Your sales force is much bigger than your think; it includes all of your happy customers too. Shweta Jhajharia explains how to harness word of mouth and get closer to your customers
Many business owners believe that their superstar sales person or their own sales skills are the key drivers of their sales.
And yet, many of them also admit that much of their business comes from word of mouth. But word of mouth often seems like a poor strategy to focus on: many business owners believe it's something they have no direct control over.
The truth is, your best sales force may not be the people you have hired for the job. The best people to sell your product are, in fact, your customers, who have gained benefit from your service or product and can provide legitimate social proof. While you cannot control word of mouth, what you can control – and systemise – is the encouragement of passion and loyalty within your customer base.
When you transition your customers from initial "suspects" to "raving fans" – that is, customers who recommend you to their peers without you asking – you create a sales force with more credibility and pulling power to your business than even the best sales person.
Here are eight steps that will help you to transform your customers into the "raving fans" who will promote your products and services to generate serious sales.
Step 1: Know where your target person operates
Once you know your ideal customer, find out where they operate and how your business is able to make contact with them.
Be it through social media, above-the-line campaigns or via a specific geographical region, research these points of contact and use the right channels to communicate with your target market.
Step 2: Develop customer-centricity
Customer-centricity is about ensuring that you know what customers are looking for, in the most ideal scenario possible. This means that you need to know what your customers are expecting at each point of contact they have with your business – what is it that your customers are really after at this point in time?
There are a number of ways to find this information, from thinking about your own experiences, to conducting research through feedback forms and surveys.
Once you know what your customers' expectations are, do not be afraid to throw in a few added bonuses to surprise and delight them through the process they undertake with your business.
This step is all about knowing how to make your customers feel heard and attended to. Failure to do so is one of the major reasons as to why businesses fail, so always listen and learn from customers.
Step 3: Know how you will meet customer needs
You must be realistic about your own capabilities when making changes to your business's processes in order to satisfy your customers. Just because you know what your customers are looking for, do not jump in headfirst as you might not be able to meet all of these needs at once.
You need to identify your own competitive advantage in meeting customer expectations and play to those strengths. You may even have to expand your team to implement strategies for increasing customer loyalty
Step 4: Understand your transition process
Now that you know what your target person is after and how your business can meet those needs, it is time to understand how you will get from where you are now to where you need to be.
Note down all the changes that need to be made, how they will happen and who will be responsible for those changes.
Remember, a change in a business will always have implications for employees. Ensure that they understand the need for the changes and make sure they are comfortable with these changes and do not reflexively resist them.
Step 5: Set targets and metrics
With each change you bring about, ensure that you have a target in mind and know the criteria you will use to measure your results relative to that target.
In this step, also be sure to set out who is responsible for the creation of measurement tools and of metric reviews so that nothing gets forgotten due to miscommunication.
Step 6: Set a timeline
You need to ensure that you set a strict timeline for your change development, test implementation, full implementation, revision and alteration processes.
Be as detailed as possible in your plans, so as to include any resources you may need at each step, be it human or otherwise.
A goal is a dream with a timeline – setting a timeline makes all the difference between something being an idea and making it an achievable reality.
Step 7: Measure customer responses
As you are angling to increase your customer interaction and loyalty, the changes you implement will change the way customers respond to your business and its offerings. You need to be able to measure this change through methods such as surveys, feedback forms, or through noting down your own or your employees' experiences.
If you are not measuring directly the effect of your changes on your customer behaviour, how will you know if it is working or not?
Step 8: Ensure longevity
Make sure that you have a plan in place that will ensure that the changes you are making will stay, rather than drifting back to the way you did things before.
If a change has successfully affected your customers' behaviour, you should ensure that this remains a central focus of your business's operations.
Consistent measurement and target-setting are the best ways to ensure that your changes are working, but also that they remain in place.
Any change to your business processes will not only take hard work and persistence, but will also call for shifts in your mindset. It is vital that you have buy-in from your employees in times of change and have open communication with them throughout the process.
In addition, know that customer needs will always be evolving and so should your business. Success is dependent on listening to your market and creating a strategy to exceed those expectations.