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Sales Tips: 5 Steps Salespeople Must Take to Regain Lost Trust of Customers

Guest Post by Evie Cooper, Business Blogger

It doesn’t matter how careful you are – the world is full of variables, and you’ll inevitably encounter a situation where a customer distrusts you. It may be based on a single bad experience that a short tempered customer feels disproportionately slighted by. It may be something broad and reaching, like a security breech or a data disaster. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the situation is, so long as you’re prepared to handle it. If your customers don’t trust you anymore, you need to get to the heart of the problem and start taking steps to mend the situation.

5 Steps Salespeople Must Take to Regain Lost Trust of Customers

  1. Take Full Accountability

Even if you feel as though the situation is entirely not your fault (i.e. the customer purchased the wrong product despite recommendations and still feels misled), find a way to take accountability. Becoming defensive, even if you’re justified, is only going to upset the customer more. The customer feels as though you’ve lead them in the wrong direction. Rather than placing the blame on the customer, think about what you may have said or done to impact the situation.

The customer is not always right, but some customers need to be made to feel as though they are.

  1. Listen to Their Gripes

Some customers are longwinded complainers, even after an issue has been resolved. Let the customer do most of the talking. Affirm that you’re listening by agreeing and empathizing, but don’t match their wordcount. Answer questions if they’re asked, but stay quiet while the customer expresses what they need to express. This is especially important in cases where a customer’s distrust can easily be justified, such as accidental overcharging or worsening of a problem as a result of a product or service they’ve been provided with.

Remember not to take these gripes personally. You may not have been the individual responsible for the unfortunate situation, and while the customer rationally knows that, he or she may not understand the bigger picture. Be patient and don’t rush the customer through a diatribe. Let them get it all out. They’ll be easier to work with when it comes time to fixing the problem if they’ve said everything they need to say.

  1. Ask People What They Need From You

If you have a proposed solution to their problem, hold onto it. Try asking what the customer wants in order to feel better about the situation. Remedying what was done wrong may not be enough in and of itself to regain trust, but it shows that you take that loss of trust seriously. If you can accommodate the customer’s exact wishes, it’s a good idea to try your best. If the customer wants something unreasonable, roll out your backup plan.

Ask how they were affected by the situation and frame your solution to target each of the points they bring up. If all you can provide is a refund, explain to them that they are entitled to that refund. If there’s anything above and beyond they want that you can facilitate, see that they get it.

  1. Make Up For What You’ve Done (If Possible)

Once you’ve listened to the customer’s concerns and satisfied the first step of remedying the problem, it’s time to look at what you can do to either fix the situation entirely or mitigate any damage that was done. If you’ve failed to deliver a product or service on time, or if the product or service was of substandard quality, you may be able to rebuild trust with the customer by coming through on your end of the bargain despite the obstacles you’ve faced.

Give them a reasonable timeframe in which you’ll be able to work towards remedying the situation. You might need to hire more team members to tend to other areas of your business while you intensify your focus and attention to resolving the issue the customer is facing, particularly if the problem is significant. Going above and beyond with customer service is crucial at this time.

For example, a party planning business may fail to complete arrangements before a deadline. If that same business can get their own staff to the location in real time and assume quick management of the situation to avoid the cancellation of a client’s event, this would show the kind of dedication that a distrustful customer is looking to see.

  1. Demonstrate the Steps You’ve Taken to Remedy the Situation

Take some exit feedback. After you feel as though the issue has been thoroughly resolved, sit down with the customer and explain to them where you went wrong, the measures you took to fix the situation, and how you’ll prevent situations like this from occurring in the future. Gauge their satisfaction with your resolution. Some people will never truly be happy, but collecting feedback from problem resolution will allow you to create strategies that will appease the majority of customers who feel as though they cannot trust you.

No matter what occurred to inspire a breakdown of trust with a customer, it’s important to be vigilant. These things will always happen, and being prepared to handle them swiftly and appropriately will soften the blow.

About the Author
Evie Cooper is a business and career blogger, often sharing her tips and suggestions about creating and growing a a successful business. Currently, Evie is supporting UK Area Code and Postcode-Checker – online knowledge libraries.

