As a salesperson, you know that closing the deal is only the first step in customer relations. Nurturing your existing clientele is just as important as bringing in new business—perhaps even more important, especially in times like these where cross-selling, up-serving and referrals will likely generate business more easily than starting from scratch with strangers. There are many ways to build your customer relationships, and most of them require customizable sales tools to make your customers feel as if you deserve their business.
Every organization is structured differently, but no matter if customer support is part of your job description or not, you owe it to yourself and your company to protect your sales by nurturing your customers. Research shows that 44 percent of companies spend most of their effort on customer acquisition, while only 18 percent focus on customer retention. Meanwhile, keep in mind that acquiring a new customer can cost anywhere from five to 25 times as much as retaining an existing customer!
It’s also been found that only 20 percent of first-time online customers make a second purchase. If you are an online business and manage to persuade an additional 10 percent of your first-time customers to make that second purchase, you've effectively increased your repeat business by 50 percent.
Clearly, whether your business is online or not, investing in the time and sales tools necessary to keep current customers engaged and interested has the potential to generate higher returns than acquiring new customers.
Sales Tools for Better Customer Relations
Successful customer relations are the result of navigating that delicate balance between contacting the customer so infrequently that they don’t remember you and making the customer tired of hearing from you. With today’s automation tools, it’s very easy to go overboard and inundate customers with email, voice mail, direct mail, social media connections, and other sales messages. There is no faster way to turn off an existing customer than making a hard press to get the next sale.
Perhaps the most valuable sales tool in the salesperson’s toolbox is the right customer relationship management (CRM) software. Chances are your company already has some form of CRM in place. You should embrace the CRM as your friend rather than just another administrative headache. The CRM platform is your repository for everything related to the customer, including current contract status, payment history, key contacts, and, most importantly, a history of customer interaction. If you and the rest of your team—including accounting, marketing, legal, and finance—are meticulous about keeping CRM records up-to-date, then you will have an archive of everything you need to know about that customer, including their birthday and their favorite color. All of this information can be invaluable in cementing that customer relationship.
In addition to maintaining a record about the customer, you can also use the CRM software to become more efficient. For example, you can use it to schedule important events, such as contract renewals, follow-up calls, and check-ins. Many companies also use their CRM packages to maintain their customer mailing lists for newsletters and other communications, so be sure to keep track of other customer interactions and time your outreach accordingly.
Social media can be an invaluable way to keep customers up-to-date on changes and events that may be of interest, such as new products and special sales. Using Twitter and Facebook lets your customers follow you so you don’t have to spam them. You can also use strategic social media tools like LinkedIn to share more in-depth content. You can also share professional news and insights with specific customers.
Make sure you are always available. COVID-19 has changed the way we do sales. You can make yourself available to your customers using smartphones and remote database access from home. You can forward incoming calls to your mobile phone and monitor email and other communications using any internet-connected device. With the help of the IT department, you can also gain secure remote access to your company’s CRM system and other relevant databases (product specifications, pricing, etc.) so you will have the right answers if a customer calls.
Collaborate with Marketing
No sales team works alone and allying yourself with marketing can help you identify marketing tools that could also be used as sales tools. And since every customer touchpoint matters, coordinating activity with the marketing department is essential; otherwise, you may find yourself double-teaming your customers.
Here are a few tools that serve both the marketing and sales functions if properly deployed:
According to one recent survey, 75 percent of customers prefer to solve their own customer service issues. A self-service website empowers the customer, improves brand loyalty, and provides an opportunity for you to up-serve. Of course, be sure all interactions are logged in the CRM database.
Many websites now offer live chat support. You can use live chat as a means to interact directly with customers to address problems. You can also direct them to other resources that provide an opportunity to enrich the customer relationship.
Customer satisfaction surveys
Most companies use email surveys or interactive voice response systems (IVRs) to follow up with customer calls or online sales. Be sure that you use any data you collect as part of your sales analytics to see where customers are satisfied and where customer interaction needs improvement.
Many of the “big ideas” around successful customer relations are common sense—but then again, common sense is less common than you think! Make the customer feel special, but don’t hound them. Consider all the sales and marketing tools at your disposal and ask yourself how you can use those tools to improve customer satisfaction. Remember that your ultimate goal is to have happy customers who will answer your next call so you can continue to take that customer relationship to the next level.