Connect! (With Your Customers) (Part 1)

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Diana Vollmer |

Being an information source for clients and engaging them with timely questions deepens their trust, grows your revenue

SAN FRANCISCO — Invariably, the most common question asked of me is: “How do I increase sales?”

This question is posed by those who are increasing sales at an enviable rate, as well as owners who are just maintaining last year’s figures at a flat trend, and companies that are losing volume from a distant past sales peak.

This column focuses on the easiest way to add profitable sales, which is to train your entire team to provide timely information about your services to your existing customers so they spend more money with you.

“It costs 10 times as much to acquire a new customer than it takes to upsell a current one,” notes an Aug. 18, 2014, Forbes.com article on customer-centric marketing lessons.

Many companies have proven the value of selling more to their existing customers by letting them know what the company can provide to make patrons’ lives easier.

ONWARD QUEST

The easiest way to get your team to sell is to train them to ask each and every customer a leading question. This is a proven strategy to grow sales.

Of course, the long-standing classic example is McDonald’s: “Do you want fries with that?”

The company is still reaping the benefits of this question as well as increasing sales with their updated “question” versions.

Question: Relative to your employees, are McDonald’s employees smarter? Better paid? More motivated? More creative? More persuasive? Of course not!

If entry-level McDonald’semployees can be trained to succeed with this approach, so can yours.

Another examples of a company utilizing “critical questions” to add sales: Apple's “Would you like our ‘One to One’ instruction with your new computer?”

For those who are unaware, when purchasing an Apple computer at the Apple store, customers can enroll in One to One membership for $99, allowing them to receive personalized individual instruction at the store for a full year.

Quoted in the Forbes.com article, Carmine Gallo, author, keynote speaker and executive coach, says: “The One To One program was created for one purpose: to build a customer for life.”

Gallo continues: “It’s based on a simple premise — the more a customer understands and appreciates a product, the more likely they are to make a deeper emotional connection with that product.”

Never forget the importance of building a customer for life, and the outcome and the likelihood of recommending the service to a friend when explaining the customer benefits of registering for your route service.

Another well-documented example comes from Amazon and its use of Amazon Prime to achieve the same goal of selling more to their existing customers and, as a result of marketing Prime to every customer, becoming top-of-mind for their customers’ every purchase.

“‘Prime’ members spend upwards of three times what they would without the service,” wrote Fortune.com staff writer JP Mangalindan in quoting Wells Fargo analyst Matt Nemer in a Feb. 21, 2012, piece.

Amazon Prime is a loyalty program with a fee to join and has no point system, no requirement to sign up for a credit card, and no price discounts.

Prime aims to make life easy for Amazon customers by giving them easy access to a broad range of products and services for any occasion on a last-minute basis (if needed).

Their customers have responded to this appeal with increased purchases ever since Prime was introduced in 2005. Amazon still brings Prime to the attention of each and every customer.

Question: What could you do to make your customers’ lives easier? Would they join your VIP club and pay a fee for:

  • Platinum service?
  • Double inspections?
  • Faster turnaround guarantee?
  • Express service (store, alterations, etc.)?
  • Time-of-choice route delivery?
  • Detailed preferences implemented every time?
  • Personalized reminders?

Packaging a “free service” with a full-price product works for Zappos and Southwest Airlines. Why? Because they ask every customer if they want it!

Zappos lets every prospective customer know it offers free shipping and a 365-day return policy on its shoes and apparel.

Southwest is no longer the low-price airline, but it asks everyone if they know that “Bags Fly Free,” and this has resulted in continual growth.

It also always ask if you would like to add “priority boarding” to your reservation (for a nominal fee).

Check back Thursday for the conclusion: Questions and the best time to ask them

About the author

Diana Vollmer

Methods for Management (MFM) Inc.

Managing Director

Diana Vollmer is managing director of Methods for Management (MFM) Inc., a consultancy specializing in drycleaning businesses. You may contact her at dvollmer@mfmi.com, 415-577-6544.

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