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How To Keep Your Sales Staff Focused On The Future

How do you keep sales people motivated when clients aren’t spending?

Ed Hatton

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Sales people are by nature risk takers. Their success or failure, and significant parts of their income if they are commission earners, are in their hands. Sales is one of the very few job categories where performance is instantly measurable, and usually linked to rewards and threats. So what happens when outside factors reduce demand? How do you keep them motivated and rewarded when customers reduce spending?

Being fair is important. If you have reduced forecasts because of the economic climate it follows that you are expecting your sales people to make less sales. By then continuing to incentivise your sales team based on the original quotas, you will be condemning at least some of them to reduced income and failure to make target, however hard they sell.

You are likely to build resentment and damage motivation, which is the last thing you want in a reduced market.

Consider reducing quotas in proportion to your lower forecast, even if that means some sales people will earn more for selling less. Listen to their concerns and suggestions, provide training and coaching to improve performance.

Related: You Need To Sell, Be A Salesman, Be A Smous

There’s no ‘one size-fits-all’

Different categories of sales people will react differently to tough times. The stars typically have a very strong inner motivation and self-belief and will often see tough times as a challenge. They should be assisted to innovate, to attack the cash cows of weaker competitors and increase the range of products bought by customers.

Increased incentives for exceptional performance may make financial sense right now. Increased turnover will more than pay for the additional expense. Non-commission incentives like luxury weekends for the family may have more value than the equivalent cash.

The core sales people are likely to be anxious, especially if they are commission earners. Commission is a part of their income and they face the possibility of earning less and the consequent financial pressures. How they are performing is very visible and accordingly they are often first to feel threats to their jobs.

Do not assume that pressure will drive them to new levels of achievement. This works for some but others will get desperate and try too hard; buyers avoid buying from desperate sales people.

The downturn will not last forever and you will need a core of good sales people when the good times return, so ensure that they maintain their pride and sell at least somewhere near their target. Be careful about threatening their jobs.

Increase Support

Sales support becomes more crucial than ever. Cutbacks on sales aids, marketing or technical sales support will produce negative returns. By contrast, money spent on creating increased sales performance is likely to be a good investment in bad times. A big motivator for sales people is to feel needed and supported.

Related: How You Can Make Those Sales When Nobody’s Buying (Yes It’s Do-able)

Supplement this with simple additional incentives for good performance, like attendance at a sales conference or dinner with the CEO.

Deal sympathetically with real financial difficulties from reduced commission. You do not want your sales people moonlighting or worse.

The generally underperforming group of sales people, the laggards, are perhaps the most difficult group to incentivise in tough times. Some of these will be average to good sales people going through a bad patch. Treat them as you would the core group, and give them every support to break out of the doldrums.

The genuine underperformers will be dragging down the whole group and opening the sales team to increased criticism and pressure. Start by retaining them and ensuring appropriate support but you may have to redeploy some of the worst to keep the averages acceptable.

While considering how to manage all these incentives you should be aware that a special focus on the sales people, however justified, can cause resentment in other employees. Consider how to motivate and support them as well. In a downturn you want all your people motivated and doing the best they can.

Ed Hatton is the owner of The Marketing Director and has consulted to and mentored SMBs in strategy, marketing and sales for almost 20 years. He co-authored an entrepreneurship textbook and is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to succeed.

Techniques

Why Every Business Needs A Call Centre

Below are just some of the reasons why every business needs a call centre.

Amy Galbraith

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As a business owner, you are likely always looking for something to put you ahead of the competition. This could be anything from a new marketing strategy to an exciting product. But many companies do not think of call centres when it comes to boosting their business and putting themselves ahead of the competition.

A call centre allows you to interact with consumers. If you do not have the staff for it in-house you can outsource for premium call centre quality assurance to ensure customer satisfaction. You will be able to provide stellar customer service as well as collect data from the calls to improve your business. Still not convinced? Below are just some of the reasons why every business needs a call centre.

They help to build customer loyalty

Having a call centre does more than allow you to answer the complaints and queries of customers. It will help to build up customer loyalty, especially if you choose to outsource your contact centre management.

While online shopping has grown immensely over the years, many consumers still want to be able to phone in and ask questions about products that are not working, that are damaged or for advice on how to remedy a problem with their purchase. A call centre will provide confidence to consumers that your company is there to help and provide trusted advice, which will, in turn, improve their loyalty to your brand.

