I have written a few times about the death of selling and how people don’t want to be sold to anymore, they want to buy, but only when they are good and ready. But does this mean we should just sit waiting for the phone to ring? I think not. Although most of us don’t like pushy salespeople, we don’t like to be sold to, we DO like to be acknowledged and respected. Now here’s an opportunity! Let’s have a look at a couple ways we can ‘sell without selling’
1. Make the first move – engage with your prospects.
One of the issues with the passive sales approach is a lack of control. If we are simply waiting for a customer to turn up and buy, what do we do if they don’t? If you are targeting a niche market where there is a clear and natural fit between your business & the products/services you offer and a potential customer, why not make the first move and let them know you are around and open for business? As an example, we have a client who offers specialist process engineering services. Amongst other things, these services have a particular ‘fit’ with manufacturers of specialist process equipment, particularly when it comes to servicing and maintaining that equipment. Rather than simply advertising their services and waiting for people to respond, they are being proactive. Because of the niche nature of their target customers, relevant companies and individuals can often be found through a combination of desk research, social media (particularly LinkedIn). At this point, they could start a ‘normal’ sales approach with letters, telephone calls etc. The risk in doing this is that you invest too much in any given prospect ending up with a pushy sales approach.
A neat alternative
Our client is avoiding this by taking a more relaxed line based on a well-defined process:
- An initial e-mail making introductions, explaining their proposition and inviting a response.
- A follow-up email referencing the initial e-mail and again inviting a response.
- A final e-mail acknowledging (and respecting) the lack of response and inviting a process of ‘keeping in touch’ via e-newsletter.
With modern e-mailing systems, it is also possible to monitor whether your email has been opened, clicked etc. so technical feedback can be a good indicator of whether/where your approach is gaining traction. The beauty of this approach is that you always get an outcome. Either you get a response from which you can qualify the opportunity, or you don’t get a response but, by researching your target contacts appropriately, you can find relevant database contacts (with due deference to B2B Data Protection rules, of course) The other benefit is that you don’t up with a list of contacts that are all ‘loose ends’. Once you send the final e-mail the contact should disappear from your target list (though stay on your e-newsletter circulation list). You keep your target list fresh and short! It is true that the vast majority of your targets will fall off the end of your process but in a niche B2B market where long-term trading relationships are often the norm, you don’t need many wins to have real success.
2. The power of Customer Service
Last Monday did not start well. I came down to find my car was dead! As an automatic hybrid, this was not good. No lights, no nothing. I had no choice but to call the recovery team and get the train into the office. The only problem was I really needed a car for the day. I called the garage where my car was being taken to ask about a courtesy car but they had nothing. I saw the cost of a hire car looming. Then I remembered that, as a relatively new vehicle (a Mitsubishi), my car was covered by Mitsubishi Assistance Package. Not expecting much, what did I have to lose by calling them? Now I must admit the initial experience wasn’t great. I was on hold for over 15 minutes but once the call was answered, what a transformation…. I needed a hire car? No Problem. Leave it with us. I did….
Sometimes Customer Service really is ‘service’
Literally 10 minutes later I received a call from our local car hire depot. It took five minutes to go through their terms and conditions and they said they would be with me inside an hour. Within 90 minutes of my call to MAP I had a shiny new hire car in the carpark. Even better, when my own car was repaired, I simply drove to the garage and left the hire car there. My Customer Service from Mitsubishi was exemplary (bar the 15 minute wait on the initial phone call!) OK, Mitsubishi is a big company and arguably they should offer good service but how many times do we hear of the appalling experience of customers with big companies? Clearly, there is a lesson for all of us. I was treated as an individual who needed help – and they helped. OK, they had the systems and procedures in place to do just that but isn’t that the point of good processes? Simply listening and acknowledging is a great start. If a customer in need called you, could you step up to the mark? Here at BSA, I know we can but it does make you think! …and hats off to Mitsubishi