Sales Tips: Selling Bigger and Better through Personalized Customer Experience

Guest post courtesy of Yana Milcheva, Marketing, Talkative

In the past decade, shopping has been completely redefined by the opportunities for improved connection between businesses and customers. Today, in exchange for their hard-earned dollars, consumers expect not only a high-quality product, but also a seamless buying experience. Personalization is more important than ever- it has been found that customer experience drives revenue growth, especially within industries in which customers are able to switch between businesses. A satisfied customer is a returning customer- so what can companies do to ensure that their selling strategy is generating revenue and establishing a personal connection with the buyers?

Customer Experience

Technology and Customer Experience are connected

Imagine owning a business in the 80s and trying to establish a more personal connection with your customers. There wouldn’t have been much you can do, except providing excellent customer service from the moment the client comes through the door until they walk out with a shoppers’ bag and a smile on their face. Today, the latest technological advancements allow companies of all shapes and sizes to create unique, personalized experiences for their customers.

Whether you own a brick-and-mortar store or an eCommerce business, social media networks enable you to engage with customers regardless of their preferred communication channel. The increasing number of technologies introduced to the market comes with a level of uncertainty – it is difficult to choose a platform that will help you convey both your brand’s message and suit your customers.

In an environment where brands compete not only on their products but on the quality of their personal service, it is important to be able to provide a personalized experience to clients both online and offline.

Human Interactions are the foundation of great CX

While communication is becoming more automated, customers still insist on having personal, human interactions with brands. This is a great opportunity for brands to gain the customers’ trust and increase their revenue. There is no way to deliver excellent customer experience if you don’t know anything about who you are selling to. A brand looking to generate more sales and become a leader in its field needs to know all there is to know about its customers. Gathering insight on what drives people’s buying intent and keeping a record of their purchase history are key for creating a comprehensive customer profile. Having your clients’ trust you with their data allows for an exceptional customer experience that goes beyond the moment of purchase and that encourages brand loyalty.

CX Stats Infographic

Customer Experience vs. Customer Service

What some businesses struggle with it is differentiating between customer service and customer experience. Good customer service refers to the quality of the client interaction at the point of purchase- providing people with the support they need to make an informed, satisfactory decision. Customer experience, however, is a more elusive concept. Unlike customer service, good customer experience is not always related to the purchase of a product. It is an ongoing process of listening to your clients’ needs and desires and knowing what is the best solution you can offer them. It requires a deep understanding of your environment and of the drivers behind consumers’ purchasing intent. Improving your sales by providing good customer experience is similar to going on a treasure hunt- in order to bring in the gold, you need to know which is the most efficient and less perilous road to take. When you prioritize customer satisfaction, you are not only engaging with those 80% of customers who are willing to pay more for personal treatment, but are also improving your brand’s image amongst the competitors.

Why does this all matter?

80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that is focused on providing a personalized experience. For customers, a positive experience is one that offers convenience and knowledgeable help in a timely manner. Knowing what a customer is looking to gain from an interaction is how companies can design an effective selling strategy. The key to superior customer experience is centering your sales process around satisfying the customer and paying attention to the way they move through the sales funnel. Sales are, first and foremost, about people, so it is important that your customers feel like they are appreciated and that their purchase matters for your business.

About the Author
Yana Milcheva is a Marketing intern at Talkative and a freelance writer interested in topics ranging from technology, politics, fashion and sustainability. In her spare time, she enjoys practicing yoga and watching conspiracy theories on YouTube.

Sales Tips: Three Questions to Predict if Your Customer Will Renew

Courtesy of Primary Intelligence, a CustomerCentric Selling® Partner

Building a strong customer base is a game of inches, as the football analogy goes. To sell the deal, you have to find the right market, build the right product, and create a strong buying experience. But, as we all know, that’s only the first touchdown. You continue to sell and resell your product every day the customer uses it (or worse: doesn’t use it). You’re reaching for the next touchdown — a renewal, new engagement, or up-sell — with every customer interaction.

renewals

It’s the norm now for companies to track and measure the experience of their customers after the sale, and spending for customer retention programs is on the rise. A 2014 Harvard Business Review survey found 53% of executives saw customer experience management as a potential competitive advantage and 45% made it a strategic priority. And yet, how customer experience measurement is done widely varies.

