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Sales Tips: Converting One-time Buyers into Lifetime Customers

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Mar 7, 2018 11:12:00 AM

Sales Tips: 4 Ways to Convert One-time Buyers into Lifetime Customers

By ShaDrena Simon, Inbound Marketing Expert for Yokel Local

While bringing in new customers is an important part of business, the latest numbers suggest that retaining customers is even more valuable to today’s companies. The benefits of going the extra mile for your first-time clients make it well worth the effort.

Today’s businesses are focusing on customer retention more than acquisition because it costs five times less to keep current clients than it does to acquire new ones, meaning greater return on your investment.

Lifetime CustomersYour repeat business could be worth ten times more than your first-time clients, so a plan to create loyalty is crucial to your company’s success. 

The first time a new B2B customer uses your service, will they leave feeling like while they had a good experience, they could have the same experience with one of your competitors? If so, there is room for improvement. Mediocre service is for mediocre businesses. Show your customers you are a cut above the rest by exceeding their expectations at every turn.

To delight first-time customers and keep them coming back for more, put the following four tips into practice right away.

1. Provide an Exceptional Customer Experience

Providing a top-notch customer experience is essential to retention. Business has become increasingly competitive and being average is no longer enough. When you consider that increasing your retention rates by a mere 5% can increase your overall profits by up to 95%, the importance of standing apart from your competitors becomes clear.

Recognize and acknowledge that the client is new, and make sure your team is on the same page and ready to promote a positive and helpful experience. You only get one shot to nurture and grow the first-time customer relationship, so make it count. 

2. Be the Solution to Their Problem

Solving your customers’ problems the first time will create a lasting impression. Instill confidence in your first-time clients and they will trust you to make things easier for them again in the future. Show new customers that you are knowledgeable about how their needs and your industry intersect. Ask questions about your first-time customer’s situation that shows them you are knowledgeable about how your products and services can make things easier for them. They will appreciate your insight into your base and come back to you because they know you can be counted on for delivering results. 

Thank Your Customers3. Give More than What's Expected

Want to dazzle first-time clients? It’s time to get familiar with the concept of under-promising and over-delivering. Anytime a company does business with you for the first time, consider that they are taking a risk and most likely wondering if it will pay off.

Set reasonable expectations that are clearly laid-out, and then double down on delivering. Promise two-hour turnaround if you know you can do the job in one. Include personal touches like thank you cards and discount codes. This shows your first-time client that returning to you down the line is a risk-free proposition and a gamble worth taking.

4. Embrace the Art of Following Up

Where your first-time clients are concerned, follow-up matters. Strike a delicate balance between showing that your company is worth doing business with again and not coming off as pushy. After an initial sale, delight a new customer with a carefully crafted e-mail. You can increase your click-through and engagement rates by placing your clients into categories based upon their first purchase.

Targeting them with relevant content that specifically meets their needs at this stage of your relationship means better follow-through than you could hope to achieve with a generic welcome e-mail. 

If you are the owner of a B2B business and you are making increasing customer retention among your first-time clients a top priority, you are not alone. An increasing number of businesses have implemented loyalty programs because research has consistently shown they work. While there is just a 32% chance first-time customers will purchase from your company again in the future, by the tenth purchase there is an 83% chance they will buy from you again. A customer’s first visit is an opportunity to grow your business, and smart owners will have a plan for success.

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Sales Tips: 7 Best Practices to Increase Competitive Win Rates

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Mar 5, 2018 11:03:33 AM

Sales Tips: 7 Best Practices to Increase Competitive Win Rates

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

No matter which industry you’re in, sales evaluations play a major part in your company’s success. While product features and functionality are usually the most important aspects in an evaluation, buyers still consider company reputation, service and support, and future direction in the final decision.

Here are seven best practices you can apply to increase competitive win rates for your company. 

Competitive WinsIncrease Competitive Win Rates

1. Highlight and demonstrate your company’s deep expertise in the customer or prospect’s industry.

Because experience in the client’s industry is critical to buyers from an overall company perspective. Make sure you’re well aligned in the opportunities you’re pursuing in terms of your company’s background and expertise.

