As we launch ourselves and our businesses into 2011 many are thinking “how are we going to hit our sales targets this year?” The numbers seem scary, our palms begin to sweat and panic sets in. But fear not, we have a plan . . . err we do have a plan, don’t we?
The strategic plan may indicate how many sales are required, but how are you going achieve them? Space decrees we cannot explore all possibilities, so I’ll focus on one; word-of-mouth.
Never before has word-of-mouth been more powerful than now, in promoting businesses and destroying them. People are talking about our business, and not just to their friends and neighbours. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and comparison/review websites, the world gets to hear.
There are at least five levers to make word of mouth work brilliantly:
• Customer service proposition
• Enthusiastic networking
• Existing clients
• Your complaints policy
Your customer service proposition
Deliver what you promise, on time, every time. If you don’t, you will find Tweeters will let the world know about it and the experience will be recorded on review websites. On the plus-side, positive customer experiences will shine like a neon sign, advertising your business.
In his excellent book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell refers to three types of people, connectors, mavens and salesmen. Connectors know lots of people, people who you can sell to. All networking events have them, all we must do is find them and build a mutually beneficial relationship. Mavens are people who know everything from the price of the cheapest builder to the best restaurant in town. And they are enthusiastic sharers of their knowledge! Salesmen are advocates of your business, they love telling people how good you are.
Networking gives you the opportunity identifying people who can help promote your business. It works.
Your existing clients may be connectors or salesmen. Keep in touch and don’t be afraid to ask them to recommend your services.
They can be connectors and salesmen, and are very often mavens. These are people with the opportunity of introducing your services to their connections. As well as hoping for reciprocation, their motive is often to help their connections and to make themselves look good by doing so. Identifying and building relationships with potential introducers takes time and is worth it.
Your complaints policy
All good businesses need a few complaints. Why? Because this is your opportunity to really impress your customer. Many businesses are so petty minded as to deny everything in order to save a few pounds. Even when proven wrong, they accept it grudgingly. Yet those who embrace the customer when something goes wrong, puts it right without question or fuss, gains much more. For years I have bought flowers through Interflora. For the first time, on our wedding anniversary, a bouquet for my wife was disappointing. I wrote and told them. Twenty four hours later, I had a sincere letter of apology from a real person, and a full refund of the cost. I use Interflora more than ever and I am happy to tell others how good their customer service is.
For an example as to how poor complaints-handling can cost a business $180million, Google “United Airlines broken guitar” and watch the video!
Get the complaints right and people will be tweeting merrily about their experience and you couldn’t wish for better, or less expensive advertising.
Best wishes for a successful 2011!
Paul Rutherford, managing director of sales leadership development limited
Member since: 10th July 2012
Chester word of mouth specialist, promotes and markets the best businesses in Chester. Passionately supporting local businesses, organisations and events.