What’s the Purpose of Customer Experience Management?

More importantly, what executives think customer experience management can and should do for their organization is largely still up for debate. Should it drive loyalty and/or improve NPS scores? Increase customer referrals? Decrease costs? Help you gain market share? All of the above?

Let me wade into the debate. The core focus of every B2B customer experience program should be learning how to retain and grow customer revenue.

If your customer experience program is not telling you how likely your current customers are to renew or expand their spending with you in the near and long term, you’re missing a critical metric of success. Typically as much as 80% of a company’s revenue comes from its existing customer base. That means even a modest churn rate can cause a dent in your revenue.

So, how can you predict your customer retention? There are two main methods:

  1. Ask your customers if they will renew.
  2. Understand your customer’s experience.

Asking Your Customers if They Will Renew is Good

When you ask a customer outright if they plan on renewing with you, the answer is called stated data, meaning that’s the answer the customer said. There is definite value in stated data. For example, what if your largest customer said, “I’m not sure if we’ll renew. Our purchasing department recently told us we have to do a competitive bid for all large contracts, so we’ll need to do one for your product as well.” Clearly that is great information to have — you can start preparing now for a competitive renewal bid.

However, customers can’t always articulate what is most important to them. Or, in some cases, they may give an answer they think they should (eg: I’ll say price is most important to me just so you will give me discounts.) And in the case of renewals, they may hold off giving you a realistic answer because there is an existing relationship, they want to avoid sales pressure, or they just don’t know yet. So, while it’s extremely valuable to have candid conversations with customers about what’s important, I find it less helpful to collect stated data in this case. Instead, I would recommend derived data.

Understanding Your Customer’s Experience is Best

You can derive the answer to your renewal question by understanding your customer’s current experience with your solution by looking back in the rear view mirror to see what’s happened so far in their journey. Let’s start with the three core questions you need to ask the customer.

Question Question 1: What are the most important benefits you want my solution to deliver?

Customers purchase products to receive benefits. No one buys a phone system to have a phone system, but rather to be able to communicate effectively with others. This question will help you understand the outcome or result that drove the customer to purchase your solution in the first place. If possible, ask the customer to be specific about the benefit. For example, if they say they want “reduced cost”, ask if there was a certain percent decrease they were hoping to accomplish.

I like to provide customers a list of potential benefits to select from to make the analysis easier, but you need to be careful about leading — make sure you include plenty of “other” options so they can write in benefits you might not have thought of. You can also definitely ask this question as an open-ended statement, providing no options to pick from.

TruVoice Watermark Question 2: How well is my solution delivering those benefits?

This question can be asked as a scaled question (eg: rate from 0 to 10) or on a text-based Likert scale(somewhat, not at all, etc.).

It’s important to ask about the specific benefits mentioned in question one. If the customer wanted reduced costs, increased efficiency, and better employee engagement, make sure you ask about how well the solution has delivered all three of those benefits specifically. If the list gets long, ask the customer to narrow down to the top three benefits they care most about.

Do not miss the opportunity to follow-up for more details on any high or low rated items. Ask neutral probing questions like, “Please tell me why you rated X that way.”

Most importantly: Do not use this as a sales opportunity! Don’t explain that the customer simply missed a feature of your solution! There will be time for clarification and follow-up LATER. If you do it now, you’ll risk cutting off the candid feedback and interrupting the flow of discussion.

TruVoice Watermark Question 3: How much effort was required to experience those benefits?

While this question might seem quirky at first, it’s the most important. A Corporate Executive Board (CEB) study found 94% of customers who have a low effort experience will purchase again. So, it’s critical to ask about the effort required.

