By: Patrick M. Paradza
- In order to ensure a sale, the prospective customer/client must:
- need the product/service; or
- want the product/service; or
- both need and want the product/service.
It is important to note that a prospective customer may take action on a want which is currently affordable, rather than a more important need which he cannot afford and which he considers postponable.
- Affordability is key in most people’s purchasing decisions. If they are interested in the product or service, they will want to know the price up-front. However, you should strive to settle the issue of value first. On the other hand, if throughout the conversation or engagement the prospective customer never gets to ask about the price, this indicates that there is no interest or insufficient interest in the product or service.
- It is never the prospective customer’s fault if the proposed transaction does not materialize (it is always useful to assume this). Failure may be due to the marketer’s approach or presentation method. In many cases, the transaction may be scuttled by something that the marketer has done or said to put off the prospective customer.
- To a certain extent, a marketer is like a fisherman who casts his net wide in the water and hopes that it will bring in some fish, a broadcaster who hopes that his words will be heard and acted upon by as many people as possible, and a farmer who sows seeds and nurtures them until they grow and become fruitful. Having said that, it must be emphasized that marketing is not a game of chance. There is a methodology to it which will always result in success if properly applied.
- There is always a reason for the success or failure of a marketing effort or a marketing campaign. The marketer should know and pursue actions which lead to success and avoid those which lead to failure.
- Customer care and customer retention are integral parts of a successful and sustainable marketing effort. The way you treat existing customers is very important in their ongoing assessments and decisions to stay in the relationship.
- Sometimes in marketing situations a prospective customer’s ‘no’ is not a real no. This response can be an automatic defensive mechanism when the prospective customer feels that his/her private space is being invaded. The response can also be used to avoid having to make an immediate decision on the proposed transaction.
- Marketing efforts can be boosted by establishing a digital footprint/presence in the targeted segment(s). This can be done through websites or social media. Modern customers value convenience, and the convergence of technology in smart phones can be used effectively to ‘capture’ and retain new customers.
- Do not make ‘closing’ a do or die issue or exclusively a ‘yes’ or’ no’ affair. It is advisable to give the prospective customer at least two options, both of which are favourable to him. This way he will feel that he has control over the decision that he is about to make, and will not make that decision under pressure.
- Due to the pressure of budgets, if given the opportunity to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ the default and unpremeditated answer from most prospective customers will be a ‘no.’
- A consultative marketing approach is likely to be more successful than a ‘hard-sell’ approach which seeks to convince the prospective customer about the features and benefits of the product or service being offered. Educating the prospective customer is important, but emphasis has now shifted to the marketer’s understanding of the situation and how the product or service will solve or ameliorate the problems and challenges that the prospective customer is currently facing.
- In competitive marketing or selling situations, the biggest question prospective customers usually ask themselves is ‘why should I buy from him.’ This question is a key issue in the prospective customer’s purchasing decision. For the marketer or salesperson, the question poses a big challenge because it is a reminder that customers are spoilt for choice, especially with regard to generic products or services. It is usually a silent question (i.e. not verbalised) which should still be answered to the prospective customer’s satisfaction. A related question which is usually not expressed verbally by the prospective customer ‘s ‘what is in it for me.’
- Active listening is a big contributor to the success of marketing and selling efforts. According to Ken Dooley, silence is a natural part of effective listening, and not a space to be filled as quickly as possible. Remember that it is possible to say too much, which can make the prospective customer drawback from a favorable decision he is about to make. On the other hand, it is rarely possible to listen too much.
- As a marketer or salesperson, you should always plan to stay effectively (meaningfully) busy i.e. meeting or exceeding your targets. An effective strategy is one that produces the intended results either immediately or in the near future. Remember that it is possible to be busy doing nothing tangible.
- A good presentation should make the prospective customer not only see the advantages of acquiring the product or using the service that is being offered, but also the cost of not doing so. Because most people try to avoid ‘unnecessary expenditure,’ if the prospective customer decides that the current situation is something he can live with, they are not likely to make the proposed purchase. It is therefore the responsibility of the marketer/salesperson to make a compelling case for the product or service. Additionally, if the prospective customer decides that the value of the product or service is less than what he is being asked to pay, the sale is unlikely to occur.
