Are You Losing Business to Your Competition? Let Mary Jane Show the Way to Improved Sales
A bit ago my wife Kerry gathered up her courage and set out to find new furniture for our living room. You may wonder why she needed to build up her nerve for such a simple thing. You see, my wife is not a shopper.
Although we needed the furniture, she did not want to endure the pain of going from store to store dealing with salespeople who would pressure her to buy their product. But much to my amazement, Kerry returned from her shopping journey as excited as a child who just bought their first bike with their own money.
Yes, she encountered salespeople who did not exactly make her day. But then there was Mary Jane! And what an incredible sales experience she delivered! I know this was a furniture store, but as I explain the attributes of this wonderful salesperson, ask yourself if your CSRs are just as good. Do they have the same skills and know-how? You need as many Mary Jane’s as possible working for you.
Mary Jane was friendly, helpful and a joy to talk with. Mary Jane asked a variety of questions to understand what my wife needed. Mary Jane listened to what Kerry had to say and then asked even more questions to thoroughly understand our needs. She wanted to know what was important to us in finding the right furniture and how we would use the furniture. Were we TV watchers, readers or big entertainers?
Mary Jane asked questions to understand how the rest of the family would use the furniture, how our house was decorated and the colors we have.
Mary Jane even explained why she chose to sell furniture as her career. She furthered that explanation with details on why she chose that specific company. My wife became comfortable and confident in Mary Jane’s abilities.
Before Mary Jane even started showing my wife furniture, she had a great understanding of our needs. Armed with the answers to her questions, Mary Jane selectively showed my wife a couple of options. Kerry didn’t have to look at every set in the store. Mary Jane was well familiar with her products and easily explained the facts and benefits of the various pieces. Mary Jane made the decision-making process easy.
Mary Jane created a great experience for my wife. She did what few salespeople do:
- She created a relationship with the customer.
- She listened to the customer’s needs.
- She asked questions to confirm she clearly understood what was important to the customer.
- She demonstrated how her products exceeded my wife’s needs and expectations.
- Mary Jane made it easy for my wife to do business with her.
Every day, existing customers and new customers call or walk into your office(s) interested in spending their money. They have a desire or a need to buy the various products and services you offer. The question is this: will they spend their money with you or will they choose your competition?
Let’s take a look at the steps involved in quality customer service and sales. You’ll see quite a bit of Mary Jane here and even more:
DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP: People prefer to do business with others they like and trust. How many companies have you personally called in the last 72 hours? How many times were you greeted by a warm and friendly person who was enthusiastic and demonstrated a desire to make sure your questions were answered and your needs were met?
We have an advantage in face-to-face interactions because we can also use our body language to support our communication. That advantage is lost when we communicate over the telephone. Research of telephone conversations concludes that 82 percent of our communication is a result of our voice quality while only 18 percent is from content. Our voice, tonality and pitch are the biggest part of this communication.
Do your CSRs come across as almost robotic or do they communicate the feeling that they are ready and willing to help that customer with whatever need they have?
ACTIVE LISTENING: CSRs are asked the same questions every day. This repetition can become boring. So what can they do to improve rapport with the customer and engage the customer in a dialog?
Practice active listening. They need to ask questions to confirm they clearly understand what the customer said. Words and phrases such as “okay,” “right” and “I see” interspersed during a conversation tell the customer the CSR is listening. Confirming what the customer said also shows the CSR is listening and clears up any opportunities for miscommunication.
UNDERSTANDING CUSTOMER NEED: Most people shop for a product based on price but they purchase based on the benefit they believe they will receive from ownership of that product. When a customer buys a cell phone, DSL or any other product you offer, they’re buying because the perceived benefit will fill a need. Many telco CSRs quote the price and expect the customer to make a decision based solely on that information. Price is important but it may not be your competitive advantage.
CSRs should strive to create a dialogue with your customers to determine their motivation for buying that product. Open-ended questions help your CSRs understand the buyer’s knowledge level about the product as well as their emotional need for the product.
Open-ended questions help your customer tell you how they feel, what they want or what they think. Many customers have a fear about purchasing DSL because they don’t understand how it works. CSRs should educate those customers on how the product works and the benefits of DSL so they will be comfortable in making a buy decision. Find out what the customer’s concerns are and then address them one by one.
An open-ended question is one that customers cannot answer with a yes or a no. The answer must reveal something. Some examples of open-ended questions are:
- What prompted you to inquire about DSL service?
- What about DSL is appealing to you?
- What concerns might you have about DSL?
- What information do you need in order for you to be comfortable with purchasing DSL?
- What do you use the Internet for now?
PERSONAL TESTIMONY: It’s tough to sell a product or service you either haven’t tried or aren’t using yourself. All of your staff should, at the very least, have experienced and know how to use every product you offer to your customers. You may want to consider giving your employees some or all of your products free, or at a greatly reduced cost, as a benefit.
PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE: If a customer called your company today, could every one of your CSRs comfortably answer any questions and concerns about the products you offer? Could they explain the benefits of the products to your customers?
The ability of your CSRs to accurately and confidently demonstrate their product knowledge in conversation with your customers is vital to increasing that customer’s desire to purchase a product they may know little about. It is the responsibility of the CSR to educate your customers. Make sure you give them the knowledge with which to speak.
KNOWING YOUR COMPETITION: Do your CSRs know the competitors’ rates and plans? Your competition may be spending a substantial sum of money to attract your customers. Can your CSRs easily explain to a customer what the benefits are in choosing your products over the competition?
ASK FOR THE BUSINESS: Unfortunately, most CSRs are either uncomfortable asking for the customer’s business or they don’t know how to ask. Most customers expect to be asked to buy and don’t object if the request is not made in a pushy or condescending manner.
You cannot force your customers to buy. The CSR’s role is to help them make a decision. If they have qualified the customer’s needs, presented the features, advantages and benefits of your products and created value in the mind of the customer, CSRs should be able to comfortably ask for the business. Often the customer will actually close the sale themselves if their needs have been met.
Common closing questions are:
- When would you like to start this service?
- Which plan do you like best?
- Do you want me to e-mail or fax you the application?
- Are you ready to set up service while I have you on the phone?
- When would you like that service installed?
- When do you want to stop by the office?
TRAINING: Creating a relationship, identifying customer need, promoting the benefits and asking the customer for their business are all skills that require practice to become comfortable and confident. Role playing different customer scenarios is important to enhancing the CSR’s skills in dealing with any customer inquiry.
Developing those skills requires ongoing practice and reinforcement. Each customer’s needs and problems are different. The confidence that your staff communicates in their ability to handle any inquiry will strengthen their ability to help the customer in making the decision to buy.
Selling is nothing more than helping the customer find the solution that meets their needs. Your staff can be like Mary Jane.
By the way, we spent about a third again as much as we intended to on furniture, not because Mary Jane was a pushy salesperson but because she understood our needs and demonstrated what we should have to make sure those needs were met. Oh, and one more thing. Our personal testimony to a friend about our experience earned Mary Jane yet another buying customer.
Empower your staff to become “Mary Jane.”