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Shut Up and Sell

Customers want your help – but they want your ear first.

Charles Green

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The truism ‘people don’t care what you know until they know that you care’ is profoundly true. If you try to move a conversation straight from, “how about this Saturday’s Bull’s game” into your pitch, you’re dead.

Lend your ear

First, you have to do some serious listening. And I don’t mean listening to identify needs. I mean the act of listening itself – not just waiting for data you may extract to justify the pitch you’re waiting to deliver. Great listening is not about fixing customers’ problems; it’s about the respect the customer feels when you’re paying attention to them. The sad news is that the act of listening – an important part of any sale – is sorely lacking. The worse news is that this doubles for men.

Here’s a relationship example

If you type the phrase ‘men do not listen’ into Google, you get about 600 000 results, about twice as many results as you get for the search ‘women do not listen.’ And a quick perusal of the women’s results show many are couched in the predicate. Woman do not listen – to their inner voice enough, or to their instincts – basically anything other than ‘to the person speaking to them.’

If you are like me, you’ve been told “you don’t listen” before (and it most likely came from a woman). In this case, take the blunt criticism to heart. Your customers may be saying it on the inside, too. Men, when we are accused of wanting to solve the problem rather than listen, it is almost certainly accurate. We all learned early on that the game is to get the right answer first. He who gets the right answer first gets the blue ribbon, the gold sticker, the teacher’s praise and our fellows’ envy. For men, unfortunately, this is where our competitive instincts shoot us in the foot. Because when it comes to selling, nobody wants to hear you tell them what they need – until you have first listened to them. Yes, I know the customer said, “Tell me about yourself.” He didn’t mean it. I know the customer asked, “Why should I buy from you?” She really couldn’t care less. In this one respect, the phrase ‘buyers are liars’ is true. Or, if you prefer, they’re just being polite.

Create a relationship

It’s not that customers mean to lie – it’s just that they never went to buyer school. They don’t know what to ask you, and they’re afraid of getting ripped off. So they dump the problem on you: “Tell me about your product.” And we, poor fools that we are, think they want to hear our answer.

If you went out on a blind date, you wouldn’t want to hear the other person tell you about their last 17 dates. It’s no different with sales. The only person that customer really would like to talk about is himself. This is a deep truism about people. Humans simply don’t listen to others tell us what we need unless a certain ritual has taken place first. That ritual is being listened to. The customer knows you’re selling something; they’ll get to that in their own time. In the meantime, you will not be listened to seriously until you have done some serious listening yourself.

People don’t buy based on price – unless you have failed to offer anything else. They don’t even buy based on features (though they won’t admit it) – not if something more powerful is available. If you have a decent product at a fair price and you know how to listen while your competitor doesn’t, you will win every time. Buyers don’t just want a product or feature, or even a benefit. What they really want is to feel great about having made a purchase. And that feeling comes from being treated very, very well by the person they bought from. That means respect. It means actually caring enough to listen – for real, not just to identify problems and offer solutions. It means real empathy – not canned phrases. The best way to sell is to care. People judge caring by how well they feel listened to. So stop solving the problem – and don’t start again until the customer feels truly heard.

Charles Green has spoken to, consulted for or done seminars about trusted relationships in business for a wide and global range of industries and functions.

Company Posts

Why Customers Don’t Respond To Disruption

You’ve got chatbots running your customer service, interactive screens across your stores and you’ve just appointed a chief digital officer. Why aren’t you seeing sales going through the roof?

PwC

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PwC partner Quinton Pienaar says there could be many reasons for this. But the short answer is probably that in your understandable rush to stay relevant and keep up with the latest technology trends and developments, you lost sight of your number one priority. You’re just not that into your customers – and they know it.

It’s fairly easy to get dazzled by the array of technologies out there. But the trap that you’ve got to guard against is that you start seeing the world through a technology lens, rather than a customer one. Remember, technology is a tool, not an outcome. It’s the means to the end, not the end itself.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be transforming your business digitally. You absolutely should. But there’s a big difference between investing in technology to keep up with the Joneses, and investing in technology that’s going to drive specific business outcomes and improve the customer experience.