2. Vet customer references.

Ensuring that your company has solid customer references will help to assuage any concerns customers may have about your experience in and commitment to their industry. Look for promoters who can help to evangelize your company and the strategic direction in which it’s heading. Case studies, user conferences, co-webinars, and joint customer-vendor presentations at industry events will help to showcase your most successful customer accounts.

3. Share future direction.

It’s important to share product road maps, strategic vision documents, long-term planning, and other evidence of your organization’s future direction with your customers and prospects. Ask recipients to sign non-disclosure agreements if necessary but make sure your customer base is excited about the strategic direction in which you’re headed.

Customer Support and Support4. Improve service and support.

Understanding what changes need to be made to offer customers outstanding service and support will help make your company stand out in the eyes of your customers. Leading organizations target improvements in customer experience as a competitive differentiator to ensure their customers stay loyal over the long term and don’t defect to competing vendors.

5. Understand ratings for your firm and vertical.

Make sure you understand the ratings for your company specifically, as well as your industry overall. How are buyers judging you in terms of your industry expertise, in terms of your customer references?

Also understand what’s important to buyers in your industry and how your industry is doing overall in terms of company-based attributes.

6. Leverage areas of strength; correct areas of weakness.

Look for areas of strength you can leverage, along with areas of weakness you can correct. If you know you have weak customer references, look for new accounts you can solicit as references. If you know you’ve got a solid reputation or that you consistently deliver what your sales team sold, advertise that as a key selling point.

7. Look for best practices in other industries.

Go beyond your own industry to seek out best practices that you can adopt from a company-attribute standpoint. Unlike the solution capabilities, most company-related attributes are the same, making cross-industry comparisons easy and straightforward.

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Sales Tips: Always, Sometimes or Never

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Mar 5, 2018 10:44:17 AM

Sales Tips: Always, Sometimes or Never in Selling

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

In high school I was fortunate to have an outstanding Geometry teacher as a sophomore. On some quiz or test questions Mr. Fisher would list statements and students had to provide the answer of always, sometimes or never that they felt applied. It caused us to consider all options.

Always or Never in SellingOne of the most fascinating things about selling is how different sales can be.

Because selling is so unstructured in most companies, the terms “always” and “never” seldom apply.

I had a situation with a student years ago that helped me realize an “always” in sales. Chris was worried about a $960K opportunity he was working on. He approached me on Tuesday and told me the CIO would be making a decision on Friday. An internal “coach” had shared with him that $850K had been budgeted and suggested that Chris “sharpen his pencil.”

Over lunch with Chris and his manager I asked if he was “Column A.” He felt he was in as he had initiated the opportunity and Column B, a large player in the space had gotten in much later. Chris’ manager had already said they could meet the $850K price and be even more aggressive if necessary.

I suggested that Chris call the CIO, leave the price where it was and ask if he could bring his manager in for a meeting on Friday. I told him that if he got the meeting I was pretty sure he was Column A because I didn’t feel a CIO would schedule the meeting if Chris wasn’t going to get the business. Chris informed me awhile later that the meeting was set.

On Monday Chris called. He had gotten a $960K order on Friday. Amazing in that they were willing to go to $850K or lower. 

After we hung up I realized if Chris had not been Column A any number he gave would have been used to get a better price from the other vendor. The lesson learned:

A seller should always negotiate as though they are the vendor of choice.

This also means that if you are pressured for better pricing you can respond by asking if you are the vendor of choice and that price is the last obstacle. If the buyer says no you can acknowledge they need to finalize their decision and that if you are the vendor of choice you could try to agree to terms. If you are Column A they’ll come back to you. 

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: Use Diagnostic Questions to Differentiate

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Feb 27, 2018 11:54:27 AM

Sales Tips: Use Diagnostic Questions to Differentiate

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

In my first sales job there were regional specialists that provided information about competitive offerings. When competing with a specific vendor, sellers could call and ask about “knock-offs” which were areas where the analyst shared perceived weaknesses of competitors and strengths of our offerings.

Looking back, some of the worst calls happened after these conversations with the regional staff.

Differentiating with BuyersThere were several issues:

  1. The specialists had biased opinions about our offerings.
  2. There were times sellers sold against offerings and forgot to first sell their own
  3. Even if there were clear advantages, they were only important if they were relevant to the buyer.
  4. Compounding the previous point, sellers usually were in “tell mode” when trying to impose their opinions on buyers.

