The key to client retention is delivering the best experience possible. But if you wait for clients to sign a contract before you win them over, you’ve already missed the opportunity.
According to a CRM study, eighty-six percent (86%) of consumers say they would pay more for better customer service, yet only 1 percent of consumers feel like vendors meet their expectations. By 2020, the customer experience is even expected to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. (Walker Information, Inc.)
Selling Starts Earlier Than You Think
The sales experience begins the moment you (or your sales rep) contact a prospect, send a company email, or meet a prospect at an event. Your client service efforts should begin here, too.
Even if someone doesn’t fit the bill as an ideal client, he or she probably knows someone who does. Your company’s reputation hinges on initial interactions, however inconsequential as they might seem.
To deliver a truly remarkable client experience, you have to set the stage from day one. This starts with raising the bar for your sales team and inspiring them to go above and beyond for clients and acquaintances.
A Client Service Rally Cry
When you first create your sales strategy, filling your sales pipeline might seem like a top priority. But when outreach efforts become more of a numbers game than a personalized experience, you could turn prospects off from your company.
When client experience falls by the wayside, your churn rate becomes a real threat.
If you haven’t been taking a client-first approach in the sales process, you can still turn things around. Here are five ways to encourage your team to deliver the ultimate experience at every touchpoint:
Get everyone on board with your vision.
There’s a reason you’ve invested time, energy, and money into your business. Remember your “why” and get your sales team on board with that vision. They have to believe in your mission as much as you do. This will make each interaction with a sales lead about so much more than pocketing a commission. If your salespeople aren’t invested in the cause, they shouldn’t be working for you.
Allocate a sales budget and delegate authority.
Empower your team to create a memorable customer experience. Sometimes, you have to spend money to earn it. That’s why you should give your sales team a larger budget when finances are tight.
At our company, one salesperson has a healthy budget for giving our partners and potential customers a memorable, personalized experience any way he sees fit. This initial investment is well worth the cost of winning over a lead. In fact, a 2 percent increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10 percent. (Source: Leading on the Edge of Chaos)
Promote thoughtfulness internally.
Isn’t it refreshing to show up at the gym or a local restaurant and be greeted by name? Everyone loves to be noticed — including your customers. And the best way to get your team thinking about these small, thoughtful gestures is by practicing them yourself. Building authentic relationships with customers starts with the internal culture you create.
Encourage thoughtfulness in the workplace, and reward your sales team for going above and beyond. Try sending handwritten notes, calling to check in on clients, or treating someone to a birthday dinner. Even small wins — such as a client renewing his contract —should be celebrated. Promoting actions like these will set the tone for thoughtfulness both inside and outside of your company.
Form tight-knit relationships with each salesperson.
All it takes to get started on the path to exceptional customer service is a conversation with your salespeople. Develop close relationships with them so you can start learning about their positive and negative client experiences. Then brainstorm ways to improve the sales process.
Carefully outline the sales cycle with your team.
Critically walk through your sales cycle with your sales staff. Ask them to point out the highs and lows for leads, and challenge them to think of ways to make the sales process stand out from your competitors. By working with each person individually, you can help maintain a consistent client experience and keep your vision alive.
Every interaction a client or prospect has with your company matters. Empower your sales team to do whatever it takes to give your leads and existing customers the experience they’ve been waiting for. But above all else, inspire your salespeople with thoughtfulness so they’ll proudly represent you and your company out there on the front-lines.
What are you doing to deliver the most memorable customer experience possible?
This article has been edited and condensed.
Alyssa Brown is the Vice President of Client Experience at Influence & Co., a company that specializes in expertise extraction and knowledge management that is used to fuel marketing efforts. Connect with @influenceandco on Twitter.
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