Related: 8 Ways To Upskill Your Call Centre Team Before Year-End

You can get to know your audience

By having a call centre that allows you to interact with consumers on a one-on-one basis, you will be learning valuable information about who your customers are. And because you will be monitoring every call, you can ascertain the demographics of your audience.

For example, you might find that several calls are coming in from one area, which will allow you to focus your marketing strategies to that geo-location. Or you might notice that a certain product is bringing in similar complaints. This information will allow you to make important changes to the product. This data will help you to get to know your audience and tailor your products, services and messages to their needs.

They help to avoid lost sales

Quality assurance is vital to the success of your customer support. This is because a call centre will help to avoid lost sales and lead opportunities. Instead of relying on a voicemail service (which consumers will likely not use) your call centre will allow consumers to speak directly to a helpline, which will encourage them to buy from your brand.

For those who have a small amount of staff, outsourced contact centre services will provide a shorter wait time for call centre queues. Lost sales can be disastrous to a company of any size, so investing in a call centre will help to remedy this. If consumers are not waiting in long phone queues, they are likely to make a purchase or use your services. And leads will become conversions because consumers will feel valued and satisfied.

You will have an edge on the competition

In the world of business, everything is cutthroat. If your competitors have a number for consumers to call in case of any issues and you do not, it is likely that they will choose your competitor over you.

An effective way to beat the competition is to provide a call centre number to your customers as well as office numbers. This way they can call the customer support number for product related issues and the office number if they would like to speak to managers or make business deals. If you outsource your call centre management, you are sure to have a leg up on the competition. Consumers want to feel as though their voices are being heard and taken seriously.

Related: The Future of Call Centre Design

It is professional

Whatever the size of your business, remaining and appearing professional to business partners and consumers is important. Having a call centre that gives a customised greeting to consumers and sends them through to an agent will make it appear as though you are an established company doing business with many customers.

Professional customer service is vital for the success of any company, especially if you are a start-up. And if you are a larger company, try not to become complacent with the customer service you are already offering. If consumers can phone in with queries and compliments, they will have trust in your brand’s professionalism, leading to customer loyalty and more sales.

Be future facing

Anyone who runs a business knows how important it is to look toward the future. And having a call centre can help with this. It will help to build up customer loyalty, you will learn more about your consumers and your audience, you will avoid lost sales and you will have an edge on the competition.

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Techniques

Wow Them World Class With This Customer Service Myth

Without fail, every single business says that one of their differentiators is customer service. When was the last time you were wowed? Most businesses don’t walk their talk. Which means if you get service right, it really can be a differentiator.

Basil O’Hagan

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Customer loyalty is earned by being great, not satisfactory. Aim to be exceptional in your business. Deliver world-class customer service. Service that’s better than anyone else in your industry. That’s how you become great, and how you attract loyal customers. You have set yourself apart from the competition.

Let’s say you own a plumbing business — Plumb Rite. Set out to provide prompt, efficient service, with friendly workers who can explain the service they offer, and deliver quickly, well and affordably.

Satisfactory Is Not Good Enough. Be World Class!

Be remarkable. When you finish repairing a leak, you want your customers to go, “Wow, how good were those guys!”

Remember your customers’ names and where they live. Give them discounts, or free services where it’s warranted. Meet them in person and explain repairs to them.

While you should be aware of your competition, don’t simply replicate what they do. Maybe they’re terrible. Rather provide the best customer service you possibly can. Being satisfactory means you’ll be part of the bunch. Rather be great and stand out from the herd.

First, consider what customer service actually means. Do you make the lives of your customers easier? Too many businesses make the sale, and then move on. True customer service has a long-term outlook.

Once you’ve efficiently handled a customer’s business and sent her on her way with a smile and a friendly greeting, your work is not yet done.

Related: 9 Top Customer Service Turnoffs That Are Chasing Away Your Sales

Part of serving her needs is following up and making sure that everything is in order, after the sale is complete. After all, you are building a LASTING customer relationship.

Let’s say you run a camping store selling essential gear to the camping and outdoor community. A woman named Tumi comes into your store. She’s not really into camping, but she needs a tent.

You enquire what she needs a tent for and learn that there’s a music festival coming up in Mpumalanga this weekend. There are no chalets available, so camping is the only option. She needs a tent.

You recommend a leisure tent, help her pick the right colour, give her a brief tutorial on how to put it up and send her on her way. This is an awesome opportunity to follow up with some after-sales service once she returns from her camping weekend.

This is go-the-extra-mile time

Give Tumi a call the next week and — as professionally as possible — ask how she enjoyed her tent. Was she able to put it up without too much trouble? Was it warm enough? None of the zips malfunctioned?

