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Getting Customers To Make A Commitment

Leo Aspden on improving your sales

DOES your sales team seem to be spending more and more of their time prospecting and qualifying than actually converting enquiries into sales? Do you find yourself handling larger volumes of leads until one of them becomes that all-important customer?

n The evaluation process: It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what type of business you want. What does a good customer look like? If you don’t have a profile of what type of customers you are aiming to reach then it’s time to head back to the drawing board.

In these fluid times in which we live, it is no longer sufficient to suggest that our products and services will appeal to a wide mass audience of different people or businesses. Now more than ever is the time of niche or in today’s language ‘differentiation’ or to use the terminology of global brand Apple ‘one to one’.

In the world of ‘one to one’ the emphasis is on your understanding of your customers, it’s about so much more than customer relationship management in terms of the data you may acquire and communicate. In essence it requires that you and your sales team understand how your target customers decide to buy.

n The FUD factor: I read with interest a blog from the Harvard Business Review, which suggested that the enemy of salespeople today isn’t their competitors it’s no decision. This is where the concept of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) comes into play. Particularly in these challenging economic times this has become an increasing factor, with decisions taking longer and in some cases being put on endless hold. The role of the sales manager is to understand this process for each prospect, to diffuse the sources of FUD and help the customer to make the right decision.

How to overcome FUD:

1. A key part of the effectiveness of your business will be determined by how well you understand your target markets and customers and in your ability to help them through the decision making process. The starting part for all of this is the decision making unit (DMU), who makes the decision and who is involved in the decision making process?

The sales manager’s task is to understand who is involved, who are the influencers and who makes the final decision, what are the group dynamics and the needs and objectives of each and then to present the solution such that it is able to satisfy the needs and overcome any uncertainties.

2. In many cases a key component in the decision making process with be budgetary factors. The higher the cost of the product or service, the more FUD may be an influencer. Considerations leading to uncertainty may be aspects such as can the spend be justified, what are the risks and what other projects does the expenditure associated with your offer have to compete with? Here the task is one of clearly demonstrating return on investment, short or long term, tangible or perceived.

3. A further key aspect which may influence the decision is objective factors. How does your product or service align with the customer’s needs and objectives? It’s particularly crucial for you to understand the goals and objectives of your customer and to demonstrate how you can help them to achieve and realise their goals more effectively.

4. Many markets may be saturated with competition. In decision making terms this can lead to the competition overload factor.

Many competitors may make similar claims, all offering similar benefits, high levels of service, quality products, back up service, value for money, accreditations, experience and more, leading the buyer with the time consuming task of identifying which is the right solution.

The key to this is one of clear differentiation and helping the customer to understand the unique selling proposition (USP) of your company. A USP is no longer a USP if all competitors claim similar benefits!

5. Finally, in the world of global communications, social media and the Internet it is clear that buyers can easily become sceptical. This is where the reality factor influences the decision making process.

How do buyers separate fact from fiction, reality from hype? Indeed where competitors may actively seek to spread doubt using the concept of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) the end result is likely to be one where sales managers will need to work harder to prove the credentials of their company, using tools such as third party endorsements and case studies to demonstrate that you actually do ‘what it says on the internet’.

Leo Aspden is a chartered marketer, high growth business coach and former North West ambassador for SMEs for the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

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This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.