Related: Reimagine The Use Of Technology

In fact, it would be downright dangerous to ignore the game-changing benefits that the current wave of emerging technologies brings to the table. To understand what they can do for your business, you have to know what they are. We at PwC talk about the ‘essential eight’:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the building blocks for the next generation of digital work.
  • Robotics, drones, and 3-D printing are all about machines that extend the reach of computing power into the material world.
  • Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) merge the physical and digital realms, and offer incredible advances in customer experience.
  • Blockchain rethinks our approach to commercial transactions by allowing participants to exchange value, and verify ownership of something, without a third party.

Some of these technologies are verging on science fiction. So how do we use them in a way that supports customer obsession? The starting point of any successful customer transformation is a customer-focused design that brings together three essential elements – business strategy, customer experience and technology – into a coherent, fully-fledged digital strategy.

In other words, today’s most successful companies have a strategy that is focused around a simple and regularly-updated list of priorities. They incorporate the new generation of technologies like IoT, blockchain and AI. But they keep their people, and their customers at the core of their business by designing strategies that directly address customers’ underlying needs and desired outcomes.

Related: Why Your Latest Tech Investment Might Not Be Wowing Your Customers

This sounds dead obvious. But what we find is that many companies we talk to are focused on growing their revenues, or making improvements to their products and services, rather than creating better customer experiences. Or they have the strategy, but are battling to execute it effectively.

Of course, to underpin this customer transformation journey, you’re going to need some data and the foundational technologies on which today’s innovations depend – data mining and analytics, mobile, and cloud. You may also need to rethink your processes to manage, enrich and maintain data, and operationalise it throughout your business.

So you have all of that in place? Good. Now stop. Breathe. Ask yourself whether your technology and data are truly supporting an unwavering focus on the customer. Because if you take one message from this article, let it be this: in today’s marketplace, putting your customer at the centre of your business is imperative to driving growth and profitability, winning market share and unlocking the value of your technology investments.

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Techniques

How To Seal The Deal By Understanding The 3 Phases Of The Customer Buying Cycle

If you want to close more sales, you need to understand the three phases of the customer buying cycle.

Pieter Scholtz

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A common misconception is that business transactions are simple affairs: Customers express interest in something, they buy, and then they leave. This is a vast oversimplification of what is at work.

Business majors and entrepreneurs have spent decades plotting out and exploiting every step of a customer’s buying process to better attract and retain clients. There are three sequential steps that customers take when they show an interest in purchasing something. Each phase reflects a different stage of their mentality, meaning that the ideal strategy to exploit each phase will differ.

These three phases are awareness, interest, and purchase. Awareness is the phase where they first become aware of the product or service that you are offering. Interest reflects the period where they show that they might want to buy your product — a customer that enquires about specific details relating to what you sell would be a good example. Targeted sales pitches are usually made in this phase. Lastly, purchase is the period where they make their final evaluation and the decision to purchase from you.

Understanding how to address the needs of each phase will go a long way towards boosting your sales and securing long-term business from your customers.

1. Awareness

This is the incipient phase of a customer’s awareness of who you are and what you are all about. This phase of the customer buying cycle is where customers make their first assessment of you. This phase is important because it’s where you can craft your message to appeal to the desired market segment.

Related: What Really Drives Sales Growth And Repeat Business?

Another important tool that is commonly used during this phase is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This refers to the practice of tailoring your website to the demographic that you wish to target.

Businesses will commonly insert relevant keywords into their indexed pages with the intention of leading searching customers to their website.

2. Interest

This phase of the customer buying cycle is when customers express interest in buying from you. The awareness phase is where you grab their attention, and this phase is where you have a chance to build upon it. Customers are typically non-committal during this phase; they are usually conducting additional research and/or shopping around.

Targeting buyers during this phase means that you need to give your potential customer a compelling reason to purchase from you instead of your competitors.

The responsibility here is two-fold: First, you need to market yourself as the solution to the customer’s unique problem. Second, you need to address the customer’s needs and perspectives. Businesses will frequently offer positive reviews and testimonials of their products to convince these potential customers that they offer the solution to their needs. Offering a persuasive sales pitch is only half of the solution: Make sure that the customer feels that you are concerned with what they want.

