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Searching for Excellence: 4 Tips for Improving Your Sales Team’s Success

Searching for Excellence: 4 Tips for Improving Your Sales Team’s Success

By Colleen Francis

The year 2007 is now officially almost half over. Is your sales team performing at their maximum potential?

In recent articles, we’ve covered a range of tips and techniques to help professional sales people fuel their success. This week, as the height of summer approaches, we’re focusing on all the sales managers, business owners and sales leaders out there who are looking for new ways to increase their team’s (or company’s) revenues – and improve their profit margins – as we head into the second half of the year.

If you’re in the process of developing your marketing and sales plan for the second half of 2007, the following four tips can help you to help your team improve their sales results, increase their revenues and exceed their sales targets.

Tip #1: Love the one you’re with.

Many companies invest far too much time chasing new customers, and far too little making sure their existing customers are happy.

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Research tells us that selling to an existing customer is between five to fifteen times less expensive (and takes far less time) than acquiring a new customer. Why risk losing something you worked so hard to secure in the first place?

One sure-fire way to increase your customer retention rate is to create a monthly newsletter or other program that lets you stay in touch with them on a regular basis. Newsletters can be easy to create, inexpensive to produce and can even be distributed instantly by email. Most importantly, a newsletter can help keep you in your customers’ top of mind, so whenever they need to buy again, they think of you first.

Tip #2: Get some feedback.

A satisfied customer is predisposed to purchase more, purchase more often and even purchase something different than a customer who is less than satisfied with your product or service. So what are you doing to ensure your customers are satisfied customers?

The most successful companies poll their clients immediately following a purchase in order to gauge their level of satisfaction and make any necessary changes to their sales and service programs. If you haven’t gotten any feedback from your customers in a while, pick a day this month for you and your team to sit down, call your customers and find out how they really feel about you.

Ask them specific questions like how they would like to be served by you, what their experience has been like with the various departments in your company and what they would like to see you do differently. You can then use this information to craft a sales and service strategy that puts what the customer wants, first.

Sound scary? If so, then you probably need to do this exercise even more. If you receive any negative feedback, take action to fix it right away and call the customer back as soon as you have a solution. You may be surprised to see how many customers will be inclined to buy from you again once the problem is resolved.

Tip #3: Get connected.

According to a recent Gallup study, emotionally connected customers spend 46% more than customers who are simply satisfied.

How do you create emotional connectedness? Start by being personal.

Have your sales reps send handwritten thank-you cards after each first-time sale. Keep track of and contact your customers on important dates such as the anniversary of the day they started doing business with you, their own company anniversary, family birthdays or anything else you can use to build a personal relationship. Plus, make a point of connecting with customers on holidays throughout the year.

And always, always be on the lookout for any opportunity to refer someone to your customers. If you can help your customers grow their business, believe me, they’ll be only too happy to take you with them.

Tip #4: Make a direct link.

The number one mistake I see many business-to-business companies make is allowing all of their contact with their customers to go through a single sales representative. This can leave you vulnerable whenever one of your employees jumps ship to join one of your competitors. It also leaves too much room for negligence on the part of your reps.

Establish a direct link with each of your customers, regardless of how many layers of distribution lie between you. A restaurant owner can do this by coming around and chatting personally with diners. A CEO of a large company can do it with a newsletter or maybe a hotline phone number.

To reinforce this direct link, get in the habit of contacting your customers at various times throughout the year. For example, send them en email to:

• Introduce new products or services;

• Give advance notice (and an explanation) of an upcoming price or fee increase;

• Offer special discounts or premiums;

• Provide useful and valuable industry information;

• Give special recognition to top customers; or

• Announce seasonal sales.

Remember the cardinal rule!

Just remember this one critical rule: tell your entire sales story every time you communicate with established customers.

Don’t take shortcuts or feel that you may be boring them by telling the same story over and over. Don’t assume any specific knowledge on the part of the customer. And as my first sales mentor once said to me, don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that your customers have an active imagination.

Customers have so many things going on today that they simply can’t be counted on to remember all the great things about you from one sale to the next without at least a little prompting. So if you have a unique quality, service, price guarantee or other advantage that sets you apart from the competition, take a moment to point it out each and every time you deliver a written or verbal sales presentation, and in every newsletter you send out.

As sales professionals, we desperately need to place a higher value on the customer. That’s the message behind Tom Peters’ incredibly successful “In Search of Excellence” movement. It’s the message behind Blockbuster’s “No Late Fees” policy. And it’s one of the reasons why, in Canada, cell phone companies have finally allowed their customers to “take their number with them.”

Make sure it’s the message behind your company, your team and your customer service, too. Communicate with your customers often and with emotion, and you’ll find your business will really begin to soar.

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