To provide a simple B2C example, assume a car buyer is considering a Cadillac and a BMW. I don’t think anyone would dispute that the BMW should have a higher percentage resale value at the end of 3 years. Many car salespeople would point that out by telling buyers about resale.

As in most selling situations, questions are a better option:

      The Cadillac is a fine car, but how would you feel if you bought it and 3 years later when you went to trade it in found it had lost 45% of its value?

The question is important because the buyer could respond that he or she plans to drive the car until the lug nuts fall. That response means it was a mistake to raise the resale issue.

  • The response the seller was hoping for was: It would be a nightmare if the trade-in value was that low.
  • This allows the seller to respond: According to JD Powers after 3 years the 540 should retain 74.6% of its value. How important is resale value to you?

If the buyer agrees resale is important it becomes a differentiator to the buyer. 

PRO TIP: Ask diagnostic questions to establish needs for differentiators BEFORE offering them to buyers.

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: What Is Sales Intelligence?

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Feb 21, 2018 10:51:11 AM

Sales Tips: What Is Sales Intelligence?

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Sometimes, it is interesting to try to classify different areas of research and intelligence to see how certain specialties have originated, evolved and grown into their own species, so to speak. This study of sales intelligence can provide intelligence practitioners with the ability to see how their efforts might support or interrelate with other disciplines.

Sales IntelligenceWhere does Sales Intelligence Sit?

So, lets define the top rung as general market research. The purpose of market research is to answer any question that might be of interest to a company. This is very broad and probably doesn’t do justice to all of the value a skilled market research director or data scientist can provide. But, the umbrella of market research covers the entire gamut of information collection.

A subset of general market research is competitive intelligence. Again, this can be a pretty broad area and it is concerned with gathering information and answering questions that are influenced by the presence of competitive forces.

A sibling to competitive intelligence is market intelligence. This specialty works to understand the market, value proposition, opportunity and forces in play against your company and product which are not influenced by the competition.

Sales Intelligence sounds like it should be a sibling to competitive and market intelligence. It could be defined as the information that is used to help sales win more deals. This should include things like win loss analysis and predictive analytics. However, the definition of SI seems to be evolving to refer to mainly CRM technology and functions. If you limit this type of information to sales data, contact information, pipeline dashboards, etc., you could say that’s true. But, on the broader spectrum, is that really the right approach? Instead, the definition of sales intelligence could be:

Gathering insights (competitive or otherwise) that can and will be used by a sales individual or team to increase the chances of winning a qualified sales opportunity.

Overall, sales intelligence seems less like a specific discipline and more like a purpose. In other words, bits of competitive intelligence, market intelligence, general market research, (branding, pricing, value, etc) can all be included in sales intelligence. If the information can be used to help sales people sell more, we think it can properly be classified as sales intelligence.

If a business exists to make money as efficiently as possible, and the role of sales is to create the revenue streams as effectively as possible, then isn’t sales intelligence potentially the most important information a company can possess?

There are so many research initiatives that clamor for budget. When deciding which efforts to support, give the proper amount of gravity to those projects that will have a direct effect on a company’s ability to sell more effectively in a market against the competitive landscape. Your company will likely benefit from this approach.

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Sales Tips: 3 Ways to Handle Objections

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Feb 19, 2018 1:34:04 PM

Sales Tips: 3 Ways to Minimize Objections

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

Since 2002, CustomerCentric Selling® has redefined selling as:

Asking questions to help buyers understand how to use offerings to achieve goals or solve problems.

How to Handle ObjectionsThere is a major difference in buyer experience when people are empowered rather than sold. Selling is generally perceived as convincing, persuading and overcoming objections. Some people believe handling each objection gets sellers closer to winning the business. Most would also assert that selling begins when buyers say no. These attitudes make selling seem like arm wrestling contests between buyers and sellers.

I’d like to offer some observations:

  • Not all objections can be addressed.
  • People can and do buy when they aren’t 100% happy with all aspects of offerings.
  • If and when objections arise, sellers may need to ask clarifying questions. If sellers don't fully understand objections they can go in the wrong direction and unwittingly unearth additional objections.
  • If an objection is about a feature you don’t have, consider asking: Why is this feature important to you?

