales-calls

We’ve all got a ton of digital tools to help us boost brand awareness, attract subscribers and followers and ultimately convince people that our brands have something to address their needs. However, closing the deal still usually depends on a one-on-one conversational interaction – or series of interactions – the traditional sales call.

Your top salespeople work tirelessly to track down leads generated by your marketing team. They reach out to previous customers to renew interest. And they work to convince interested buyers to finally take the plunge.

You can improve those close rates by: 1) asking your top performers to train your newcomers; or 2) sweetening the pot by offering more to your prospects in the first place.

But if you want to get even more out of your sales strategy, you’ll need to optimise your and your salespeople’s calls themselves. So, how, exactly, do you improve those calls?

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

Here are five ways:

1Ditch the script

First, let’s be clear: Sales scripts can be helpful. They’re a useful rubric for guiding the conversation in the direction you want to go, they’re a useful resource for training new candidates; and they’re a nice crutch for anyone who is shy or anxious about talking on the phone.

But there are two big problems with sales scripts on calls: First, they have a tendency to sound fake (especially if you’re using a template). Most customers can tell the difference between a sincere conversation and one that’s been over-rehearsed or pre-planned, and you’ll lose sales if you always sound insincere.

Second, scripts lock you into a single routine. It may be a decently effective routine, but you’ll never know if there’s something better out there.

2Record your calls

Have you ever experienced that phenomenon where the sound of your recorded voice is alien compared to what you’re used to hearing? This happens because of the vibrations we pick up in our own head, but it represents a bigger idea; we don’t know what we sound like until we listen.

Accordingly, your underperforming salespeople may be making critical mistakes they could pick out in an instant – if only they realised they existed. Start recording your sales calls, and make your sales staff listen both to their own calls and those of others. You’ll become collectively more acquainted with proper sales techniques, and be able to isolate some of the most egregious mistakes your people are making.

Related: Click-2-Call: Securing Sales By Retaining The Customer’s Attention

3Analyse your patterns

Unfortunately, there’s only so much the human mind can pick out in a single episode of listening of a sales call. That’s why artificial intelligence (AI)-powered speech recognition and analytics tools are starting to grow more popular. These tools automatically transcribe your sales calls, then analyse the text, looking for specific keywords that can tell you how the conversation is progressing, and where (for better or worse) the turning points are.

It’s an automated way to dissect how your sales calls develop, and a perfect tool for brainstorming new angles and tactics.

4Control your progress with goals

You should also make sure your progress remains steady and measurable by setting goals for your salespeople. These need to be both short-term and long-term, so your salespeople can see steady progress and feel motivated by their own efforts. Your goals also need to be both individual- and group-focused, so you can keep your team working together while still inspiring a bit of competition and individual improvement.

5Experiment and observe

Finally, don’t let yourself get too comfortable with any one set of tactics – even if your phone-call recordings guide you in that direction. Just because a strategy is good doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best, so if you want to keep improving, you’ll want to experiment, sometimes with drastically different approaches.

Related: 8 Tips for Dominating Online Sales

Observe how these experiments develop, and scrap whatever doesn’t work. Inevitably, you’ll find something worth exploring.

A note on conventional tips

You’ll notice that I haven’t included any conventional tips to directly make your calls better, although there are plenty out there that seem to work. For example, there are no recommendations to start the call with a positive anecdote, or to make calls while standing and walking around to bring more energy to the meeting.

These can be helpful, but they’re short-term fixes, and they aren’t going to fix any glaring problems with your strategy. They’re also limited in how much value they can deliver.

Instead, the strategies listed, in contrast, are methodologies that can be applied indefinitely. They’re tools to help your team members learn and improve on their own. Accordingly, they won’t give you an instant boost in productivity or effectiveness, but they will yield the most powerful results – especially when applied over the course of months or even years.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Techniques

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

Do we actually know enough about selling online to the point of being able to forego the traditional face-to-face selling?

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Face-To-Face Sales

When it comes to selling there are ample strategies around to help you become a confident closer. There is a lot of content on the topic of face-to-face selling as well as cold calling and closing on the phone.

A quick Google search will list copious amounts of books that will help you close deals, make money and smash your sales goals. And this is because a business can’t really be considered functional unless it’s selling. But in the current market much of the selling that happens, is via digital platforms. And yet, do we actually know enough about selling online to the point of being able to forego the traditional face-to-face selling?

