If you’re a business leader operating in a business-to-business market, or have a company that is selling complex or technical products or services, then you will understand that your company’s sales challenges are fundamentally different to those of businesses that sell simple services or commodity products.
If you want to boost your revenue consider these ways to generate more sales without investing in expensive and time consuming advertising campaigns.
1. Focus on improving customer retention.
You’ve probably heard statistics about how much extra it costs to attract new customers rather than keeping existing ones. Are they true? You bet they are! At a minimum, studies have shown that it costs 5 to 6 times more to attract new customers than it does to implement strategies to retain existing customers.
The key here is to “implement strategies” to keep your existing customers – that is, do something! Retention strategies can be in the form of either switching barriers or relationship marketing.
- Switching barriers can create a sense of familiarity with your business and discourage customers from trying competitors. This could be based around personalisation (of product, service, ordering, delivery etc) or embedding your process into the clients operation so it becomes more difficult for them to simply move to another supplier.
- Relationship marketing tactics increase the degree of loyalty customers have towards your business. This could involve actions such as: creating an Account Management plan for key accounts, rewarding clients for continued patronage (e.g. volume discount/rebate, tickets to sporting events), or giving them special attention at certain times such as birthdays or business milestones.
2. Understand your customers value equation.
These days customers are loyal to the concept of ‘value’, not necessarily to one brand (or business). So it’s important to understand your customers value equation in order to present your services or products in the best possible way.
What’s a value equation? It’s simply the difference between the costs a customer incurs in acquiring/using your solution and the benefits they derive from it.
For example, costs include such things as inconvenience, time, risk, and of course the monetary price they pay.
Benefits include not only the obvious outcome, but also personal/emotional aspects such as confidence in the decision, status coming from a successful outcome, and a feeling of special treatment.
You could consider the ‘value equation’ to be the sister of your ‘value proposition’ (or USP). Your value proposition will create value for your customer based on their value equation.
With many customers now being well educated in sales and marketing gimmicks, they are usually loyal to the value they receive, so look at how your customers measure value and make sure your offer meets the grade.
3. Create opportunities to cross-sell.
Have you ever gone into a fashion store to buy, say a pair of jeans, and had the shop staff suggest “We have a shirt that would look great with that. Would you like to see?”. Or, back in the ‘old days’ when you did banking in person at a branch, and were served by the Teller, upon completion of the transaction the Teller might suddenly ask “Can I help you with insurance today?” Like most people you probably said “No” and simply walked away.
The shop staff and teller are trying to cross-sell their other products or services. But the process often fails because there isn’t a genuine understanding of your needs. You know the Teller has no understanding of your situation and is simply trying to sell you insurance. And you know the shop staff don’t know why you are buying the jeans, because they haven’t asked you. It is a very naive approach.
In a business-to-business context the best approach to cross-selling is to be selective in how you promote your other products and services to existing customers. Your customers want you to understand their needs so you can recommend what will suit them.
So first build the relationship and gain an understanding of their situation, challenges and goals… then offer suggestions on how they can improve their outcomes by using your other products or services. To be successful you must develop an effective selling process and the cross-selling strategy should be part of that overall process.
4. Don’t concentrate on your price.
Have you ever thought… “All customers buy on price!” Work to this philosophy and you’ll miss many opportunities to build your business. Price is important, as it is often a major factor in the value equation (see point 2 above). But don’t assume you must always offer the lowest price. Various studies have shown the top criteria by which clients choose providers is often competence, courtesy and understanding of the clients needs.
Also, price has been shown to be only the third most important reason for clients leaving a firm. Failures of the core product/service, poor customer service, and lack of attention are the main reasons for customers to defect and use another provider.
5. Evaluate your customer portfolio to identify high-value segments.
It may not sound nice to say, but not all clients are equal. So it is important to assess which clients are profitable for you.
Identify the characteristics that make your good clients valuable to you. Review your sales records, data on previous clients and other sources to determine the profile of your ideal client. This enables you to define a segment that you can consequently target with your marketing efforts.
- The type of solution, service, product your clients are buying from you.
- The nature of their ‘need’ that you have addressed.
- Their type of business – by industry or by size (e.g. sales, employees, facilities).
- The degree of their knowledge of your products, services or solutions.
- The nature of your clients buying process (e.g. do you have more success with entrepreneurial style clients, or with more structured buying-decision processes.)
- The overall profitability of selling to and maintaining the clients, not just the profit margin on each product/service
The idea is to focus on your “A” category prospects. Don’t get side-tracked by chasing lower value prospects, but we won’t forget about them either. Remember, todays “C” category prospect may evolve into tomorrows “A” category client, so have a nurture process in place for them that doesn’t distract your efforts from working with your “A” category prospects.
With this focus you can now efficiently target your ideal high-value prospects by developing an appropriate benefit message, and by implementing suitable sales and marketing activities tailored for this type of prospect.
6. Involve your ‘back-office’ personnel.
In businesses that sell B-to-B or technical products there can be a lot of client contact, and not always by the front-office person. Often a majority of contact is with a service provider or technical support person. Think about the potential impact of client contact with your accounting/administrative staff, service technicians, maintenance staff, and support personnel.
Identify the “moments of truth”, or touch points, in your business and focus on improving these brief encounters. Also consider possible breakdowns in the delivery of your solution and train staff on how to handle these critical incidents.
Try to think of all back-office staff as part-time marketers. Use their customer contact to enhance the image of your firm by improving their skills, involving them in training, and obtaining regular feedback from them on issues affecting clients.
7. Embrace digital content and online access.
The internet is not new. However it is often underutilised. The internet never sleeps, gets caught up on phone calls, has sick days, or is out to lunch. When designed correctly, a website and a range of digital resources will substantially enhance the provision of great customer service, attract more clients and increase client retention.
In fact, recent research by Gartner Inc. finds that 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels by 2025. And this preference for accessing information online is getting stronger as more buyers in the Millennial age cohort move into positions of authority.
Your website is an excellent tool for generating qualified leads; the ultimate “silent salesperson”. Use your website to add tangibility to your business, explain your processes, and to reassure your prospective clients of your ability to satisfy their needs.
Importantly, by structuring the contact process correctly on your web site, you can help prospects to qualify themselves, and in doing so minimise the time you spend dealing with low value enquiries.
Other social media options may also be relevant for your market, so consider what will be useful to your customers. Maybe having a video channel on YouTube for explanatory tutorials or a special group on LinkedIn to provide a different level of interaction.
Lastly, always respond promptly to any enquiries generated via your online activities. Prospects and customers will judge the quality and reliability of your company by the manner in which you respond to their request. And studies have shown that providers who respond most quickly to online enquiries have a much higher closure rate from those enquiries versus those who delay their initial response.
Your next steps
If you would like help to discover revenue growth opportunities in your business contact us for a confidential and complimentary discussion. We’d be happy to provide some useful insights.