Sales, Sell, Selling a Guide to Building a Profitable Retail Customer Base

Selling Solutions

How to Measure Successful Selling

Companies are finally acknowledging that their relationships with customers are just as important as the core products they sell to them. Numerous marketing studies have documented how "very satisfied" customers are four to six times more likely than "satisfied" customers to buy again from the same company - plus pleased to recommend them and offer referrals.

To keep customers happy and reduce or eliminate complaints and defections, consider the following:

Accuracy: Clearly define the details of client transactions and then document their follow-through.

Availability: Ease by which customers can contact a salesperson or customer service representative whenever necessary. Your company's responsiveness to these contacts is rated by action, length of time taken and follow-up.

Credibility: Your sales representatives are highly trained professionals who are recognized by customers as valuable professional and personal resources within your marketplace.

Customers can count on them to be reliable and follow-up on their commitments. These relationships build confidence in your company's capability and competence.

To grow happy customers into loyal customers who keep returning to buy, there are several more factors to include:

Relationships: A salesperson's knowledge of his or her customer's needs identifies that salesperson as a committed partner who cannot be easily replaced by the competition.

Your company then moves beyond selling commodity products. You offer customers a means to satisfy their home health care needs by personalizing the products and services to meet those needs.

Dedication: If your salespeople are enthusiastic and view customers as relationships rather than dollar sales, customers will call or stop by with questions for other home health care concerns.

And three out of four customers who depend upon a retailer as a resource of information also buy their related products there.

Recognition: Achievement of all the above factors must be recognized by your company and rewarded through peer recognition before customer satisfaction can become a serious company commitment.

The bottom line: Since two out of three customers at any given business today are repeat and satisfied customers, customer satisfaction is the lifeblood and future of any business in a competitive marketplace.

Selling Solutions

Looking for a sales strategy to sustain future growth? Stop selling products and start providing solutions for your customers.

Solution selling is one of the new "buzz" words in sales and marketing today. The premise is based upon building a partnership with your customers and providing products as solutions to their business needs.

This is very different from what most manufacturers and retailers continue to promote: introductory specials, monthly specials, close-outs, volume discounts and sales for every occasion.

These price-oriented promotions assume that your customers want to save by buying more now and that sales growth and profitability are based upon simply selling higher volumes of commodity products.

To build relationships with your customers, you must learn about them in order to know what solutions they need. Sit down with all of your staff and create a profile of your business and markets:

* Who are your current and prospective customers?

* What are your most profitable categories?

* What are the top products in these categories that your current customers buy?

* What are the turn rates and margins of these top products?

* How do you market these top products?

*Is any advertising or promotion involved?

Based upon this information, develop a marketing program to promote and sell specific products to targeted customers at pricing based upon total purchases during this specified sales period.

This is solution selling (also known as one-on-one marketing, co-marketing or strategic alliances).

Motivating Your Team to Win

Do you coach or command your employees? In case you are unsure, here are a few semantic tips to help you determine your own style of management:


Old Style

Boss

Command

Direct

Order

Push

Sell

Overcome rejections

Short-term sale

New Style

Leader

Coach

Monitor

Empower

Prod

Partner

Evaluate rejections

Long-term relationship


If you want to lead a winning sales team in today's competitive retail marketplace, follow the top corporation's management style in the United States today. First help your staff to identify their goals and then work together to provide them with resources and tools they will need to succeed.

The following are some management priorities to consider:

Getting Personal

No one can be commanded to be driven, successful or creative. People need to be inspired and enabled. The new breed of corporate executives and managers who are involved in the daily operations of their companies spend up to 50 percent of their time out of their offices, on the floor and in the field with employees and their customers. They listen to their staff.

They are constantly asking staff questions about their jobs, customers, products and services. When problems, needs or unmet goals are identified, these corporate leaders provide the information and resources needed for their staff to resolve the problems using their own initiative, creativity, problem-solving skills and taking their own calculated risks.

Winning Strategies

Part of being a team leader is working with everyone on the team to set objectives, develop strategies, and then enable each person to accomplish these goals as members of a winner's circle.

Each corporate member needs hands-on involvement in developing their own blueprint for success. Creating strategies and visions is only one component of winning because each person must have the individual responsibility and authority to achieve his or her goals, and management must provide them with the necessary information, education, finances and staff support.

And when the corporate team wins, all involved must be recognized before their peers and rewarded both financially and personally.

Find Your Partner

Instead of continually selling something to someone else, a salesperson must take a different, broader perspective when they want to partner with that customer. They find themselves listening more than talking, suggesting instead of selling.

The customer contact becomes one of sharing ideas not buying and selling product. On average, this relationship takes longer to develop - one or two visits for up to an hour each to provide for all needs and products within a particular category instead of one visit for the quick, single-product sale.

But the reward of a long-term relationship is much more profitable for all parties involved.

Beyond Numbers

Closes. Sales performance. Quotas. These "motivators" have been proven to be detrimental to a salesperson's long-term results and growth.

High performance standards cannot result from isolated management expectations, because salespeople need nurturing, support and resources if they are to be successful. If after receiving management and team support they are still unable to meet their goals, then they might not be a good fit for your team.

But in today's management, confrontation has given way to questioning and finding out why someone is having difficulty achieving their objectives. Help them overcome whatever obstacles they are facing and once again you have a winning team.

Autonomy

A lot has been said and written about employee empowerment, responsibility and authority. But the bottom line is that all corporate employees must be able to make customers happy when issues arise.

They need the autonomy to make decisions that meet their customer's needs or resolve their problems. And then at regular company meetings, a self-sustaining yet unofficial mentoring program will become part of the agenda as the more seasoned - and self-sufficient - salespeople share their experiences with the rest of the your team.

This article originally appeared in the May 2000 issue of HME Business.

About the Authors


Cynthia A. Parkman is a lecturer in nursing leadership and management as well as case management, at California State University, Sacramento, and partner in CAP Kay Consultants, offering online care management and complementary therapy education and resources at www.nodoctor.com. Parkman is co-developer of the CSUS Regional and Continuing Education Case Management Certificate program and is a published author of case management, leadership, patient advocacy, and CAM therapies. Parkman authors several feature columns on CAM therapy trends for case management and managed care journals. She is co-researcher on CAM therapy inclusion within nursing school curricula in the United States and she is a member of CMSA, ANA, and American Holistic Nurses Association.

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