I believe most objections are raised when calling on lower levels that are more product-focused than Key Players. I’d also like to share my view that product pitches where sellers do most of the talking will likely evoke objections.

It’s a matter of control.

When being subjected to pitches, sellers dominate “conversations.” Buyers may feel they need to throw out objections to slow down their bombardment of features that may be irrelevant to them. 

To minimize objections, I offer the following three (3) suggestions:

  1. Start opportunities at Key Player levels (the people sellers need to call on to sell, fund and implement offerings.
  2. Before offering any features, ask diagnostic questions to determine which are relevant to buyers.
  3. Ask a final question to empower the buyer: If you had (summarize the capabilities agreed to), could you (achieve the desired outcome)?

Objections compromise the ultimate outcomes of sales calls. By applying these suggestions, you should be able to better minimize those objections. Save the infographic below for handy reference when in doubt:

Infographic_3 Ways to Minimize Objections

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: How to Improve Selling Experiences and Avoid Wasting Time

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Feb 12, 2018 5:52:50 PM

Sales Tips: Improve Selling Experiences and Avoid Wasting Time

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

There has rightfully been great emphasis on buyer experiences over the last two decades. That said: 

Many “buying activities” waste time for both buyers and sellers.

Avoid Wasting Selling Time and ResourcesIt seems there are many product evaluations in which low to mid level staff research offerings via the Internet and social networking, establish their requirements and before inviting salespeople to get involved.

Upon being contacted, there are several things sellers should learn from the start:

  • Have desired business outcomes of executives within the organization been identified?
  • Have detailed conversations with Key Players to understand their needs taken place?
  • Has an estimated cost vs. benefit shown payback that can justify the cost of the offering?
  • Has budget been earmarked?
  • Will access be granted for calls on Key Player stakeholders?

When you take a hard look, product evaluations are ongoing in many instances. It makes little sense to spend significant amounts of time evaluating offerings unless or until the questions above have been addressed. 

I believe these “buyers” are concerned that sellers will manipulate or influence their requirements and therefore get sellers involved fairly late in their evaluations.

Rather than go along for the ride, competent sellers can do everyone involved (and some that have not yet been involved) a favor by shifting product evaluations to business decisions. 

Blindly going along with buyer-driven product evaluations will often end with “no decision” outcomes that mean buyers and vendors wasted resources without realizing any benefits, a losing proposition for everyone involved.

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: The Keystone to Competitive Advantage

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Feb 7, 2018 12:00:00 PM

Sales Tips: The Quality of CRM Data Is the Keystone to Competitive Advantage

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Recently, The Economist published an article titled “The World’s Most Valuable Resource Is No Longer Oil, But Data.” That article focuses on the market domination of internet giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Google (among others). These profitable titans use their vast stores of data to capitalize on their size and maintain their market advantage. “Google can see what people search for, Facebook what they share, Amazon what they buy.”Their market intelligence comes from the quantity they collect, with quality being a lot less important.

Quality of CRM DataFor the hundreds of thousands of businesses that aren’t one of the internet behemoths, organizations that face a treacherous competitive landscape and possess far fewer data points to rely on, the quality of data is the key to using it to your advantage.

We think of Customer Relations Management (“CRM”) system’s primary purpose as being the facilitation of the sales process. Your sales reps need something to keep track of their deals in a manner that is superior to a spreadsheet. But, the truth is, if we just want to keep track of things, a spreadsheet would work just fine.

Another, better way to define a CRM is: “CRM aligns business processes with customer strategies to build customer loyalty and increase profits over time.” That’s a pretty inclusive definition that is clearly more than just tracking a transaction. And yet, how many sales professionals treat the CRM as a tracking tool? 

High Quality CRM Data is the Key to Competitive Advantage

The pitfall with treating the CRM as a tracking tool is that the data loses any perceived value once the lead gets closed out as a loss. Once the sales rep knows there is no deal to be made, there is no more value.

