What factors help a customer to buy?
There are a wide variety of things that influence a purchase decision – budget, timing and personal psychology to name a few; but there is one fundamental factor that brings all these influences together – value.
Value is a subjective perception created through a blend of need, price and the belief that one product is better than another. Good value is seen as a high quality solution which meets all of a customer’s needs at a reasonable price.
Here’s how need, price and belief play into a perception of value:
I see a pair of hiking boots on offer and I recognise the brand; but the fact that I don’t go hiking means that I won’t value them highly.
Some marketing works to convince the consumer that they have a need. For example, if I’d read an article explaining how hiking boots improved posture, helped stimulate blood flow and were good for your feet, then by the time I saw the boots I may have developed a “need” for them.
Grooming potential customers this way is an excellent way of enhancing the perceived value for your product or service and can help you break into new markets.
Set your price point as high as you can; this helps to enhance the perceived value of your product.
A big mistake is to slash prices. This can work, particularly when it comes to more exclusive discounts, but offering a huge discount lowers the perceived value of the product. Who is going to pay “full price” for a sofa at DFS when most of the year they are offering 50% off?
The price point will often lead customers to believe one product is better than another. However, people will not be willing to pay a higher price if they do not believe in the product; the two factors work in tandem.
Belief is about your brand, your marketing and their knowledge of the product range. It is what 80% of your marketing budget helps to create. And it is the one area over which you have the most control.
So how do you go about creating this belief in your product or service?
There is no single method, but there is a core concept: “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, involve me and I will understand.”
People may forget the specifics but they will be primed to receive your brand, and priming can be important in establishing credibility.
For example, you conduct a PR campaign where you write thought-provoking articles relating to your product or service. In the article you describe the problem (establish a need), drop some hints as to a solution (brand priming) and get it featured in an established trade magazine (credibility).
Visual memory is more powerful for most people than verbal memory, particularly when “show me” still involves some verbal explanation – “show and tell”. Exhibitions and trade shows are great for this.
“Involving” your prospect creates an experience that uses all three types of memory/learning: verbal, visual and kinesthetic (touching and using) to create an almost unbreakable belief in your product. If you are there to tell the prospect the benefits, you can create a need. At the same time you show how the product or service meets those needs visually. Then, the final step, you let the prospect try with the product, get them involved in using it and create an experience.
Creating a complete and immersive experience of your product or service increases recall, generates belief in the product and, in the end, turns prospective customers into brand ambassadors. You aren’t as likely to share the fact that you saw some new product, but you will want to tell people what you just tried out - experiences are made to be shared.
Copyright © 2014 Richard Edwards, director of event and customer experience specialist Quatreus.
Businesses spend a lot of time and money on marketing with the aim of attracting more clients and selling more products.
So why do so many of them make it so hard for people to buy? Are you guilty of ensuring a prospect won’t buy from you?
These are the three most common reasons a potential client won’t buy from you:
What business are you in, where is your expertise and why should I work with you? Are you offering tangential products or services that make you look unfocused or desperate for money?
When a potential client visits your website or reads your personal profile what does it say about you? Are you expert in one thing or do you appear a master of none?
How many times have you heard the sentence “I will get XYZ to call you back” or “I will get that in the post for you” and nothing happens?
These minor irritations really can damage your business. Not only do you annoy a customer that wants to do business with you, but you also create a story for the complainer to share with their friends (your potential future clients).
Annoy your potential customers and you are wasting their time and losing yourself a future client.
This is the biggest sin of all. They want to spend money with you – help them, don’t hinder them.
Do you have clear instructions on how to buy or how to pay? Do you have payment options like Paypal, WorldPay, Sage, send a cheque, make a bank transfer or any other appropriate options for your target client? Older clients often prefer to call a human and make a payment by phone. What about payment options such as staged payments for higher value goods or monthly direct debits?
Whatever business you are in, getting money from clients quickly and easily is crucial to the lifeblood of your business.
