Many years of being on sales lines has taught me a few things about increasing income and sales. Some really obvious, but nevertheless vital, actions are neglected in many businesses. These obvious steps to increasing sales too often fall by the wayside — they get forgotten in the day to day flurry and only by inspecting the area carefully do you find that yes, once again, these income-making, “obvious” steps have to be drummed back in.
As this is a newsletter on “basics” and the importance of building a marketing program with all the vital steps included, I thought that a look at some of the “obvious” and fail-safe, income-boosting actions could bear a few minutes of attention.
SMILE (as if you were on camera)
I was sitting in the office of a publisher who was bidding for our work. He showed me a book that a client published for Customer Service Seminars, which she delivered to large corporations. Her entire seminar plan was built around an extremely vital and simple basic customer service principle — remember to smile. Her book explained how, even though it seems obvious, it is important to remember to smile at the customer. Well, I sure wish some of the “customer service” reps I speak to would remember to smile. How often do you call a company and feel like you’re grating on the nerves of the operator? Or worse, that your questions are unutterably boring? Or, my pet peeve: when you are suddenly talking to dead-air mid-sentence as the operator transfers your call without letting you know?
You can hear a smile on the phone, but also let’s talk about what a “smile” translates to when talking about Customer Service. A smile is the willingness of the business representative to listen patiently to the customer and answer their questions fully. It is the attitude that they are happy to hear from the customer and want to help them with their query. And any and all staff who are in contact with customers at any time are “Customer Service Reps” — from the delivery guy to the receptionist to the sales people.
So here are two points to pay attention to:
- When hiring for a position that requires contact with customers, pay due regard to the applicant’s attentiveness and friendliness of manner.
- Campaign to your staff to give good, friendly customer service, to listen to what the customer needs and to answer their questions.
Deliver all products and services ordered or paid off as quickly as possible. Prompt, friendly service will make good word-of-mouth spread like wild-fire!
Answer Email, Faxes, Letters and Messages Quick Like a Bunny!
For me, a major factor in selecting a vendor is how long it takes to get information (such as a quote or estimate). I automatically assume that slow estimates = slow delivery. But the real point is that when someone asks for an estimate or information they are interested — hot — and if it takes too long they will either find another solution or simply lose interest — go cold.
But what about the non-sales traffic? Such as a request for a statement? These have to be handled quickly, too. It reflects on your customer service and plays a factor in how the customer views the company.
This is important and sometimes requires personal inspection of email boxes and office trays to ensure there is no old or dated customer inquiries that have not been handled.
Look for unanswered customer inquiries and get them answered quickly — no matter how late the answer is. The customer may still be interested, so answer all the inquiries.
- Campaign your staff to give prompt answers to all inquiries — same day whenever possible.
Pull Together A Mailing List Of Past Clients
I cannot over-stress the importance of keeping a mailing list of customers or patients. Recently we upgraded from one customer database to a newer, more expensive one. A primary reason for the upgrade was to facilitate better sharing of contact information between staff in the office and to improve contact with past clients and new leads. Past clients refer new clients. Past clients statistically spend more than new clients. Past clients who have good experiences with the company are easier to sell to.
BUT were we in contact with all of them? I wasn’t sure as I had doubts about the database we were using.
So I paid for the newer, better database. Then about 80 man hours were invested in making the transition. As part of this evolution every contact that had accumulated around the office was gathered up: inquiries, referrals and even a few clients. The internet was searched and emails written to collect address information for existing clients.
I was very pleased with the results: the mailing list grew by 77%.
When discovering the value of a business, one of the most significant assets is the client list. Treat it as an asset, and use it to build your income.
- Gather up all the customer contact information into one central location. Check with your staff and make sure they haven’t started an independent contact system such as a phone book or spreadsheet. Make them update the contact data into one central location.
- Treat your client contact list as an asset that must receive care and attention — in the same way you would care for or maintain a property, a vehicle or an expensive piece of equipment.
Reach Out And Say Hello
Monitor the number of calls, sales interviews, letters, emails and faxes sent to customers. The number of calls, interviews or letters sent out — in other words, personal contact with your customers — directly affects the income. In fact, to support the sales team, all staff can write emails or letters to past clients on anything they please. “We haven’t spoken in a while…”, “I see you missed your last appointment…”, “I wanted you to know there is a sale on…”
However, the rule is: form letters and emails are not a substitute for personal contact. To be a real letter one must be interested in the recipient one is writing to. Customers are smart — they’ll know when you send them a form letter. If you are not interested enough to send a real letter, should your customer be interested in reading it? Don’t send form letters and then count it as personal contact. Count form letters as advertising or bulk mail but never as real, live communication letters written from one real, live person to another.
Having my staff do this has always resulted in new sales. People appreciate personal attention and the income will show it.
Maintain Communication With Your Contact Database
The surest way to build your income is with a regular mailing to your customer database. The best method would be a monthly or bimonthly newsletter. But minimally send regular emails and postcards.
I sometimes hear business owners say that because of the kind of service or products they sell they can’t get repeat business from their old customers. This is rarely true. Old customers are the number one source of new business — referrals! And eventually they will need something done for themselves or one of their family.
CAR DEALERSHIPS: I bought a car from a dealership and was very pleased with the service and vehicle. Twice a year the dealership sent me promotions for services and a discount on my birthday. When I was ready to buy a new car I went straight back to them and have mentioned the dealership to at least three or four people.
PHONE SERVICE: I have been a T-Mobile customer for a few years. I noticed they always send a promotion about their phones and services with their monthly statements. Last year they sent me a flyer about the $10 Home Phone. I ordered not one, but two, home phone lines from T-Mobile. The truth is even if they charged me more I would have changed as I like T-Mobile’s customer service. Without that flyer I wouldn’t have known the new home phone service existed or that the price was so low.
Some customers may seem more important, active or vital to stay in communication with. You could invest marketing money into pursuing those specifically, but send a minor or inexpensive mailing to the whole list, even those who seem to be inactive, no less than once a quarter. The inactive may walk in when you least expect it — but only if you maintain contact with them. If you don’t send a regular mailing you may lose contact with them forever as the post office will only keep their forwarding information for a limited time. Even those who move out of state could refer friends or family to you. Or they could come into town for a visit. So do something to maintain contact with them unless they specifically ask off the mailing list.
In addition, collect email addresses and augment your marketing with email promotions — you can double your marketing efforts at a minimal cost. However, use email marketing to augment, not replace, mailings. I used to do only e-newsletters but mailing news out produced a sharp increase in income. You simply cannot reach your entire database with emails alone and there is something much more interesting about a newsletter in one’s hands.
Business Owner Heaven
These tips have to be reviewed every now and again as they do fall out: a little here, a little there. If they are not adhered to marketing efforts can fall flat. They may seem a little dull, but they are vital and the results are exciting — rising sales and income. Provide the underlying support for your sales and income today, and tomorrow you will experience business owner heaven: continual rising income and sales.
Lost Touch With Your Customers?
We can help you locate new contact details for old customers. We can even help you obtain information you never had: from emails and phone numbers to demographics and behavorial information. Call 1-800-690-0945 for more information!