3. Purchase

This phase of the customer buying cycle includes not only the actual purchase of the product or service itself, but also the final evaluation. During this phase they might still be reviewing their options, however, the difference is that they have shown a distinct desire to purchase the product or service in question.

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

This gives you an opportunity to give the customer a more comprehensive overview of what it is that they wish to purchase, and it is also the appropriate time to upsell additional products or features.

Car dealerships are especially fond of this point in the cycle. Once the customer sits down and begins negotiating the price of their future vehicle, the sales team moves in and does everything they can to get that person to buy the car. Whether they slash the price, throw in extra bonuses or offer them rebates, they will do whatever it takes to turn that expressed interest into an actual sale. This is where you want the sales team to take over: The amount of persuasiveness and personal magnetism they exhibit is every bit as important as their receptiveness and concern for the customer’s needs.

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Techniques

How To Get Past These 5 Common Challenges To Selling Online

From finding the right website builder to figuring out how customers will pay you, there’s a lot to consider when opening an online store.

Amit Mathradas

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With the new year comes the opportunity to look back at your business strategy and determine where you can grow. For many, taking their business online is still a bridge to be crossed – in fact, 29 percent of brick-and-mortar small businesses still don’t have an ecommerce website, according to a survey by Clutch of 355 U.S. small-business owners. And online shopping isn’t slowing anytime soon. Recent data from NRF shows that online and non-store holiday sales generated $138.4 billion – an 11.5 percent increase over 2016. The upside of online business expansion is too valuable to be ignored – opening a new sales channel and developing meaningful relationships with your customers can be the key to driving new revenue.

Before you open an online store, you need to be aware of the challenges you may face right out of the gate. Building a plan to address these can you set you up for success for when you finally open your virtual doors.

Here are five major things to consider when making the leap to selling online:

1. Finding the right service providers

When you build your website, one of the first critical decisions is finding the right service providers, from website builders to payments processors and everything in between. Do your homework to understand what features you’ll actually need, how the various services are priced and whether you’re getting a solution that can grow with your business. If you’re not sure what you need or what to look for, reach out to fellow business owners in your area for their recommendations.

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

Many providers also have resources that can help. For example, recent BigCommerce research showed that 64 percent of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase on an easy-to-navigate website, proving that aesthetics go a long way. The right provider can help you create a professional, secure customer experience while helping you understand why.

2. Making it easy for customers to pay you

Customers want choice, so be prepared to let them pay however they want. It’s a good way to increase customer satisfaction and help drive more sales. A recent PYMNTS.com Checkout Conversion Index shows that 40 percent of online shoppers abandon their carts in the period between visiting a business’s website and completing a transaction. So, if customers already have their payment information saved with a service like Apple Pay, Amazon Pay or PayPal, it’ll be easier for them to shop and buy – especially on their mobile devices – when you accept these payment methods.

3. Reconciling online and offline payments

online-payment-solutionReconciling online and in-store purchases can get tricky. That’s where cloud-based tools can save you time and headaches. For example, accounting software that integrates well with popular payment providers can help you track your invoices in one location. So, whether you get paid online or in your storefront, these tools easily and automatically reconcile the payments, cutting down on time spent manually sorting through spreadsheets and outstanding invoices. They can also be a big help at tax time.

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

4. Expanding your customer base into new markets

One of the many benefits of selling online is that it opens up your business to customers in new markets around the globe. When selling overseas, however, it’s important to tailor your online shopping experience for international buyers. The key things to consider when selling outside your borders include: website translation; localized, secure payment methods; pricing that enables you to compete with local vendors; and transparency around currency exchanges and fees.

5. Connecting the in-store and online shopping experiences

Shoppers are increasingly expecting a more seamless, consistent multichannel shopping experience. It’s important to make your online and brick-and-mortar properties extensions of one another. Try offering services like “buy online, pick-up in store” and “buy online, return in store” to create unique and engaging experiences for shoppers that also help drive sales. This strategy also enables you to make the most of your physical presence in a way that online-only platforms can’t.

Making the move online is an exciting prospect for any business. Do your homework in the areas above to help you build a smart business plan that ultimately leads to growth in both your online and offline sales channels.

Resource: Apps To Help You Write A Business Plan

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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