The solution is simple; read your website and marketing material as if you were a customer. How easy is it to understand, is it jargon free, consistent and clear? Once the client knows what you do, can they place an order or ask a question easily?
If not, you may find your competitors are helping themselves to money from your clients’ purses.
I once helped a consultant write a proposal for a big project. It was worth a lot of money to him. It would have been his biggest contract.
The proposal we wrote was really good. But he didn’t win the work.
When he asked why not, they said they were so underwhelmed by his covering email, that they didn’t feel they could trust him with such an important project.
Their exact words were: “If you don’t take care of little things like emails when you know we’re watching, how can we trust you to take care of big things when you don’t think we are?”
I asked him to send me the email in question. It said…
How utterly dreadful. And what a waste.
We’d created this wonderful proposal. If the customer had just read it, the consultant would have had an outstanding chance of winning the business. But all our effort was ruined by the first thing they saw.
So, what about your covering emails? How good are they? Do you put much time into making them brilliant? Do you put any?
The good news: there are many ways to craft a good one. Here’s one that works very well…
Title: John, here’s the email you requested about [insert topic]
As [promised/requested], I attach the [communication] about [topic].
You’ll see it contains some critical points. In particular:
As agreed, I’ll ring you at [time] on [date] to discuss how we should proceed. If you want to discuss before then, please buzz my mobile — [number].
Let’s face it, it doesn’t take long to write an email like this. It only takes a few minutes. But if you don’t get it right, you might find you’ve wasted all the hours you’ve spent on your proposal.
Copyright © 2014 Andy Bounds, communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.
It’s funny how coming out of the recession hasn’t got nearly as much media coverage as when we went into it. Right now, savvy salespeople and companies are taking advantage of the upturn. But are you fully prepared?
If you’re a salesperson, you need to have a written sales plan of how you’re going to exceed your sales target. If you’re a sales manager, you need to have a written sales plan. If you’re a sales director, you need to have a written sales plan. If you’re a business owner, you need to have a written sales plan. There is no excuse for not having a written sales plan.
The next step is to make sure you’re focused. Most firms have had to be more focused than ever during the recession as they have faced a drop-off in enquiries and sales leads. This forced their sales team to concentrate harder on new opportunities and focus on how they were going to get it to convert into business.
If the market is starting to pick up, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of taking those enquiries for granted — as some companies had done before the recession really hit them. If you’re starting to get lots more enquiries, your sales plan will help you focus on the best opportunities, and the ones you and your team are most likely to convert.
This is an important point and one that’s often missed. The important thing is to be aware of your energy levels. Back when I was a sales manager, I had one rep that truly was a morning person — jumping around at 8.30 in the morning, yet when 3pm came he was almost asleep!
We decided to play to his strengths and arranged his diary to take advantage of his energy levels. We made his new business activity (cold calls, new business appointments) in the morning, and existing client calls and paperwork in the afternoon. Month on month his sales went up 50%. Amazing.
Are you playing to the strengths of your team? Think about how to best use your resources right now and play to the strengths of your staff.
I’ve lost count of the times people have said to me, “We don’t have time for prospecting/cold calling” or “I know I should have made some calls today, but things just got in the way”.
There is no excuse for not prospecting. Sales managers continually get frustrated with salespeople who “ride the sales rollercoaster” — a good month, followed by a bad month, followed by a good month, followed by a bad month.
This is usually because the salesperson has become so busy dealing with their leads that they haven’t had time for prospecting, which means less leads the following month — and that leads to a lack of sales.
Everyone should make time for prospecting. It should be the most important thing in your day. Too many salespeople don’t prospect because it’s easier to deal with existing customers but then they complain when they miss targets the following month.
Already this year, lots of companies have asked me to come in and help motivate their sales team. Companies that want to steal a march on their competitors are looking to get better results from their teams.
