What is the #1 Most Critical Part of the Sales Process?

Recently a question was posed on LinkedIn that had us stop and think. Mark Lotenero
Business Development Strategist for Passport, Inc. asked:
What is the most critical part of the sales process?
      • Is it building rapport, credibility and trust with prospects and customers?
      • It is identifying the problem?
      • Is it presenting your company’s solutions effectively?
      • Or is it the ability to close the sale.
You may find different department managers offering different answers and at times they are all important. Perhaps the CFO will add a new part of the sale process equation: It is the ability to pay and pay on time.
However, in our more than twenty years in business, perhaps the most enduring component is the ability to build that customer relationship. Customers who know and trust you are most like to return for additional purchases, refer you to others and even forgive if you drop the ball.
Following are three key components to building customer relationships that last:
One business owner said that communication was how he gained all of his new customers and also how he lost some of his best. When asked for further explanation he said this:
In the beginning, our sales team would communicate on a regular basis, answering questions, providing product information and returning phone calls in a timely manner.  We are known as great communicator by our new customers.
However, recently we started losing some of those great original customers that helped build our business. When we followed up to find out why it was because we no longer communicated to them. We basically took them for granted without even realizing it.
Communication is key from the initial prospecting call and long after that initial payment is received. Being available and also providing updated industry information via newsletters, social media and traditional mail helps customers know they are valued by your business.
Along with transparency comes honesty- even when the honest answer is not a good one. Think about a time when you promised to meet a deadline with a customer.  We’ve all experienced times when that deadline is going to be missed. We can either call as soon as we know and let the customer know and provide our action plans to follow through or we can duck their calls and pretend there isn’t a problem. Sadly, there are companies who follow that second path of hoping the problem will go away.
Being transparent with good information as well as tough answers is important to building that trust factor with customers. If they know you will be open, honest and available no matter what, they are more likely to remain loyal customers.  Which leads to the final key component…
Being consistent with quality products, great communication, and a stellar experience is what people remember. McKinsey & Company published an article entitled The three Cs of customer satisfaction: Consistency, Consistency, Consistency.  They lead off with this summary:
It may not seem sexy, but consistency is the secret ingredient to making customers happy. However, it’s difficult to get right and requires top-leadership attention.
McKinsey & Company, known for their far reaching surveys followed up by stating:
Our most recent customer-experience survey of some 27,000 American consumers across 14 different industries found that effective customer journeys are more important: measuring satisfaction on customer journeys is 30 percent more predictive of overall customer satisfaction than measuring happiness for each individual interaction.
In addition, maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential not only to increase customer satisfaction by 20 percent but also to lift revenue by up to 15 percent while lowering the cost of serving customers by as much as 20 percent.
That is a lot of words to say this:
Happy customers are more satisfied and spend more.
Returning customers cost less to serve then constantly marketing for new customers.
No matter what your business, honing the sales process is a continual focus:
  • Finding qualified prospects
  • Turning prospects into paying customers
  • Building customer loyalty for repeat business
  • Turning customers into advocates who market your business through word of mouth
What part of the process will you and your company spend the most effort perfecting in 2017?
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