Clearly this is an enormous topic and strategies which work for a retailer may be worthless to a consulting company. Therefore, we are going to approach sales with some general truths:
Who is your customer?
Your new customers are likely to be much like your old ones. Go back to the basics: Who is your customer? What do you know about them? How will that knowledge translate into finding other people like them?
Evaluate who your customers are and why they buy from you. If you are a retailer, location may have a major impact. If you make games for the smartphone, there may be age and gender bias in your customer base. If you produce children’s playground equipment the stores in areas with lots of children and homes with yards are more likely customers. If you know who, you can find out where they are and you have a better chance of making smart decisions about how to reach them.
Increase the amount spent per customer.
Up selling. We’re all familiar with retailers asking whether we want something in addition to what we are buying (“Do you want fries with that?”). Many retailers also have their checkout people ask whether I was able to find everything. (It’s not clear to me what they propose to do if I list of five items I couldn’t find. Perhaps I should try it.) It’s a good strategy to be sure your customer has considered all potential add-on items – otherwise some other vendor will complete your sale. Have every employee consider what additional items might be required by the purchase and suggest them to the customer. Obvious examples are:
- Technology –cords & cables, batteries
- Camping equipment – bug spray, water purifier
- Clothes- accessories, shoes
- Toys – batteries, gift wrap
Incentivize your sales force.
Who are your best sales people and how do you reward them?
Many sales people are already on commission and that is incentive to sell, but recognizing outstanding achievement encourages everyone to try harder. Time off, a trip, public recognition or a restaurant certificate may push them to greater effort. And remember that there may be people other than the sales force who contribute heavily to the sales effort.
Customer Rewards Programs
Why initiate a loyalty program? You are not only soliciting their ongoing support by giving them something in return, you are also attempting to make customers happier with your business by offering them something tangible for their repeated business. So a successful program must provide the customer something they want.
We all have fists full of cards from assorted business loyalty programs. Cards which gives you a free coffee/pastry/drink after you purchase 10, grocery discounts, points towards future purchases, airline miles, hotel nights, – the permutations are endless. I have cards which seem to guarantee me nothing more than emails – and I don’t want emails. So before you decide to add a loyalty program, be sure you are offering something your customer values.
Keep the program simple. If a customer needs to devote time to figuring out your elaborate point versus dollar structure, s/he may not bother. I have an airline program which has become so convoluted I believe they have intentionally ensured I am unable to follow the many elaborate variations and will never know what is due me, so I’m switching airlines.
If you sell food, this is a natural way to engage customers while having them try your product. You offer the coffee/frozen burrito/pie in the hope that the customer will like it and follow through with a purchase. But this method is not limited to food: a jeweler offers to clean my rings. A tire cleaner is swiped on my tire. I am able to try the computers, listen to the music, and crawl in the tent. All help your customer connect with the product and, by extension, your business. Sampling also offers you and your sales team an opportunity to directly engage with the customer.
Staying in Touch
If your customer sees your business as integral to their life, they will likely turn to you first. How do you stay in touch without annoying the customer?
Newsletters are an option for some businesses. Accountants and other professional services often have personalized newsletter purchased from professional associations or similar groups. If you decide to do this be sure the information is useful to your customers, or they will toss it with all other junk mail.
Emails are virtually free and may engage your customer but be aware that we are all inundated with email and your customer may not be delighted to hear from you weekly. Targeted emails with information directed at the individual will be most successful (“As you have purchased several Cellini suits we wanted to let you know we will be receiving a new shipment for Spring on March 1st.”)
Set up alerts for information relating to your key customers. A note or email to a customer congratulating them on a promotion, alerting them to a local event which may be of interest, or informing them of legislation which could affect them are all excellent ways to create a positive impression. For the maximum impact, hand write a note on fine stationary.
Greeting cards may get attention unless they are sent at the Christmas holidays when they will likely go unnoticed among the dozens. You might try sending a few key clients a card for their birthday or other personal event, or opting for a non-traditional holiday (Happy Ground Hog Day!) may induce a smile.
Gifts to major clients are likely to be opened. They are likely to remembered if they are unusual: another refrigerator magnet with the company name, a key chain with your logo are not likely to garner much attention.
Invent ways to directly interact with key clients: have a party or special event, invite them to talk with you about how the business is serving them.
Store information on all your clients so that you are able to retrieve his dog’s name, the location of her new house, and other tidbits which lead people to believe they are important to you.
Train Your Sales Staff
They should understand they must sell to the customer’s needs, not their own. We’ve all experienced sales people pushing us to buy something we have no interest in because they have not listened. Whether it’s showing you a black shoe when you stipulated brown, or taking you to see a two story house when you specifically stated you wanted a one floor apartment, these sales people are not endearing themselves – or the business – to the customer.