I like to ask this as a scaled question (eg: rate from 0 to 10) because you can get more specific in your measurement, but make sure to follow-up with the customer to get more details. Try something like, “What specific processes or features did you consider when determining that effort score?” or “Please explain what type of effort you were expecting the solution to require.” or even “Tell me about a recent experience you had with the solution that felt more difficult than expected.”

One quick note about this question: the effort will be relative for each customer. While one customer might think it’s “easy” to pull a report from your software, another customer might gauge the same actions as “difficult”. That’s okay. What you are measuring here is the customer’s perception of effort. Customers who feel like the solution is difficult are more likely to seek easier solutions, putting you at risk for renewal.

Evaluating The Experience to Determine Retention

Now that you have the answers to these three questions, you can use the answers to derive likelihood of renewal. A very simple calculation might be:

((Number of benefits experienced strongly) / (Expected benefits))  / (Effort required)

For example:

Benefits experienced calculation

You might calculate that as: ((Number of benefits experience strongly = 1) /  (Expected benefits = 3)) / (Avg effort required = 7.3) = 4.5% likelihood to renew

I’ll reiterate this is a very simple version of the calculation you actually need to do, but even before you calculate, you should have a sense that this account might be in jeopardy because the customer is not experiencing all the benefits they want and the effort required is very high. You need to develop an action plan to help them experience the benefits and/or ease the burden of effort.

It’s All About Outcomes

I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom from our CEO, Ken Allred:

“In reality, the biggest influence on your customer’s experience is your ability to deliver the outcomes they wanted when they decided to buy from you. You can provide the best support in the world, have wonderful relationships, and be beloved by your customers, but if you can’t deliver what you promised, your customer will leave you as soon as they find someone who can.”

Sales Tips: Honest Customer Feedback is the Cure for Insanity

Guest post from Primary Intelligence, CCS® Partner

It’s been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This is obviously a cultural rather than a medical definition, but if you sell for a living, and you cannot figure out what you’re doing that’s causing you to lose deals you were sure you were going to win, you might start to feel like you’re losing your mind.

When you get some honest feedback, and start doing different things, the outcomes change, and the insanity goes away. Suddenly the world makes a lot more sense, and you’re closing a lot more deals.

Customer Feedback

Tell the Truth

If you want to one day benefit from honest feedback, you should start building truth-telling relationships. That means telling prospects “no” when “no” is the correct answer. “No, our solution won’t do that yet.” “No, I cannot offer you a larger discount.” “No, we cannot implement the solution any faster than that.”

You can steer them to positive features of the solution or favorable aspects of the contract terms, but being honest is key to becoming a trusted advisor, a key position in B2B sales.

Creating a relationship of mutual honesty takes courage because when you’re selling, you want to present desirable solutions. But in order to influence the final decision, it’s best to be seen as an expert rather than a “pleaser.”

Hear the Truth

When someone – a friend, a co-worker, a supervisor, a client, or a prospect – is honest with you, it is proof that you are respected and admired. People are honest when they know that you are strong, capable and smart enough to hear the truth. They don’t have to pretend everything is fine when it’s not. They don’t have to pretend you did a great job when you didn’t. Because, to amend the famous line from A Few Good Men, “you can handle the truth.”

You need to hear the truth so you can improve – your preparation, your pitch, your presentation, your product – and win more deals in the future. Colin Powell said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” Sales can be a hard career unless you view failures as opportunities to learn and are willing to listen. Other people hold the lesson to your failures and your successes.

And yes, you can also learn from your successes. What did you do right? How can you make sure you repeat those good practices that helped you close the deal? The truth isn’t always bad. Sometimes, it’s commendation and acknowledgement of the preparation and hard work you put in to be successful.

Elicit the Truth

First, you start down the honesty path, as stated above. If you are not honest with your prospects, you will be lucky to get any feedback at all, and if you do, it will likely be painful to hear. Successful professionals want to work with people they trust, and avoid people they don’t trust.

Second, ask for the feedback as a favor – a positive form of assistance rather than some kind of bitter medicineyou have to take. Explain that constructive criticism will help you be more successful. Otherwise, people’s desire to be polite and not hurt feelings can filter out the hard truths you need.

