Small Business Tips: Engaging Customers (Sell, Sell, Sell)

Last week I wrote about building lasting relationships with your customers and the critical importance of nurturing and maintaining strong ties over time with those most important to the well-being of your business. Today, I thought perhaps we could start from the beginning, with a discussion on how to start those relationships.

Perhaps the hardest thing to do in business is to establish a relationship with a prospect, whether that person is visiting your office or store or website for the first time, or you are picking up the phone to cold call the latest lead. Sometimes they come to you and sometimes you have to go out there and find them. The tools of the engagement trade include everything from a friendly smile when a prospective customer walks into your store, to an blast via a recently purchased mailing list, to the trash that seems to stuff your mailbox, to the family-dinner-interrupting call from a tele-marketing professional (do-not-call lists aside).

There is an art to the initial engagement and the very best salespeople have perfected the elements over centuries. That flattering Fuller Brush salesman from the 1950s knew exactly what he was doing when he gave that housewife a huge charming smile and told her what a pretty dress she was wearing. And today’s SEO/SEM experts have their own ways of flattery and charm that work to bring in new customers.

Here are 5 straightforward things you can do to build strong ties, encourage word-of-mouth and create relationships that will last!

Be nice. First things first. Just like when u met new kids at school, the rule is the same: you have to be nice to people if you want them to like you. Potential customers can tell if you are sincere and they can be quickly turned off when the sales pitch gets too intense. Take your time, get to know them, and let them see that you are the kind of company thay’d like to be friends with.

Create your own channels. There is no rule that any one tactic will work for your business. Conversely there is no rule that it will now. Experimentation, testing in small batches, and (mostly) taking data to see what works is the only way you will know if customers are responding to your pitch.

Get ready for rejection. No matter what u do, no matter what you try, 90% of the potential customers you approach will either ignore or explicitly reject your advances. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying; in fact a 10% conversion rate for any one tactic is excellent and should indicate that you stay with that approach. Train your people to be flexible, to accept rejection and to nt take it personally when a potential customer tells them to buzz off.

Go slow. Engaging customers can take time and there is no hurry. In fact, a slow, gentle approach usually works best – introduce yourself, let them get to know you as a company, and build trust without any explicit sales pitch. Mostly you need to be helpful, answer questions and, over time, let the customer come to you to say what they need.

Move them down the path. One of the keys is to understand how customers find their way to your offering. They need to be educated and moved along in a defined sequence of steps. Creating a “funnel” approach whether it is in how you arrange merchandise on your floor or the sequence of web pages that you guide a customer through will help them to learn about your company at their own pace and answer their own questions about what you do. In combination with a friendly and open approach from you, this strategy is most effective.

Advertisement: Fuller Brush Company