We’re still in the learning phase of online selling

And we don’t know enough yet, we don’t have all tools to understand how to successfully close deals and so we’re not ready to rely on our digital sales alone. However, many companies do heavily rely on their online and social media presence alone to garner their profits. Are they wrong? Well, for the most part, yes. Because solely relying on online marketing efforts to increase sales and profit margins is not wise.

Related: 5 Strategic Ways Your Sales And Marketing Teams Need To Collaborate

By relying on digital sales alone things become less personable. Yet all online strategies encourage companies to create as personable an interaction with each client, as possible. So in reality, face-to-face selling goes hand-in-hand with the online game.

The thing with online strategies is that they’re not actually sales orientated but rather, marketing campaigns and plans. As you develop online strategies, you’re working towards as many lead conversions as you can garner, but you can’t rely on those leads alone.

Those leads are the by-product of a robust online marketing campaign that has created brand awareness, promoted products and made it possible for the business to offer advice and guidance.

Digital marketing is not selling; digital marketing has a variety of different elements that lead towards a sale. Human interaction is always needed for you to enjoy many sales and fat profit margins. But in this digital age, it would appear that we’ve begun eliminating the personal interactions of traditional sales.

In fact, the invaluable networking and selling opportunities found at large conferences are slowly disappearing too. Webinars have become the new go-to in place of conferences or large meetings. 

What do we lose when all of our interactions with a client are online?

online-client-relationship

Well, the answer to this is arguable. So, it’s best to look at only the facts. Historically, salespeople spent a good portion of their time knocking on the doors of bosses’ offices trying to secure an appointment. Or they could be found driving from place to place to see client after client to introduce their new product. And so because they quickly became a regular face, they were a part of the company in a way.

These relationships that were built over time became enduring and when products or services needed to be procured the client pledged loyalty to the salesperson.

Why? Because the relationship had become interpersonal and could be considered a work friendship. That type of bond is broken when things are purely digitised. And so it’s no wonder clients switch between service providers quickly and easily.

There’s no face to put to the name, there’s no relationship built and there’s no additional personal value offered. No one’s feelings are hurt and no excuses are necessary.

Human connection is often the value-add that a client enjoys and requires. And if you read up about excellent social media strategies they will all tell you to respond to clients online as quickly as you can.

You should call your client by their name when chatting or emailing and ultimately, make them feel like you really care. But do you know what’s better than that? Having a salesperson prepare a solution and present it to client.

How do you tick all the boxes?

Your fierce digital strategy will keep you competitive and ensure you remain relevant online. Your social media style will see you winning followers and your content offering will help you rank as an authoritative voice in the industry. But your sales team must work constantly on touching base with your current clients and potential new accounts.

Related: Why Data-Driven Marketing Drives More Sales

Scheduling a round trip to see all your clients is an excellent idea. Getting creative about how you connect with them will be exciting for everyone involved. And arriving armed with data showcasing how you’re assisting your customers will likely win you more business.

If you’re a new business or you have a brand new sales department then make every effort to have your sales people attend sales and marketing courses. Coach them in relationship building and create networking opportunities for them.

A good place to start would be to attend conferences in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban – the biggest cities – especially those with exhibition areas and high foot traffic. This is the perfect place to fine tune your pitch and create connections.

You see, digitalising your company and creating an online offering was never meant to take the place of your sales team. It was meant to assist them with doing better and smashing those goals you set out.

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Techniques

10 Ways To Connect With Absolutely Anyone You Meet

Meeting people and winning their trust is essential to business success and life success.

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making-a-connection

We are innately social creatures, hardwired to seek each other out and profoundly shaped by our relationships and alliances.

Our ability to empathise, relate to one another and communicate our thoughts and ideas is what sets us apart and makes us uniquely human. We naturally seek deeper associations with people as a way of identifying and better understanding others and ourselves. But the truth is, it’s not always easy to make those connections.

The bonds we create are key to building our businesses and creating full and happy lives. However, in a busy world full of distractions it can be hard to build friendships, especially when we have limited time.

Related: Connection With Intention: Making Connectivity Meaningful

Here are 10 ways you can begin to build deeper connections with anyone you meet.

1Pay attention

When someone is talking to you, it’s important that you really focus on what they’re saying and pay attention to the details they give.

You can learn so much about someone just by really listening to them and noticing both their verbal and nonverbal communication.

Checking your phone or scanning the room to see who to talk to next is rude and dismissive and shows that you don’t really care about what the other person is saying. Make eye contact. Ask questions. Focus on getting to know the other person, even if you only have limited time to talk.