- Advances in technology mean that prospective customers can now do most of their research on products/services they are interested in online or even from other sources. This means that the marketer/salesperson‘s role has now shifted from that of being a provider of detailed information about their products/services. His main responsibility is to uncover the prospective customer’s specific needs or actionable wants through effective questioning and listening and to show how the product/service can solve the problems, challenges, and other pain points faced by the prospective customer. Remember that the relevance of the product/service is directly related to its capacity to do this. No matter how good or valuable the product/service appears to you, in most cases, it cannot sell itself. Your input is thus the major determinant of the success of your product/service, and ultimately your own success.
- Depending on the circumstances, what seems to be a lost sale opportunity can be revived. This is because buy/postpone/do not buy decisions are usually made on the basis of the current situation. The reason given for not buying is often not the real reason e.g. the prospective customer may say that the product/service is not a priority at the moment, while the real reason is related to budgetary constraints. On the other hand, the prospective customer is unlikely to inform the marketer or salesperson about any change in his circumstances without being prompted. This means that it is advisable to keep in touch with the prospective customer, and only raise the issue again after a ‘cooling off’ period.
When following up on negative responses, or after an unreasonably long period of silence, ask your contact or the decision maker:
- whether the negative response was as a result of something you did or failed to do;
- if it could be that you failed to provide some information that was explicitly or implicitly required;
- if there is any possibility of reopening the discussion, and if so what you need to do.
- The multiple-touch strategy recognizes that it may take at least five attempts to get through to a prospective customer or to set up a meeting, but persistence on your part may pay off. When you eventually get to meet the prospective customer, do not guilt-trip them, because this will only show how amateurish you are. It is much better to express your appreciation for the meeting, and get on with the business on hand.
Cold calling involves getting in touch with somebody when you have not met or talked to them before, using the phone, e-mail or another method. It is decidedly more difficult and challenging than other marketing/selling methods, since most people will not take calls from strangers, or will just ignore their e-mails. However, cold calling can work, as shown by the fact that many big companies use call centres to market their products or services. What you are offering may be just what the prospective customer was looking for or considering buying. For example, the prospective customer may be unhappy with his current situation or current supplier, and be prepared to listen to a better offer.
- The power of marketing communication refers to its ability to evoke or elicit a response from the recipient. The sender hopes that the recipient will respond favorably to the message, and act on it either immediately or in the near future. Most marketers will naturally look forward to a quick, favorable reaction, although this is an unrealistic expectation because the preferred outcome i.e. a sale, will only occur if certain conditions are present e.g.an an urgent need, a strong want, affordability etc. In the absence of an immediate decision on the part of the recipient, a key quality of an effective marketing message is its residual value i.e. whether it has sufficient impact to be stored internally or externally by the recipient to be used in the future. This is normally related to the message’s perceived value from the recipient’s viewpoint.
- Related to point no. 18 above, if you are wondering why so few people are opening your e-mails or acting on them, look no further than yourself. What percentage of e-mails reaching your inbox do you open, read and act on? The following are possible reasons for not opening e-mails:
- Your are just not interested in the subject line, or the contents of the message.
- You do not have time to read the message.
- You do not believe that it is relevant to your work.
- You do not believe that the sender can or will actually do what he or she is promising i.e. the message lacks credibility.
- You are afraid of being ‘scammed’.
- You do not think that you are able to do what is required to benefit from the proposed action.
|If your marketing activities include e-mail communications, you should note that your recipients may be thinking in the same way about your messages, in relation to some or all of the above points.|
Expertise and time, not resources, are the biggest assets in the hands of a
successful marketer or salesperson. The true value of anybody working in these areas is measured by what he spends most of his time doing. His toolkit should include both hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are the ’technical’ or ‘scientific’ skills which every professional should have in order to practise in any filed. Soft skills are complimentary attributes which in many cases can mean the difference between success and failure, since they highlight differences between excellence and mediocrity.
Patrick M. Paradza is a member of the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe. He is a marketing strategist and sales trainer. He can be contacted at 0773-215 671 or email@example.com