The longer you're in business, the more you realize that the only constant is change. You may be enjoying strong sales across a broad customer base, but those conditions could be far different in just a matter of months. A new product may be introduced, a competitor's offer may tempt your customers to try something different, or you may have experienced supply or quality issues. Organizational and operational changes by your customers may require you to build relationships with new people from scratch.
While there are many ways to approach these challenges, all share the same fundamental elements - good selling habits. For example, it's important for your business to approach selling with a positive, service-minded attitude that focuses on your customer's needs, desires and expectations. How do you get these valuable insights? Simply stated: "Ask them." Most people love to talk about themselves, and what you learn will help you adjust your sales and service tactics accordingly.
Keeping the attention on your customers, rather than you, will also help you tune in to why they buy, or why they don't. 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. It also helps when your sales folks provide on-the-spot instructions and training for the products you sell.
It's easy to get grumpy or cynical if sales go south. But that's when a good attitude becomes most important. Train yourself and your employees to smile. Don't 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 today's competitive world, the greater risk is in thinking that the status quo will suffice.
Remember too that today's customers have higher expectations than ever before. You can't accommodate everybody's 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 offering services that once might have seemed unreasonable. Resolving unreasonable requests is a sure-fire way to build business. That will ensure your customers keep coming back and, just as important, having your customers recommending your business to others.
I have a client in the residential remodeling business. His products and workmanship are top drawer. What sets him apart and earns him referrals is his attention to identifying and correcting at no cost to the homeowner minor issues beyond the scope of work he has contracted to do. It often is replacing a faucet washer, changing an oven lamp or vacuuming under the refrigerator. Before leaving, he asks the homeowner if there are any other bothersome fixes that need to be done. The referrals from his satisfied customers more than make up for the extra hour he may spend providing this extra service.
Timely, friendly value-added service can make a difference in adding new sales and retaining existing customers.
C. Norman Beckert, Idaho district director for SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives. firstname.lastname@example.org