The longer youre in business, the more you realize that the only constant is change. You might be enjoying strong sales across a broad customer base, but those conditions could be far different in just a matter of months. A competitors offer might tempt your customers to try something different. Organizational and operational changes might require you to build relationships with new people from scratch.
While there are many ways to approach these challenges, all share the same fundamental element: good selling habits. For example, its important for your business to approach selling with a positive, service-minded attitude that focuses on your customers needs, desires and expectations. How do you get these valuable insights? Ask your customers. Most people love to talk about themselves, and what you learn will help you adjust your sales and service tactics.
Keeping the attention on them, rather than you, will also help you tune in to why they buy, or why they dont. Plus, if you take time to listen and ask questions, customers will start to think of you and your business as a valued resource, rather than just a selling machine. You can easily show that you are willing to help the customer by anticipating what they need and having answers to potential objections.
Train yourself and your employees to smile. Its easy to get grumpy or cynical if sales go south. But thats when a good attitude becomes most important. Dont be afraid to take a risk or try out a new approach from time to time. It could be a new marketing pitch or advertising channel. When operating a business in todays competitive world, the greater risk is in thinking that the status quo will suffice.
Remember too that todays customers have higher expectations than ever before. You cant accommodate everybodys needs, but automatically declining an unusual request will get you nowhere. By adopting a positive, can-do attitude, your mind will instinctively be alert to ways for doing things that once might have seemed unreasonable.
I recently read an interesting statistic in a new book, Engagement Marketing, by Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact. According to the 2011 Global Customer Service Barometer Research Report prepared by American Express, only 24 percent of survey respondents said that businesses will go the extra mile. Almost half the respondents, or 42 percent, said businesses are helpful but dont do anything extra to keep my business, while 22 percent said companies take my business for granted. Do your customers see your business that way? Assume they do, so start making the changes to raise your business reputation to the top tier. Attitude can make a difference.
As Ive said several times in previous articles: Prioritize your attention to customers with whom you already have a relationship. You need to retain them not only for the business you have with them but to maintain the level of acceptance that leads to referrals.
Stay in touch with your customers. Your competitors will, and if you dont, you will likely get a nasty surprise.
C. Norman Beckett, Idaho district director for SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives. email@example.com