Four Sales Strategies for Proactive Customer Interactions

A young man was sick of the fast life so,
He entered a monastery,where he was informed of the rules by the head priest.
One, you're not allowed to speak at all.
Two, once per year you will be allowed to speak...but only two words so choose wisely.
The first year passes by and it comes time for the young man to speak, he steps up and says "Bells Noisy".
Then a whole year passes by once again, and the young man has his turn to speak, this time he says "Floors Cold"   
A third, long year passes by and when the young man steps up to speak, he says "food stinks"
The fourth year passes by, and as he begins to speak, he takes a good look around and says "I quit".
The head priest turns to him and says, well doesn't surprise me, all you've done is complain since you got here.

This anecdote is a perfect illustration of what not to do when communicating with customers. If a customer only hears from you when there's a problem, What do you think their perception of your service will be?  They will place you and your company in a section of their mind reserved for things that are problematic. They will not think of all of the flawless execution of your company provides, just the problems because that is all they hear about. One of the main keys to customer satisfaction is the customer's perception of the value that you are providing. There are many factors that go into an effective customer communication strategy from a sales perspective - let's look at a few that are easy to implement and you can begin doing today with just a little effort.

Always Set the Right Expectation

As you enter into a business relationship with a new customer, make sure you set the expectation of what you will be delivering. Do not promise more than what your company is able to deliver. Do not promise more than what you are willing and able to do. Instead, if it takes your company three days on average to complete its work, promise to deliver in six days. If your company's product costs $75 promise $100, then delight the customer by surprising them with a better result. At the onset of a sale in its early stages, make sure you layout for the customer your plan of action for implementing your product or service. Show them that you've been there before, and that you know what you're doing. These time lines will serve as a reminder for you, and equally important, as a natural implementation process to get the customer up to proper utilization levels, and revenue levels. The main idea here is to set an expectation for your customer, or paint a picture of what it will be like for them, so as to make the only surprises happy ones. 

Weekly Check-In

Use a weekly communication structure to let your customer know proactively, how your company is performing and shape their perception of your company's performance. Your contact will tell you what issue you need to address and with whom, as well as make you aware of any other red flags.  I am well aware that it is not always possible to meet weekly with your customers face-to-face, but by establishing predictable contact at the same time every week they can schedule it, expect it and hopefully look forward to it.  The advantages to this communication strategy are too many to mention here. But overall, the main benefit is that you will begin to develop a reputation for exceeding expectations and promises. One great way to establish a personal and cost-effective weekly check in is with an online sales presentation.

Use Proactive Reporting

No matter how good your product, customer service and price may be, a day will come when the decision to partner with you will be challenged. It is crucial to plan for this moment ahead of time.  It can be in the simplest format, nothing fancy at all, but begin to provide your contacts with key performance indicators, in the form of proactive reporting. Your company will most likely have a way to get to this data, but if they do not, then it is your job to stand on your desk and scream until you get the data. If you're feeling shy, you could alternatively figure out how to get the data yourself. Do not be afraid of less than perfect results, just make sure you address them and have a plan on how to fix them. No one will knock you for a lack of perfection, but failure to address these problems could be very costly. This data can be sent monthly in preparation for a face-to-face meeting.  If the data needs explanation, consider sending it in an online presentation so you can include personalized video to clarify.

Hook Them Up

Make yourself a hub of business relationships for your customers and prospects. Do not be afraid to introduce your customers to each other. By doing the first two items on this list, you will know to be on the look out for complementary services. Possibly even useful technology and best practices from each other's organization to help make them more successful.  Let's face it, most busy executives do not see the light of day - when they are in meetings, they're stuck behind a desk fighting their way out from behind a pile of work. As a salesperson you should be a breath of fresh air, a burst of energy and a sight for sore eyes. By you exposing your customers to your other customers when it makes sense, you develop value beyond that of a simple service provider and begin to become a valued partner.

By implementing the above steps, you will begin to establish a reputation for being a great account manager, a good friend and a class act. These are virtues you can take with you everywhere. What is more, once you have established this reputation, the odds of your competition being able to take business from you are slim. The time that you get to spend customer-facing is very limited. Be sure to make it count.  

Okay, it's your time to talk - what do you have to say (preferably not 'post stinks')?

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