CRM data is, and should be treated as, an asset in and of itself. It should be validated, cleaned up, monitored, nurtured, and treated with every bit as much respect and deference as your customers. The revenue brought in by your sales department is not merely the dollar value of the deals they close, but the monetization of the data they collect and maintain. And if that data is treated with disregard, disrespect, and neglect, you will lose that revenue just as you would lose a customer who was treated in the same manner.

For example, marketing departments routinely run campaigns using CRM data to drum up leads for sales initiatives – new products, special deals, etc. These campaigns take time and money to put together and track. For every outreach that goes to an incorrect email address or telephone number in the CRM, the organization is wasting that time and money. In addition, because the correct contact information is missing, the company misses out on an opportunity that might have been profitable had the campaign reached the correct person.

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Sales Tips: Are You Delivering Noise or Your Message?

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Feb 5, 2018 11:53:42 AM

Sales Tips: Are You Delivering Noise or Your Message?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

A great deal of thought and effort goes into helping sellers understand what to say in different situations with prospects and buyers. That said, I thought it would be helpful to offer advice about words and phrases you may want to avoid using in selling situations.

Silence Over NoiseKick the Crutch
Most of us have what I call “crutch words” used to give us time to think about how to respond to buyers. One particularly distracting phrase is “you know” (usually pronounced as yunno). Other variations on a theme would be “ums, ahs,” etc. Silence is a far better alternative to allow sellers time to decide how to respond. 

Words can undermine a seller’s power.

Most buyers want to work with sellers that can command company resources if they are needed to address issues. Sellers using words such as: might, perhaps, possibly, probably and maybe sound indecisive.

There are words that merely serve as fillers or noise that dilute your message:

  • Obviously – If something is obvious it isn’t necessary to point it out. If a seller states something is obvious and a buyer that doesn’t know what was stated can be offended.
  • Words such as basically, candidly, clearly add volume but no content to conversations.
  • I hope it isn’t necessary to explain why trust me, honestly, and the absolutely dreadful let me be honest with you (the inference being a seller has been lying his or her socks off).
  • Ambiguous words – integrated, cutting edge, seamless, efficient, synergistic, robust, elegant, automatically, state of the art and dynamic. They add little or nothing to conversations.

“Solution”
I’d also like to suggest that sellers realize that the only person that can deem an offering a “solution” is the buyer. Beyond that, buyers must own achieving the desired business outcome. Phrases like “I/we/our system will increase your top line” disempower buyers. The fact is sellers offer capabilities to enable buyers to achieve the desired business outcomes and they should take ownership.

Buyers have and will continue to buy from sellers that use these words and phrases. That said, sellers can offer meaningful content or noise. Sellers that reduce noise can deliver more compelling messages. 

Save this handy infographic below for reference when you're not sure whether you're using "noisy" words with your buyer conversations:

Infographic: Words and Phrases to Avoid with Buyers

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: How to Create High Level Demand

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Jan 28, 2018 6:23:22 PM

Sales Tips: How to Create Demand for Your Offerings at Executive Levels

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

I was involved in a lengthy meeting this week that was primarily about creating demand in light of the fact that visitors to my client’s website are lower level staff whose primary interest is learning about products/offerings.

Presenting Value and Payback with Executive Level BuyersThe fact is these people can’t buy and they have little or no idea of what potential payback or value offerings they’re interested in can provide. 

That caused me to realize that for the vast majority of Key Players there is no demand for offerings. Marketing and Sales organizations have to back into creating demand for people that rightfully have little or no interest in their offerings.

The stark reality is that Key Players have latent needs for business outcomes they can’t achieve (goals) or for business problems (pains) they don’t know how to address.

The key to creating high level demand is to identify desired business outcomes that can be achieved through the use of offerings.

Getting away from an overarching focus on offerings is difficult to do, but companies that can target specific titles with high probability business problems or goals will enjoy several advantages: 

  • They can start buying cycles with Key Players that can fund unbudgeted initiatives.
  • They can give sellers an excellent chance to start opportunities as Column A (preferred vendor).
  • They are likely to close larger transactions because these buyers aren’t budget-constrained.
  • They should have shorter sales cycles.
  • They should have higher win rates.

KEY: Products can create demand for lower levels. Potential value creates executive level interest.

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

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