Third, ask for tips on ways to improve rather than just their opinions. The people you are selling to have seen lots of sales presentations, some that work, many that don’t. Allowing the feedback to come as a helpful tip removes any uneasy feelings that might come from criticism alone.

Get the Right Truth

The only honest customer feedback that really matters is the truth told by the decision-maker. Do your best to get that feedback directly from the source. It doesn’t make sense to change what you do based on feedback from people who didn’t make the decision. While their feedback may be generally helpful, the adjustments you make might not be aligned with the result you want – winning more deals.

Conclusion

The world of B2B sales begins to make a lot more sense when you know why buyers say “yes” and why they say “no.” But until you have those answers, you are going through the same motions and pitches every day and getting the same results. It is insanity: it’s hard work, it’s disappointing, and it’s leaving deals behind that you might have won. Learning from honest feedback makes the world of B2B sales a much saner – and more successful – place.

Sales Tips: 4 Ways to Convert One-time Buyers into Lifetime Customers

By ShaDrena Simon, Inbound Marketing Expert for Yokel Local

While bringing in new customers is an important part of business, the latest numbers suggest that retainingcustomers is even more valuable to today’s companies. The benefits of going the extra mile for your first-time clients make it well worth the effort.

Today’s businesses are focusing on customer retention more than acquisition because it costs five times less to keep current clients than it does to acquire new ones, meaning greater return on your investment.

Lifetime Customers

Your repeat business could be worth ten times more than your first-time clients, so a plan to create loyalty is crucial to your company’s success.

The first time a new B2B customer uses your service, will they leave feeling like while they had a good experience, they could have the same experience with one of your competitors? If so, there is room for improvement. Mediocre service is for mediocre businesses. Show your customers you are a cut above the rest by exceeding their expectations at every turn.

To delight first-time customers and keep them coming back for more, put the following four tips into practice right away.

1. Provide an Exceptional Customer Experience

Providing a top-notch customer experience is essential to retention. Business has become increasingly competitive and being average is no longer enough. When you consider that increasing your retention rates by a mere 5% can increase your overall profits by up to 95%, the importance of standing apart from your competitors becomes clear.

Recognize and acknowledge that the client is new, and make sure your team is on the same page and ready to promote a positive and helpful experience. You only get one shot to nurture and grow the first-time customer relationship, so make it count.

2. Be the Solution to Their Problem

Solving your customers’ problems the first time will create a lasting impression. Instill confidence in your first-time clients and they will trust you to make things easier for them again in the future. Show new customers that you are knowledgeable about how their needs and your industry intersect. Ask questions about your first-time customer’s situation that shows them you are knowledgeable about how your products and services can make things easier for them. They will appreciate your insight into your base and come back to you because they know you can be counted on for delivering results.

Thank Your Customers

3. Give More than What’s Expected

Want to dazzle first-time clients? It’s time to get familiar with the concept of under-promising and over-delivering. Anytime a company does business with you for the first time, consider that they are taking a risk and most likely wondering if it will pay off.

Set reasonable expectations that are clearly laid-out, and then double down on delivering. Promise two-hour turnaround if you know you can do the job in one. Include personal touches like thank you cards and discount codes. This shows your first-time client that returning to you down the line is a risk-free proposition and a gamble worth taking.

Embrace the Art of Following Up

Where your first-time clients are concerned, follow-up matters. Strike a delicate balance between showing that your company is worth doing business with again and not coming off as pushy. After an initial sale,delight a new customer with a carefully crafted e-mail. You can increase your click-through and engagement rates by placing your clients into categories based upon their first purchase.

Targeting them with relevant content that specifically meets their needs at this stage of your relationship means better follow-through than you could hope to achieve with a generic welcome e-mail.

If you are the owner of a B2B business and you are making increasing customer retention among your first-time clients a top priority, you are not alone. An increasing number of businesses have implemented loyalty programs because research has consistently shown they work. While there is just a 32% chance first-time customers will purchase from your company again in the future, by the tenth purchase there is an 83% chance they will buy from you again. A customer’s first visit is an opportunity to grow your business, and smart owners will have a plan for success.

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