If you’re starting a business then chances are money is tight – so anything you can do to increase sales without spending a fortune is worth looking at.
It’s easy to imagine that you need to employ a crack sales team – but the truth is, if you’ve made one sale, then you already have one sales person – that customer. And more often than not, the best people to sell your products and services are your customers.
Customers have already gained benefit from you and because they are impartial, they can provide legitimate social proof. So how do you get your customers selling for you?
While you can’t control word of mouth, what you can control – and systemise – is the encouragement of passion and loyalty within your customer base.
When you transition your customers though the ‘ladder of loyalty’ from Suspects to Raving Fans (i.e. customers who recommend you to their peers without you asking) you create a sales force with more credibility and pulling power than even the best sales person.
Here are eight steps that will help you transform your customers into the Raving Fans who will promote your products and services to generate a serious increase in sales.
Step 1: Find out where your target person operates
Where are your ideal customers operating and how can your business can make contact with them?
Be it through social media, above the line campaigns, or a specific geographical region, note these points of contact down, and how you aim to use them to communicate with your target market.
Step 2: Develop customer-centricity
Customer-centricity is ensuring that you know what customers are looking for. This means that you need to know what your customers are expecting at each point of contact they have with your business – what is it that your customers are really after at this point in time?
To get the answers to these questions, think about your own experiences and conduct research using feedback forms and online surveys.
Now that you know your customers’ expectations – be willing to throw in a few added bonuses to surprise and delight them through the process they undertake with your business.
The key is to know how to make your customers feel heard and attended to. If you fail to do this then it’s likely your business will also fail.
Step 3: Know how you will meet customer needs
It’s important that you are realistic about your own abilities and resources when making changes to your businesses processes in order to satisfy your customers. Be aware that you may not be able to meet all of the customer needs you have identified straight away; you may need to phase in changes.
In these circumstances, it’s wise to pinpoint your own competitive advantage in meeting a set of customer expectations; these are the strengths you should play to.
Applying strategies to increase customer loyalty may require an expansion of your team, and managing a team is a key skill to cultivate.
Step 4: Understand your transition process
With your target customer identified, and strategies developed to allow your business to meet the needs of those customers, the next challenge is to map out how to move from where your business is to where it needs to be.
List the required changes, note how those changes will happen, and allocate responsibility for making those changes.
During such times of change, communication with employees is vital. Your team needs to be comfortable with the shift in the business, and this is best achieved by ensuring they know why the changes are happening and what their roles will be in the new-look model. Do this and you will go a long way to avoiding knee-jerk resistance to change.
Step 5: Set targets and metrics
Any journey involves reaching and passing landmarks; for a business, these are called targets. Each change you make in your business should be helping you reach a new target; there needs to be a reason for the change. Match targets with changes and decide on an appropriate way to measure results relative to targets.
Don’t forget, someone needs to take responsibility for the creation of measurement tools and reviews of results.
Step 6: Set a timeline
Gathering information is important, but a collection of facts, stats and targets is of limited benefit without a strict timeline; you need to clearly outline your change development, test implementation, full implementation, revision, and alteration processes.
Detail is important; provide as much of it as you can, including the resources required at each stage of your timeline.
Setting a timeline can make the difference between an idea and an achievable reality.
Step 7: Measure customer responses
Without measuring the effect of the changes you have made on the behaviour of your customers, how can you know if the changes have been effective?
Surveys and feedback forms can help you understand if you are achieving the increased customer interaction and loyalty you are aiming for, but also consider setting up a system to gather anecdotal evidence based on the experiences of your team when interacting with your customers.
Step 8: Ensure longevity
Be aware that the changes you bring in may not stick if left un-nurtured; after a honeymoon period, the old mode of operation may slip back in. To avoid this, create a plan to ensure your new approach remains your business operations’ central focus.
Aggressive target-setting and consistent results measurement are vital to achieving this. But remember to maintain good communication with your team. Their buy-in to the changes and the goals you have set is essential.
With so much focus on your own business, it is possible to take your eye off what’s happening outside it. Remember to stay abreast of developments in your market and ensure your business is flexible enough to take advantages of external changes, whether that’s a leap in technology, or a shift in fashion or cultural mindset.
Implementing these eight steps will grow your Raving Fan base, becoming an effective way to generate sales.
About the author
This guide has been written for ByteStart by Shweta Jhajharia, Principal Coach and founder of The London Coaching Group. Despite a competitive economy, her clients across sectors consistently achieve measurable double digit growth (over 41%) and are the most awarded client base in UK.
More on ByteStart
You’ll find lots more tips on making sales and growing your customer base in these other ByteStart guides;
- The 10 business development truths that will give you an edge over your competitors
- How to get your customers talking online
- 5 steps to building an online fan base for your business
- The seven steps of selling – understand the sales process and close more deals
- How to develop a strong USP and how to use it to attract more customers
And for more ideas to help you promote your business, try these;