By: Aaron Stead, SVP Sales & Business Development, Infusionsoft
A while back, my family and I went to a local restaurant, Canyon Café, in Phoenix and my daughter wanted some ice cream. As we read the menu, it was clear that this restaurant did not serve just plain ice cream. I told my daughter, who was content, that we weren’t getting ice cream. Unbeknownst to me a nearby server heard our dilemma. A few minutes later the server returned with a small bowl of plain ice cream – just like my daughter wanted.
I didn’t ask for the ice cream, and we were not complaining. The server saw a customer in need and served us – she didn’t sell us anything. She didn’t have to go out of her way, but did it anyways. Instead of letting us walk out of the café, the server turned us into repeat customers and happy referrers of the business. The investment in service was minimal in cost, but optimal in terms of customer delight.
In your small business, making a sale isn’t always going to be about pushing a product. One of the greatest things you can learn is how to increase sales through customer service.
While selling and making a profit is the ultimate business goal, leaving room to serve can help make sales happen for you. What you need is to learn how to increase sales through serving your customers.
1. Don’t Fear Giving Away Too Much Upfront
Business owners, especially those in professional service industries, frequently say they’re afraid that if they give away too much information, the customer won’t need them anymore. Or worse, they’ll take that knowledge with them to a competitor.
Sure, you need to be compensated for your time and knowledge. But far too many business owners, especially those in the professional service industries, don’t give enough education and information upfront. When you give more information than you’re comfortable with, you are empowering your customers and actually drawing them closer to your business. Customers want to buy from companies who they feel can best solve their problems. By showing your expertise and understanding, you demonstrate how you’ll meet their needs and deliver.
2. Have Passion and Curiosity About What Motivates Your Customers to Buy
Invest time to learn what motivates your customers (or prospects). Take the time to know their needs, challenges, concerns, and fears. Serve them first, and your interests will be served in turn. Survey your customers; meet them face to face at networking events; buy them a cup of coffee—do whatever it takes to get to know more about them. Investing in knowing your customers provides a double benefit. You make yourself a better service provider by knowing what your customers need, and you’re establishing a deeper relationship with them.
As you learn about your customers, you are also investing time to better educate your customers to help move them farther down the sales funnel at the same time. People buy because they have some pain, or need. Understand your customer's need, solve that need, and you’ll have a much better chance of making a sale.
3. Set Customer Expectations
Often companies don’t set clear expectations for the customer. These expectations need to be set by you (the salesperson) and your company, and shaped around the product or service. If you don’t set expectations for a customer, they’ll set their own expectations. Thereby creating a risk that your relationship will start off rocky. Your customer should clearly understand your value, what you can do and, most important, what you can’t. When you walk into a McDonalds you expect fast service of quickly made food. When you walk into Starbucks you expect to buy a premium coffee within a cafe ambiance and experience. Were McDonalds to tell you the wait time would be thirty minutes, or were Starbucks to say they now only have tea, that would undoubtedly crush their ability to sell to a bulk of their customers. Setting customer expectations should be explicit and purposeful and is an important part of the process of serving your customers – not just trying to sell to them.
4. Push for a Decision
“Maybe” is a terrible place to be. It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for the customer. You’re left unsure if the customer is (or will ever be) ready to buy, and the customer is in limbo waiting for a solution. When you know that prospects have enough information to make a decision, push them to make one.
Based on the decision you receive, you can then provide the right follow up. The balance between pushing for a decision and pushing for a sale takes some time to learn – but it’s important that you do learn the difference and how best to help your customers reach that decision. The next time you’re in a sales meeting with a prospect, don’t ask them to buy from you – just ask for a decision. There’s a difference. And regardless of what that decision may be, find a way to serve them.
5. Always Over-Deliver
If you want to ensure that customers buy from you again and again, and that they tell others about you, over-delivering is critical. It does not mean that you have to do something “big” that causes you to lose money. It can be something small to you, but maybe big for the customer. Over-delivering can be accomplished in different ways.
An unexpectedly pleasant experience
At no financial cost to you, you can offer customers an awesome experience in how you deliver your service. Think about an exceptional car dealer that spends an extra three minutes vacuuming out each customer’s car. It does not cost her anything more than a few more minutes a day – but can lead to big results.
A product that wows
Think about any product that you were amazed with: opening up a box of Beat’s headphones or the wrapping of Tiffany & Co. jewelry. How about the extra accommodations at a high-end hotel? Ensuring your product elicits a feeling of “wow” is critical to over-delivering. When delivering great service to customers, don't think of it as a short-term transaction. Instead, make a long-term investment in your customers, and build up the opportunity for repeat business.
A big part of great service is to ensure that you train for delivering a great experience. Each and every one of your employees and contractors should know how to wow customers and why it’s so important. Customers new and old should get the same experience, no matter how big or small your business is. Consistency can be one of the most crucial elements of service for your customers. If you commit to serving your customers and prospects (beyond just selling to them) not only will you realize increased sales, repeat business and happier customers; you will also achieve a less erratic sales processes.
As senior vice president of sales and business development, Aaron Stead is instrumental in driving Infusionsoft's growth strategy through direct sales, partner programs and business development. Prior to joining Infusionsoft, Aaron grew several North American revenue channels for UK-based Sage, a global CRM software firm. He has an M.B.A. from the Ken Blanchard College of Business at Grand Canyon University and a B.A. in Business Administration and Communication from Arizona State University.