The Best Time to Sell to a Customer?
Some will say that the best time to make a sale is when someone needs what you are selling. And while this may be true, it isn't easy to be in the right place at the right time and be the right person to sell your product to a customer in need. True sales veterans know that the best time to sell something to someone is right after you sold them something. In other words, as soon as one sales cycle results in a sale, start another sales cycle with the same customer.
A Sale Can be so Many ThingsOnce you've earned a customer, you will be tempted (and possibly encouraged by your peers) to celebrate your victory. And while celebrating success is important, don't allow the festivities to last too long. One of the golden rules of sales is that once you get a sale, you should shut up and get out of the customer's office. But before you go running away, schedule a follow up meeting with the customer to discuss next steps and go over additional complimentary products or services. Most likely, your customer will agree to a follow up meeting. What this means is that you've just started another sales cycle with a pre-qualified customer, with whom you've already built rapport and have earned trust with. Congratulations, you've just made another sale!
Asking for Referrals
For some strange reason, very few sales professionals ask their customers for referrals. Referrals are other businesses or people that your customer feels could benefit from your product/service/skills. Referrals are one of the best ways to start new sales cycles as they turn cold-calls into warm-calls and give you immediate trust.
When you get a referral, your tasks are to contact the referral as soon as possible and to provide exceptional professional service. The last thing that your referring customer wants to hear from her business acquaintance is that you were rude, unprofessional or never followed up. Do any of these and you'll never get another referral from your customer.
If there is one thing that can help you build trust, is by having plenty of happy customers that your prospects can contact. These are called "references," and can be a very important asset to have for any company, product or sales professional. Asking a customer to serve as a reference for your company demands that your customer is a happy one and that they remain happy. This means that once you ask a customer to be a reference, that your responsibility to keep them happy increases. While you should aim at providing exceptional service to all of your customers, you and your company need to go above and beyond for references.
Imagine what would happen if one of the customers you use for references had experienced a run of poor service from your company. What type of reference would he give to anyone who asked about your company's service? Always keep in mind that a happy customer will tell a few people about you while an unhappy customer will tell anyone who will listen. When it comes to unhappy customers, know that you have them as a reference that you really don't need.
There really are two types of references you should ask your customers for. The first is a reference for your company or product, and the second, and more influential, is a reference about how you performed. If you went above and beyond and provided exceptional service to a customer, asking them for a personal reference should be easy. If you provided just enough service to get the deal, focus on getting a product or business reference.
Personal references are not intended to be used to improve your resume (though they can be used for that as well,) but to be added to your sales collateral. Handing out brochures and product information along with a few personal reference letters written from happy customers is a powerful way to earn immediate trust.
The Last Step?
Most sales people are in sales industries that accommodate for repeat sales. Unless you sell a "one and done" type of product or service, you need to always be aware of the next sales cycle. This means that abandoning a customer after a sale, and only visiting them again when it's time to replace what you originally sold them, is one of the worst things you can do. Sales is hard enough without you making it harder on yourself to get repeat sales.
A recent pole asked 1,000 customers who had left their current vendor and partnered with their current vendor's competitor what their main reason for transitioning was. Two of the top 3 answers all involved how they were treated by the sales professional. Either the sales professional never followed up with them after a sale or never brought anything new to them. In other words, the sales professional left the sale, the product and his company go stale.
The 7 steps in a sales cycle is a proven method to increase your sales performance. This final step, asking for references and referrals, is the one step that will create more qualified sales cycles than most any other sales-cycle starting method.