If you've been in the business world for longer than a decade, you're almost certainly used to the traditional model of the customer journey, in which the key factor was the skills of the sales rep. If a rep was good at selling, then the sales would happen, end of story. Sales reps controlled the situation by carefully crafting a narrative for the customer, letting information trickle out only when absolutely necessary.
Oh, how the tables have turned. These days, it's the customer who calls the shots. They're doing all the research themselves online, and they don't even get in contact with you until they're nearly ready to buy. On the upside, it means you can forget the manipulative sales techniques and rehearsed pitches. On the downside, if you're hoping to learn a new magic sales trick, there no longer are any. Today the best sales formula is integrity, transparency, and customer advocacy. Here are a few ways to build that winning strategy.
1. Earn good reviews. Here's an eye-opening statistic: 90% of consumers look at online reviews before deciding to contact a business. If you have a lot of negative reviews, or no reviews at all, you've already lost. Don't be afraid to ask your customers for reviews - some businesses even give customers discounts or rewards for reviews on particular sites. If you're providing a great service or superior products, your customers will be more than happy to talk about that.
2. Build community. Social media, email lists, referral programs - these are all great ways to make sure that your customers feel like they're part of a bigger community. Let them see some of what happens behind the scenes, be open about what you do and how you do it, and encourage them to talk to their friends and family about your business.
3. Collect testimonials. When you do a good job, don't be shy about asking for and displaying testimonials. Create a page on your website where you can publish your company's success stories as told by the customers themselves, and share those stories on your social media accounts, as well.
4. Be free with your expertise. Gone are the days when the smart move was to hold information back from the customer so that they'd be dependent on coming to you for all their needs. Now, you want to be known as a thought leader in your industry so you can build customer trust in your expertise. Share useful tips on social media, answer questions fully and without hesitation, and create helpful ebooks and infographics that visitors to your website can easily view and download.
5. Walk the walk. It's not enough just to talk the talk - your customers have the internet on their phones, and within a few seconds of a Google search they can find out if you're the real deal or not. Personal and professional integrity are absolutely essential, because trust is the most important factor in acquiring and keeping customers. If your business is making claims and promises, you need to be prepared to follow through on those commitments, and own up and make things right if you ever fall short.
Remember, the sales game is no longer about you - it's about the comfort level of your customers. Keep them happy, and they will reward you by advocating for you and your business.