When thinking about who in the organization has the biggest role in creating loyal customers, we typically think of the after-sale service and support teams. But the sales team has a critical role to play as well.
In fact, recent research shows that of four drivers of customer loyalty (company and brand impact, product and service delivery, value-to-price ratio, and sales experience), 53% is related to the sales experience.
What are some of the key components of the sales experience that will drive customer loyalty?
The sales rep offers unique, valuable perspectives on the market
Your sales team needs to be well versed in your targeted industries, not just in your product line, if they’re to create loyal customers. Ideas to help them get there? Start a book club: Subscribe to industry journals, assign pertinent articles, and discuss. Hold a brown bag lunch and invite customers in to talk about industry trends. Send a rep to an industry trade show and have that educate the rest of the team.
The sales rep helps navigate alternatives
In order to help customers navigate alternatives, sales reps need to know how to uncover customers’ unique problems and needs. Reps need to thoroughly understand what each customer wants to fix, accomplish, or avoid, so that they can recommend appropriate solutions and present the pros and cons of each alternative. In-depth sales training provides reps with the tools they need to uncover the customer’s issues and help the customer navigate alternative solutions.
The sales rep helps avoid potential land mines
Employee retention is key here. Sales reps with tenure can help customers navigate potential land mines because they’ve seen other customers weather similar situations. Paying a competitive salary, providing positive coaching and support, and recognizing achievements—both small and large—will all go a long way toward retaining sales reps over the long term.
The sales rep educates on new issues and outcomes
Loyal customers look to their sales rep for new information, either on industry issues or on products and services that will improve their business. Make it easy for your sales team to keep customers up to date. Create email templates and attachments that reps can easily customize for each customer. Create periodic webinars that your sales team can invite customer to for continuing education. Create podcasts with customers who are solving common problems in unique ways. Partner with your marketing department to help create additional ideas on how to continually reach out to customers with new, pertinent information.
The supplier is easy to buy from
Some companies are starting to measure customer effort—how easy or difficult it is to do business with the company. Think about it. Loyal customers are repeat customers. How likely are you to be a repeat customer if you have to wade through an impossible phone tree only to be cut off, if the sales rep doesn’t return your call, if emails aren’t answered promptly, if quotes are incomplete or inaccurate, if billing is incorrect? The easier it is to buy, the more likely customers are to buy again.
The supplier has widespread support across the organization
Depending on what you sell, after-sale service and support may be more important than the product itself. After all, what good is a highly technical piece of diagnostic or production equipment if you can’t receive timely repair when there is a technical issue or defect? In order to build loyalty, it’s important that the sales team provide a proper hand-off to service and support so that the customer feels secure in knowing that any post-sale issues will be addressed in a timely fashion.
April is customer loyalty month. Use these tips to engage your sales team in the process of creating loyal customers. Your company will benefit, and so will your sales team as they enjoy repeat business and referrals from happy, satisfied customers.