Motivation is vital to your success. Many firms make the mistake of assuming that their salespeople are already motivated. Yet in my experience, most salespeople generally work between 30-50% of their potential.
If you’re a manager or a director, what steps are you taking right now to work on the motivation of your team? If you’re the salesperson, what would it take for you to feel more motivated right now? And don’t say “more money”. That’s known as commission!
You may have a fabulous sales team but if you don’t encourage the rest of your people to sell and support the sales process, you’re missing a golden opportunity. It’s not just your sales people who should be selling!
A good marketing department should directly influence your sales. They should identify new and fruitful markets for you to approach, helping you to find and convert prospective clients. Marketing can also influence product development, helping you to devise pricing strategies and prepare all creative collateral.
By listening to customer feedback, your customer service people are in a prime position to identify customer frustrations and turn negatives into positives. What’s more, they can listen out for suggested improvements to products or services based on customer feedback. In addition to influencing sales, your customer services can encourage clients to return if they’ve had a positive customer experience.
Indirectly, other departments in your company can also influence sales. Your accounts team can free up your salespeople’s time by chasing up invoices and purchase orders for them. They can also provide salespeople with information on customer spending patterns as well as keeping costs under control so that prices can be competitive.
You may initially think that your IT team can’t boost sales, but key tasks in that department can play an important role in influencing them. Your IT people can Identify and invest in software to support your sales team, such as CRM. They’ll also be responsible for providing the hardware to support the sales team and may be involved in providing reliable remote access so sales teams can work whilst on the road.
Any delivery department will be able to ensure the quality of your product as well as its availability. They can provide a positive experience when liaising with customers and, like the customer service department, they can listen out for suggested improvements. What’s more, if your delivery team isn’t delivering on the sales team’s promises, then you won’t be getting any repeat sales.
So, whilst your sales department may do a fabulous job, they shouldn’t work in isolation. Make explicit the contributions made by other departments, so all your people can appreciate their involvement in the selling process. Selling is an activity that almost everyone can be involved in, and should be involved in.
In the words of Mark Cuban, American businessman and investor, “I still work hard to know my business … and I'm always selling. Always.”
Are you confident that your company is able to capture your customer’s needs? And more importantly, are you using them to create a viable sales process?
Far too often the traditional structure of a sales process talks about opportunity rather than customer needs or requirements — the focus is very much from the seller’s point of view.
In order to help your potential customer make a decision you need to approach the process through their eyes. It’s essential to think about their needs, not yours.
So how do you create a successful sales process that is designed around your customer’s needs? Here are some tips that we have used successfully and which are integrated into the processes that we design for our clients’ sales teams.
Recognise the customer as an individual person and create a process that adapts to them — don’t expect them to adapt to it. At the forefront of your mind should be customer satisfaction, not sales.
A salesperson’s ultimate role is to present a solution to a problem, or a perfect fit for a desire. The end result is ultimately the same — the customer chooses you and you make that sale.
People want to be served in a way that fits their situation and their buying habits. Whatever direction the sales process takes, it needs to have listening as the first step.
Customer feedback is a big part of this and can be both the end and the beginning stage of your selling process. Feedback provides you with the knowledge to refine your sales technique and/or product. It’s also a marketing tool to show new customers that you are a) actively engaging with buyers and b) providing the solutions they are looking for.
The responsibility of researching the customer is not restricted to the sales team. As social media and ecommerce increasingly dominate Internet and mobile usage, customers are looking to other channels to get the information and, ultimately, the service that they require.
This is why you need a focus on internal collaboration. Your online marketing, social media and customer service teams need to know where to look and what to look out for in order to ensure you are visible to potential buyers.
Restructuring your sales process to suit customer needs can really improve your business. Not only can you create more harmonious relationships with your customers and your staff, a revamped sales process can produce tangible results.
A sales process designed around you customer really does lead to happier customers, more collaborative teams and a measurable increase in business. What more could you ask for?
Richard Edwards is director at Quatreus.