The TDSIT Blog

What Business School Doesn’t Teach You: Developing a Customer Base Outside of the Standard Sale

Posted by Tim Stanley on Wed, Mar 04, 2015 @ 09:41 AM

customer relationsMy company sells hundreds of copiers every year. You’d be amazed at what our products can do. But today’s customer has so many ways to purchase those same machines, including directly from the manufacturer via the Internet.

Which means we have to do so much more than sell products. We have to sell our commitment to the community, and we have to market the care and compassion a faceless website cannot. How we handle our non-core business offerings makes the difference. Think about calling a customer service hotline, and growing frustrated while dealing with one automated response system after another. We can sell the kind of service that shows up at your door and shakes your hand because that’s far more pleasant than a robot.

Developing your non-core business takes time and planning. Here’s how I suggest you start:

Be a Human

I have this guiding principle I call the ‘grocery store rule.’It’s something I apply to every client or potential client I work with. If I see someone in the grocery store aisle, I should feel confident in going up and shaking his/her hand. I should never feel like I’ve cut a rotten deal and have to avoid him/her outside the walls of our offices. Always, as I make deals and work with clients, I stay accountable. You can always shake my hand. I often refer to myself as the “White Shrek.” I’m big, but I’m not scary.

Create Social Capital

I wish I had come up with the term social capital. I didn’t. I came up with the ‘grocery store rule’ instead. But they work together in so many ways. You’ve got to take care of people, and that matters internally and externally. Even a simple thank you card goes a long way. Forbes magazine took notice of social capital recently. Potential clients can research prices and product details online as per their article called “Social Capital Is Path to Social Selling”. That invites competition. Making real connections with real people is critical in that kind of market. Make it so they remember you.

Give Them Extras

We must provide things a website can’t deliver, or wouldn’t think to deliver. My company fleet consists of 14 Toyota vehicles. Once a year, I buy pizza for the service guys at the local Toyota dealership. I don’t anticipate any extras, and they don’t cut me a special deal. But maybe on a day they’re rushed, they’ll remember me and make sure the lug nuts are tight. I have the same approach with service calls. My clients know they can order a delivery of donuts from us when we visit. Not just any donuts, but donuts with our company logo on them. They look pretty funny if you don’t know the name of our company, but they work for us.

Admit Your Mistakes

Because I am part of the community, and because I do see clients in the grocery store, I have to be honest. Many sales team members at the offices of my competitors won’t be around in 18 months, but I will. And it means I may have to humble myself in front of a customer if I’m in the wrong. I’ve missed sending out a bid before. I don’t make excuses. When I screw up, I go and ask for forgiveness.

Create Partner Businesses

Forging the kind of friendships that yield long-term business opportunities takes time, but it reaps rewards. When I’m presented with an opportunity for a contract outside of the company’s skill set, we often pass them along to friends in the community better equipped to handle the task. I hope in return they’ll pass some back my way. Again, we don’t cut each other specific deals. It works when we all agree not to oversell, and keep things balanced.

Have Staying Power

For some, businesses are a transient enterprise. But we want staying power, and we find that’s an advantage. Creating long-term deals and partnerships means we can always be looking for new clients while keeping our current contacts happy. But once we get a client on the roster, we aim to make them stay. There’s a big difference between selling a machine and making a customer. We always want customers.

Remember the Basic Sales Rules

The extras go a long way into creating the social capital that generates business outside the core. But the sales basics remain. Just like you can gain momentum with a client by showing them extra care, you can lose them with rudeness or inattention. Here are some basic tips:

DON’T GET EMOTIONAL: If a deal is not struck, there may be other factors at play.

DON’T FEEL REJECTED: The bid might have gone to a cousin. It’s hard to overcome some factors.

KNOW THAT FEELINGS CHANGE: If you build a relationship, a ‘no’ may later turn to a ‘yes’ when your contact realizes their original deal wasn’t as sweet as they thought.

BE ACCOUNTABLE: If you make a promise, come through on it.

BE PART OF THE COMMUNITY: Tip well. Civic organizations can help, and be nice to the people you see, like in the grocery store.

To view the original article in InBiz Northwest Arkansas, click here.


Tags: customer service, developing customer base, Total Document Solutions, TDS