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Friday, 04 August 2017 03:07

You Can Get Even Better at Earning Long Term Customers

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The Best Practice to Grow Customer Loyalty.

If you want consistent revenue growth for your business, it makes sense to systematically build long term customer relationships.

Customers typically buy from one of three points of view.
1 - Some customers buy because he or she truly likes and trusts the salesperson.
2 - Others buy from you because your rep gives them exactly what they want. This usually means discounts and special terms.
3 - There are situations where customers buy to get real business value and your team consistently delivers that. When these customers feel good about doing that for themselves, they can have intense loyalty to you. If that is what you want, keep reading.

In the first case, having charming salespeople does work. It works for you because people buy from people. However it leaves you vulnerable. If you are in a highly competitive market, having a charming salesperson can be the difference between making your sales numbers and missing them. However, you are at risk because likable salespeople can be out charmed by someone from another company. Worse, your competition might hire your representative. You might lose the customer as he or she follows the charming salesperson. Relying on charm leaves your business vulnerable.

In the second case, you can earn the business. However you get to support higher administrative costs with less revenue. Worse, if you discount for some customers you usually wind up discounting again and again with them and then with other customers. It is a downward spiral that crushes your margins.

The third case requires a totally different strategy. You focus on identifying, with the customer, exactly what he or she needs to grow their business. However, your margins and top line improve when a customer buys for him or herself and chooses you to be part of that. This builds long term loyalty.

To earn long term customers, a best practice is to build a virtuous cycle of:
A - Learning the customer's needs to grow his or her own business,
B - Delivering against those needs,
C - Showing that you listen, and then
D - Getting to hear about the next set of essential needs.

When you do that, you become part of the customer's own internally driven growth process. You integrate into their business plans and assumptions.

That loyalty will always be stronger than the loyalty to a charming or discounting salesperson. Building this cycle will inoculate you from the most likable salespeople in other companies. Because customers value a partner who listens, doing the cycle builds consistent revenue over time. This is what gives you the best chance of systematically growing your revenue, so lets focus there.


Salespeople as Leaders Builds Loyalty to Your Business
You don't need to send people to charm school. Instead, train your salespeople to be accepted as leaders with your customers. Not just suppliers of service and product, they should take a leadership role as well.

What does it mean to lead a customer? Lets start with the way that Barbara Kamm (CEO of Tech Credit Union in San Jose, CA) explains leadership.

". . .leadership is about making people like themselves when they are in your presence."

To practice doing this, your sales team need not focus on product knowledge or on being charming. Instead, have them focus on the skills to help your customer feel good about themselves when your salesperson is there. This works best when you intentionally add value to the customer's business. That means value as the customer perceives it, not as you wish that they would perceive it. It comes from asking about the value as the customer sees it. It never comes from assuming you understand the value to the customer.

And it usually means helping the customer grow their business, not just saving money. It's about supporting their gain, not just resolving their pain.

You will earn the most loyalty with your customers when your sales people take a leadership role to help the customer to grow their business. That happens when your sales people help your customers feel good about themselves. Not good about you, about themselves when they deal with you.

What are the keys to your salespeople helping the customer feel good about themselves? The first step is when you help the customer to learn. In a practical sense and in an emotional sense we all respond well to chances to learn. If your team helps someone to learn, that adds real value to your customer. That in turn helps generate sincere and lasting loyalty to your business. When your customer starts to use you to help their business to grow, you are earning their loyalty.

Learning rarely happens when your sales team talks, but it does happen when they ask good questions and then clearly listen. The key skill that you want to see your reps develop is asking great questions. These would be questions that help both the customer and the rep learn about the customer's business. Then your responsibility becomes to make sure that your business delivers value as the customer sees it.

The Best Practice to Grow Customer Loyalty
The best practice works like this. The rep goes into the customer but doesn't pitch your company or your products. Instead, she asks questions about the customer's business. Some are obvious, but if she focuses on the future as well as the present, she can ask questions that will bring thoughtful silence. These will be questions from which the customer and she both learn. The Forum Group calls these "High Gain questions." They truly are, because you gain and your customer gains when you ask them.

It can be as simple as asking:
- Where will you get your new customers next month?
- Where will you get your new customers in 12 months?
- Where will you get your new customers in 24 months?

When your salesperson asks the right questions, she learns what really matters to the customer for his or her business future. The closing question then becomes: "If we can help you resolve this, would you like to know more?" If the answer is yes, then she requests a follow-up meeting.

The best way that you can support your customer is to carefully listen to what your salesperson learned. This helps you to learn as well; and it helps you to make sure that your representative has a solution that will solve the problem.

Every time you follow this pattern, you combine adding value with helping the customer feel good about themselves when he or she works with your team. When they feel good about themselves around you, and you deliver value, you have the combination that you want. When you help a customer learn, they feel good around you and your team. You will earn their long term loyalty.

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Peter Meyer

Owner/Founder of TMG

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