2Make a good first impression

good first impression

Body language is intimately tied to how others perceive you and their first impressions of you. How you hold yourself, your posture and your facial expressions are cues others will look at to appraise what type of person you are and whether you are approachable and likable.

Be aware of your expressions, tone of voice and gestures.

Do you make eye contact throughout a conversation, indicating interest? Or do you keep your arms folded in front of you, forming a barrier? Remember that nonverbal communication is just as important as the words you use.

Related: How To Win Customers Over With An Emotional Connection

3What’s my name?

Not everyone is gifted at putting names to faces, and it can be particularly difficult to remember names if you are in a social setting where you’re meeting a lot of people in a short amount of time. But remembering people’s names and being able to address them directly will instantly make them feel acknowledged and welcomed.

When you meet people for the first time, try saying their name several times during your conversation and introducing them to others. For example: “Nice to meet you, Larry. Have you met Josie?” The more times you say their name, the easier it will be to remember it.

Ask people about themselves. What are their hobbies or pastimes? Find something that will help lock their name into your memory bank. Try to think of something funny or memorable to associate with them or use a mnemonic device to remember their name (e.g., Calvin from California or Bobbie with the bobbed haircut).

4Have a connection story

connection story

Make yourself memorable by having a story about yourself that gives insight into who you are and what you’re about.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, come up with a narrative about why this is important to you and what experiences have fueled your desires and life goals.

Your connection story should be specific and include a series of events as well as other people. It should be meaningful and give people a window into your beliefs and motivations. It should also make others feel comfortable sharing their stories with you.

Use storytelling to give people a glimpse into who you are and what you believe. Stories capture people’s attention more than rattling off dry facts and information.

5Add value

Find ways to make yourself invaluable and people will appreciate you. Being of service to others, even in small ways, is a great way to connect.

Maybe you have a tip on a job that will be coming open, or maybe you know someone who is looking for services they offer. It could be something as small as lending them a book or telling them about a great TED talk or YouTube video on a topic they are interested in. Learn to embrace generosity and you will make yourself and others more successful.

Related: Redefining Love at Work: How to Foster a Sense of Connection

6Do your research

research

If you find that having off-the-cuff conversations makes your palms sweat and prompts you to run for the door, consider doing a little groundwork ahead of time. Thinking through some questions to ask people will help put your mind at ease and alleviate anxiety.

The goal isn’t to have a list of questions you can pull out and recite. The idea is that a little prep work will help you feel confident and relaxed so you can have a fluid conversation. Before you go to a social function or networking event, come up with three open-ended or thought-provoking questions to help keep your conversation moving.

Make sure they aren’t too invasive or personal; however, they should be deep enough to make the person think about their response. A more meaningful and deeper conversation will make you more memorable and help others feel a connection to you.

7Spark interest with a conversation piece

Sometimes all it takes to stand out in a crowd is showing off your unique fashion style. Do you have a signature colour you like to wear? A fondness for Hawaiian shirts? Or perhaps you like wearing Converse sneakers with your dress pants.

Wearing something that can be a conversation starter will help you seem both approachable and unique. However, make sure that you aren’t opening yourself up to be the butt of jokes or turning people off with something potentially offensive.

Think of this as a chance to show a little flair, help you stand out from the crowd and put a smile on people’s faces.

8Wear your heart on your sleeve

heart on your sleeve

We all have thoughts, ideas, beliefs and goals. Be willing to share a bit of yourself – who you are and what you believe in – and others will naturally be curious and want to engage you.

Have you lived an interesting life or are you passionate about a cause? People will find you more interesting and memorable if they know more about your experiences and what makes you tick.

This doesn’t mean you should monopolise conversations. Be careful not to pontificate or lecture others on a cause or issue you care about. Simply embrace your passions and share them with others – it may be a great way to engage in deeper conversations or friendly debates.

9Be open to learning

As great as it is to share your life experiences, you should remember nobody likes a know-it-all. Always be open to hearing other people’s ideas and stories. Share the stage and resist the urge to always try and “one up” someone with your knowledge or expertise.

You can break down walls by hearing what someone else has to say.

Chances are you don’t actually know everything, and being open to hearing another point of view will shed light on something new.

10Show you care

Being genuine and showing empathy and kindness will never go out of style, and costs you absolutely nothing. Show your gratitude to others by saying thank you and being grateful to those who help you.

You can start building deeper connections with people simply by showing your human side.

If you are uplifting, positive and show common courtesy to those around you, you will begin building bonds that go beyond business. Never underestimate the power of real friendships.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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