Stop selling (and find out what they’re buying)

“Rouse Your Silent Prospects” by Steve Bookbinder (New York Enterprise Report magazine, November 2009). Pardon the rush job but given this morning’s time constraints the focus will be to stick to the highlights. First, the sub-headline of this one is: How to craft emails and voice mails that will get a response.

Pull quotes:

There is a golden rule for getting a response from a silent prospect: If you want a response, ask a question the prospect can answer.

Avoid using emails as an opportunity to type your entire sales pitch or provide your manifesto to strangers… Just get to the point. Your Blackberry-reading receiver of this message will appreciate this more while they walk and read.

If nothing else, on page 3, be sure to consume, “7 Tips for Getting a Response from a Silent Prospect”.

Also worth checking is, “Putting An End to Cold Leads” by Jeremy Nedelka (www.1to1media.com). Note: Unfortunately, the 1 to 1 site requires registering. None the less, here’s a pull quote to wet your whistle:

Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies, says that a little research like that to get in the door is all salespeople need to stand out in the ever-growing crowd. “Today corporations get pitched by so many people that the price of admission requires additional research and a deep understanding of what that company and its employees are going through…[like] looking at triggered events that happen within or external to a company that cause it to shift priorities.”

Four of a kind

Here’s a series of highlights from the Spring 2009 issue of 1 to 1 Magazine (1to1media.com). Unfortunately, this site requires opening account to read some of the content. Since these article are all pretty brief they’ll be copy / pasted in below to save you the trouble.

“Winning Over Difficult Customers” by Kevin Zimmerman

Got angry customers? Good service recovery can turn them into evangelists

It’s been noted that, in some cases, companies that right perceived wrongs for customers can turn them into über-loyal consumers, to the point where they’re more likely to become company evangelists than regular customers who’ve never had a complaint.

Bruce Temkin, vice president and principal analyst of customer experience at Forrester Research, says, “I do believe that good service recovery drives loyalty. When customers run into a problem, their long-term opinion of the company is very vulnerable, so a well-timed and appropriate recovery makes sense for building loyalty.”

Such strategies are in play at companies like Southwest Airlines, Home Depot, and supermarket chain Publix, which regularly appear high on BusinessWeek’s annual “Customer Service Elite” list.
“Those are companies that are looking at the promises they’ve made in the marketplace and are making sure the experience at every touchpoint exceeds expectations,” says Liz Miller, vice president, programs and operations, at The CMO Council. “Southwest backs up its brand message by featuring low prices and making sure it’s very easy to book or change a flight. Home Depot’s ‘You Can Do It, We Can Help’ is built so that, no matter what level the customer is at…they help you find the supplies, offer information on their website, or even take on the job themselves.”

These companies, Temkin explains, often design approaches for dealing with negative circumstances. “They don’t just recover from the problems; they work hard to eliminate similar problems from happening in the future,” he says.

Maria Brous, director of media and community relations at Publix, cites the chain’s purchase guarantee, wherein customers can return an unsatisfactory product for a full refund, as a key component of its customer engagement strategy. “Our guarantee extends to products we don’t carry,” she says. “We will shop at a competitor for our customers and bring that product to the customer to prevent her having to go around to several different stores.”

In other words, by better understanding each customer’s experiences and expectations, a company stands a greater chance of retaining customers when its service or product fails to deliver on their expectations.

Weathering the Storm by Don Peppers

Even in the worst possible downturn, there will still be some customers who are buying, some who remain profitable and loyal. So one very useful aspect of customer strategy in a recession is customer data and analytics—simply having enough insight to tell one customer from another.

However, there are many elements of customer service that can be delivered at very little cost, even when times are tight. Smiles and courtesy cost nothing. Send a hand-written thank-you note to a good customer. Call a customer to ask if everything was delivered properly, or if there’s anything you should do differently next time. As a bonus, these kinds of actions are likely to improve employee morale in a difficult situation.

And remember: Business is a competitive sport. It might be snowing on the ball field, but that doesn’t mean there won’t still be a winner. It just requires perseverance and a different set of skills to play through a blizzard.

The Nature of Nurturing by Jon Miller

Lead nurturing is a key element to successful lead generation strategies. But what makes a good lead nurturing program? Jon Miller, vice president of marketing at Marketo, highlights three points to consider when developing a lead nurturing plan.

Every interaction needs to be valuable to the lead, not just valuable to the company. Any interaction with a lead must contain relevant, useful information that helps potential customers become smarter. Leave the promotions and sales fluff out.

Keep interactions bite-size. Miller recommends a “YouTube” approach: easily digestible chunks of information. A webinar, for example, may not be a good lead nurturing activity because prospects might not attend one regularly. But a white paper or newsletter allows prospects to learn through short yet frequent interactions.

Know your leads. Classic lead nurturing is composed of drip-marketing campaigns. The most successful nurturing programs look at a lead’s past behavior and then adjust future interactions on an individual level.

Three Keys to Customer Centricity based on an interview with Herb Baer

Complete honesty: The retail business changes constantly, so trust is crucial. “Your customer trusts you so much more if you tell it exactly like it is,” says Bear.

Frequent and direct communications – Baer consistently engages numerous individuals within a customer organization, including the buyer, the buyer’s boss, the marketing person, and then accounts payable manager among others.

Caring about the customer’s customer – “We’re going to sell something differently to Home Depot than we sell to Walgreens,” he says. “We might sell hand sanitizer to both but it will be in different forms – different bottle sizes and maybe different labels – and marketed differently.”

How will your book cover be judged?

“The Psychology of Web Design (and Putting It Into Practice)” by Peter Prestipino (Website Magazine, 5 Feb 2009).

“Play.com Tops U.K. Customer Experience Survey” by Kevin Zimmerman (1to1Media.com, November / December 2008).

A simple pairing to help enable you to be more guest-centric.