Audio podcast: 7 steps to help your customers through the buying process

November 22, 2010

Chris Bjorklund: Hello, I’m Chris Bjorklund for the Virtual Business Center. Today, I’m talking with Jan Triplett, the CEO of the Business Success Center in Austin, Texas. In an earlier podcast, Jan, we’ve talked about the steps customers take when buying. Tell us now how we can help them through this process, a small business can help them through this process?

Jan Triplett: One of the things that we can do is to make sure that we are tracking the right customer. The second thing we can do is to use what I call a platinum customer profile in our sales process and all aspects of the sales process and that has seven steps. Most people start with six steps or five steps because they leave out prequalification. In the best way to help a customer is to know what you want in your customer and prequalify them before you ever get engaged with them in terms of a marketing or sales perspective. That prequalification thing, this is exactly who I’m looking for. This is where they are. This is what they want to hear. This is how we want them to think about us and these are who they are specifically. I’m really talking in terms of even sometimes down to the name of the person. Usability experts and people who develop products and services use these characteristics to develop products. We in sales need to do the same thing and we need to be very clear that we want them to have prequalify the people who are right for our product or service because what fails is an opportunity for somebody to buy. It’s not trying to convince somebody. It’s not trying to push something on them. It’s saying, “I have an opportunity that I have already prequalified for you and I have looked at who you are and what you need and I think this is right for you. Do you agree?” So prequalification, step one.

Step two is initial contact. That’s when you tell them I have done this and I think you might be interested, are you? So initial contact where you make them aware of the brand. You let them know that there is something out there that might of help. That’s initial contact. Because we’ve already done the prequalification which is step one, initial contact is step two, then the third step because they know that the brand exists, now we’re ready to enter their initial objection and that’s where most of the marketing collateral comes in. If you have a platinum customer profile, you know what that collateral should say. You know what the message needs to be. You know what it needs to look like and where it needs to be, whether we’re talking about traditional media or new media. So marketing is answering things that you think that they would want to know because you know them well enough to know what those questions are.

The fourth step is merchandizing. Merchandizing happens whether you got a business online or you’ve got a retail location and it’s really an opportunity to give somebody a taste of what it’s like to work with you or to experience your product. We see this a lot, of course, in grocery stores where the merchandizing is here, have a taste of my salsa or go to a wine tasting or something of that sort. But merchandizing happens in all kinds of businesses and sometimes it’s product demonstrations or user group meetings or all kinds of things where they get to see use the business in action. They say because we do business person-to-person even if we’re doing business, business-to-consumer or business-to-business, there’s always a person that makes a decision. That’s why merchandizing which is step four is so critical.

After that, we should have been all the way along trying to see if we’re on in step with them. That makes the fifth step close much easier, much quicker. So with the platinum customer profile, you actually shorten your sales cycle and you really get the things out that might be problems way ahead of time and you know whether this is really a serious platinum customer for you or it is probably bonds. It’s going to take a lot more effort and you can decide you as the business owner, you as the sales manager, you as a salesperson that this is right. So that’s five.

Step six is you want to, when you close, is to reinforce that they’ve done a good job, they’ve made a good decision. That can sometimes be an exchange of something. Obviously, if we’re talking about products, it’s I give you money and you give me the product. But in a service business, there’s still reinforcement that’s possible. Sometimes, it’s setting up the next meeting or giving them a workbook or access to an online community that they wouldn’t have otherwise. So it’s an immediate saying, “You gave me this which is of this value and I’m going to reinforce that by giving you whatever this thing is.” So reinforcement is step six.

The last step, this is where people forget, Chris, and this is the one that I really am hot on and that’s pretension. The sale does not stop after the reinforcement. It really means that you want to decide, “Are you going to want to retain this customer or are you going to let them go?” If you’re going to retain them then you need a process and place where you talk to them the next day, the next week, in a month, in 90 days, whatever is appropriate for your platinum customer but you’re really trying to engage them and you’re trying to set up a retention system or program that makes them feel special. The airlines have done this pretty well for years when they had their ambassador club where you bought your ticket and if you qualified, you got access to their master club where you could go and sit and wait for the plane to come. So these special kinds of initiatives that are really keyed to saying to this platinum customer, “You are important. You are very valuable to us and we’re going to be there not only to give you the best product or service we can but to give you that special personal high touch that you deserve and that you value and we value.” That’s the seventh step, just like that first step, that prequalification are the two that people leave out. They go, “Let’s contact 50 people on Tuesday or by 12 o’clock on Friday, we’ll have made our calls.” So they don’t prequalify. They go into initial contact and all the other steps and they don’t do the hard preparatory work. It’s kind of like painting. The bulk of your time is spent preparing the walls and then it makes the painting go smoothly. If you do the prequalification and you do the retention, you will have the best-looking walls anywhere.

Chris: I think that you make it kind of easy to remember though. The two R’s, reinforcement and retention and that really the majority of your time should probably be spent on that front end and that back end.

Jan: Absolutely and primarily on the front end, because you don’t want to reinforce them and retain clients you don’t want, that can happen. I have seen people who fall in love with people and I refer to them as puppies. We all have our share of puppies and they’re cute and adorable and we love them but if we have too many puppies, we spend their time cleaning up after them and we don’t get on with what we’re supposed to be doing.

Chris: Jan, thanks so much for being on the program today.

Jan: I enjoyed it thoroughly. Thanks, Chris, for asking such great questions.

Chris: You’ve been listening to Jan Triplett, the CEO of the Business Success Center. This Virtual Business Center is a free resource for all businesses made possible by the Business Bank of Texas. I’m Chris Bjorklund, thanks for listening.

Topics: Sales, Featured, Podcasts

Jan Triplett

Business Success Center

Jan Triplett, Ph.D. is the CEO of the Business Success Center (BSC), a City of Austin certified green business, that provides sales and financial growth strategies, planning, and implementation. She is also a professor in Business and Professional Skills for the online MBA program at Mary Baldwin University. Triplett is a national and international speaker, author of A Networker’s Guide to Success and co-author of Thinking Big, Staying Small and Easy to be Green. She published The Networker ” magazine for over ten years and moderated KUT radio’s nationally syndicated program, “The Next 200 Years”. She was co-creator of the award-winning “City Management Academy” and the “Owners MBA” and co-founded the Entrepreneurs’ Association Hatchery incubator and accelerator. She is a small business activist. She served as a White House Conference on Small Business and Congressional Summit delegate, served on the Mayor’s Task Force on International Infrastructure, initiated the Northcross IBIZ District and recommended portions of Austin’s Big Box Ordinance. She was a founder of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas and the Greater Austin International Coalition. The SBA honored her as Texas’ Small Business Advocate. She has also earned her CBTAC and Director credentials. Her company received a Small Business Administration (SBA) five-star national award and the Austin Business Journal named it a top 20 management consulting firm.
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