Customer retention, upgrades and product expansion are hallmarks of a great sales and marketing process. Excellent customer service drives this process, but so does sales. Great sales people do more than stay in touch with their customers—they look for ways to improve the customer experience and provide additional value. Here are my top 5 tips for developing that crucial relationship.
It doesn't matter what you sell—software, services or shoes—great sales reps make the effort to follow their customers in social media and follow up with periodic calls to "take their temperature." Find out how your customers are using your products or services, and offer insights that may improve their results. You have to do this with retained services because that's your job. But even with one-off sales, it's important to get feedback and offer analysis whenever you can. That commitment and added value cements the relationship and increases the likelihood that customers will remain loyal and open to product/service expansion.
Don't wait for the phone to ring or the email to arrive. Keep track of your customers' news, events, blogs and social media updates by following their company on LinkedIn and hashtags they use on Twitter and Facebook. You should also subscribe to their blogs. There are some great apps you can use on your smartphone to stay in touch with breaking news, such as:
These apps make it easy and fun to stay aware of breaking news, both in business and in your non-work interests. Set up alerts to notify you when something new has been published or announced, then strike while the iron is hot. Let's say your customer announces a promotion on LinkedIn or the company announces it's opening a new office in Singapore. Be the first one to call and congratulate them and let them know you're there to help.
Be the most knowledgeable sales rep your customers have ever known. Ask them how you can learn more about their business and develop that deeper understanding of how they compete and succeed in their marketplace. Attend user meetings or meetups, industry conferences and speaking engagements, not necessarily to generate new business (although this can certainly happen), but, more importantly, to become better acquainted with their challenges and hot trends. This gives you an open opportunity to learn from your customers and from their competitors at the same time. You can gain and offer valuable insights by listening to them talk about their competition's positioning, strengths and weaknesses.
The buyer journey doesn't end with the first sale. Experienced sales and marketing teams seek to understand the entire journey including resales, upgrades, churn and customer lifetime value. It's a mix of buyer persona interviews that include the entire customer lifecycle and analytics to support those insights. Using the same approach to content marketing you used to attract the first sale, continue to nurture your customers with valuable content appropriate to their stage in the journey. End users want to know where the product roadmap is going and when to expect new enhancements. Customers want to hear about best practices from other companies and users. Newsletters and blogs should include these stories, but customer forums that are truly open (not overly edited, except for obvious abuse) can be invaluable for your production team as well as your end users. Consider a customer service website or social media channel to keep those questions, comments and suggestions flowing.
How much of this can you do well through marketing automation and content personalization? That depends on your product, customers and sales process. Some industries have always been "touchy" when it comes to sales. Heavy industries, such as military technology, aviation and energy, involve long sales cycles and many face-to-face meetings to win a sale and to continue the business over the long haul. Personal relationships (and politics) drive these sales more than anything else. Business technology and SaaS companies can leverage content marketing more effectively, but in most cases the most responsive sales team (quick to respond at the right time with the right message) wins the day. B2B services are primarily selling expertise and trust, so the personal touch is required throughout the sales cycle. Content marketing sets the table, but sales reps still close deals.
When the human touch is required, winning sales reps provide Analysis and Insight, Awareness, Research and Networking, Understanding of the Entire Buyer Journey and great Interpersonal Skills.
The best sales reps reward themselves with a nice dinner and a bottle of good wine—then they get back to work keeping their customers happy.
Photo credit: markhillary
With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. Connect with John via Twitter, LinkedIn or Google Plus.