This emphasises that customer service comprises service before the sale, during the sale, and after the sale.

Some other opportunities for good after-sales service:

  • A travel agent following up with a client during and after their holiday ensure everything went according to plan.
  • A butcher recommends a cut of meat to a customer. The next time he comes in, the butcher asks, “How was that kudu steak you bought last time?”
  • Cross-selling once you’ve made a sale. A parent brings their child into Toy Kingdom. You remember you’ve sold them an Elsa Frozen dress. “How about these lovely Frozen slippers to go with your Elsa dress?”
  • An automated SMS to thank customers once they pay their cellphone account.

Related: Good Customer Service Is About Relating At The Same Level


Service Tip

More than anything, following up shows you care. You want your customer to be satisfied more than you want her money. We’re also building a relationship that’s going to outlast this single transaction. Good after-sales service drives word-of-mouth recommendations and helps set you apart from your competition.

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Techniques

5 Signs Your Customers Have Questions You Aren’t Answering

You may be causing confusion somewhere in the customer journey. And confused customers don’t buy.

Sujan Patel

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When you come to my website, the first thing you see is me, a description of what I do and a button that encourages you to click on it. There are no surprises, no guessing where you should go next. I’ve laid it all out right in front of you.

Not all businesses make things this clear. Some have too much clutter on their homepage, overwhelming visitors with information. In fact, 75 percent of consumers polled in research by Stanford said that they judged a company’s credibility by its website design.

Such lack of clarity doesn’t apply just to websites. This could be a problem in your emails, your sales process, even your physical stores. And a  lack of clarity is troubling, because it confuses your customers, and confused customers don’t want to buy from you.

You need to make sure your business is focused on ensuring a positive experience. That means making sure no customer question is left unanswered.

Not sure if your business is suffering from a lack of clarity? If you recognise any of these five signs, there’s a good chance your customers are confused.

1. Your website stats seem off

We tend to assume that most people know what to do when they come to a website. But if your website is unorganised or cluttered, customers may not know where to go when they get there.

Maybe the customer wants to call you, but your contact information is buried. Or maybe he or she wants to purchase a product directly off your site, but the checkout process is too clunky.

If something on your website is off, your stats are going to show it. You’ll probably see a lot of visitors but not a lot of return visitors, and the amount of time they spend on your site may be low.

So, how do you fix it? Go through your website with a fine-toothed comb. Have someone unfamiliar with your site go through it and give you feedback. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and look at the site from their perspective. How can you make their experience on your site as smooth as possible?

Related: How To Win Trust And Wax Sales

2. The customer is indecisive

When customers are in the decision phase, you want to do everything you can to seal the deal and push them along with their decision. If they’re waffling or can’t seem to make that decision, there’s something wrong.

It could be that they don’t have all the information they need. If they’re confused about something, it’s your job to set their mind at ease. Make sure you’re open with your customers, and offer help with any questions or concerns they might have. FAQs, live chat options, videos and product resource pages can help tremendously here.

3. The customer doesn’t know how to use the product

customer-products

Is there one question that keeps coming up again and again from your customers? If you’re constantly getting the same question about your product or service, the answer needs to be clearer.

Customers shouldn’t have to call in to your support team for simple issues. You need to make it easy for customers to use your products and services. That means offering to help set things up for them and properly onboarding and training them in your product’s use. The more you can prepare your customers and anticipate their needs, the more satisfied they’ll be.

4. The customer is complaining

According to a survey by American Express, seven out of ten consumers in the United States have spent more money to do business with a company that offers great service. Excellent customer support is key to the success of your business, and without it, customers will be unhappy.

When customers are unsatisfied with the level of service they’re receiving, you’ll hear about it. If you’re getting a lot of complaints or seeing a lot of product returns, there’s probably something wrong.

To avoid getting an earful, you need to get to the root of the issue and find out the cause of your customers’ unhappiness. Is it your customer service team? Slow shipping times? Or something deeper? You may be causing confusion somewhere in the customer journey.

Related: How You Can Guarantee Customer Satisfaction

5. Sales are down

If you aren’t selling, something is wrong. It’s as simple as that. If sales are consistently on a decline, you need to go back and find out where the problem is.

Customers want to know what they’re getting into when they make a purchase. You need to make it clear what you offer, why customers should buy from you and how exactly they can go about buying.

The key here is clarity. Customers aren’t going to jump through hoops to purchase your product. You need to guide them through the sale by ensuring their questions are answered before they’ve even asked them.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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