The shift from sell first to serve first is here and now. We no longer sell by leading with the product. Sales are made by leading with the person and a relationship with them. Referrals, recommendations and introductions play a huge part in the sales process now.
The sales process has changed consistently over the past decade and educating customers is essential and integral to building a trust bond. We no longer buy things and engage with businesses, people and companies that we don’t know, like or trust. We need to be committed and adapt quickly to this trend. Today, the key driver of sales is educating the customer about why they should buy what we offer, and that we are the best person to deliver it and help service it.
This approach is building a long term relationship. The way to do that is to be an information, trend and idea provider so that you become a trusted resource. The “service provider” of today delivers much more. We require and want more of a holistic experience that builds relationship longevity.
Trendwatching, established in 2002, helps forward-thinking business professionals in 180+ countries, with 2600 spotters understand the new consumer and subsequently uncover compelling, profitable innovation opportunities. It is an important immediate global trend resource for tracking consumer consumption.
In April of 2010, they published a brief on Brand Butlers titled, “Serving is the New Selling”. And in it, they introduced the idea of how important it is to turn your brand into a service. Consumers today yearn for service and care, while the mobile online revolution finally makes it possible to offer uber-relevant services to consumers anywhere, anytime.
Exactly as predicted, how well and committed we are to serving our customers is the X factor in todays small business success. We have had to learn to not only serve customers much better in brick and mortar stores, but online through eCommerce and eTailing as well, which will grow 62% by 2016, to 327 billion USD. (Forrester, 2012).
Here is how you can set yourself apart, by putting more serve in the sell – so that you can make more sales.
Much Faster Follow Up
There is absolutely no reason with today’s social media and online tools that we shouldn’t get and give a timely response to requests, questions or inquiries. If you get one chance to make a first impression and one chance to secure it in the mind of the consumer, then reply and respond as quickly as you can. Even if it’s to acknowledge that you have gotten their inquiry.
Automation can be very effective as a short term tool and response, but aggravating when you need to get human. As a business of one or two, follow up can be more challenging, but making sure you make timely response more of a priority is a must. Be willing to consider apps, software and customer service chat features, where real people can be positioned to give brief one on one interactions, or you can automate for questions or help.
Fastidious Follow Through
If we make promises to customers, which we should, then we must deliver on them. The worst thing you can do is say you are going to do something and not do it. It may not always be possible to complete a request, task or deadline – but you can at least stay connected through the process.
Follow through shows respect for your customers and your professionalism. Make follow through a priority in your daily activities.
Creative, Customized Solutions
Make customers feel unique, special and valued. Each one has their own needs. Be willing to customize creative solutions for them, which shows them you care and have knowledge of what they really need, not what you want to sell them.
This is of course easier when you are dealing one on one with active clients. Use social media and email marketing to stay connected and in communication. But when it comes to going one on one, customize solutions as one size never fits all.
The Wow, OMG, Awesome, Unexpected Effect
It takes a lot for companies to blow us away with customer service today. We expect excellent service and the bar has been raised dramatically. Companies have had to raise their employee customer service skills and invest in more training. The bar is high and the public is demanding and expectant.
No longer is “under promise and over deliver” considered a wow strategy. Excellence is expected not considered above average. The companies that really stand out are making more promises and setting themselves up to deliver on them.
Refer, Recommend, Connect, Introduce
ABN (always be networking) and building your circles, spheres, community and connections. The more you do this, the more you will know, find out and be considered relevant. Building that blend of in-person and online connectivity and networking activities and affiliations assures you are staying inside of activity and changes. Be an active part of what’s going on and not a spectator. Become the catalyst and connector that people want to refer, recommend, introduce and have in their circles.
The sales process is always about making smart connections and identifying qualified people. But it’s the serving to them of information, resources and ideas that accelerates and solidifies the relationship with them that ultimately leads to sales.
What are the things you are consistently doing to serve that sets you apart?