Over the years I've had the opportunity, and the privilege, to work with some truly inspirational people and absorb as much of their knowledge and real-world experience as I could. One of the most important things I learned in my journey came from the founder of a company I worked with years ago. He taught me that to make customer acquisition and retention smoother, you have to take steps to make it easy for them to say yes and hard to say no. At first glance, it sounds like a no-brainer, of course you're doing everything you can to streamline the sales process, right? Well, that's not really what we're talking about here. I'm talking about removing any obstacle to connecting with, and selling to, your customers.
Here's a few scenarios that I bet you didn't think were obstacles to acquiring and retaining customers:
"We Don't Have That"
This is by far the most common missed opportunity every business is bound to experience at one point or another. Every connection you have with your customers is an opportunity to earn, retain, or lose, their business. How many of us have gone to a store only to find out that they don't carry the product we're looking for or that they simply failed to keep the shelves stocked? It's disappointing a disappointing experience and ultimately leads to customers forming new habits that don't involve visiting your store. I'm reminded of a story that someone shared with me once about a new restaurant that opened locally and was always busy. After two or three attempts at visiting and being met with a 1-2 hour wait time, they stopped trying to get a table. A year or so later when the crowd slowly died down, they tried again and the place was practically empty. You see, after people got used to being told there was an hour or more wait, they formed new habits and started going elsewhere for dinner.
This same principal applies to any business and especially to one that sells tangible goods. When a customer asks if you have something that you don't carry, or for an item that you're out of stock of, try saying something like this: "I apologize. I'll pick up the phone right now and get it here as early as tomorrow and take 10% off the price for the inconvenience." Instead of losing the customer to a competitor, you've flipped the customer's mindset from "inconvenienced" to "wow'd" and more than likely earned their repeat business, and the business of people they tell about the experience, for the foreseeable future.
"I Don't Know"
You and your employees are seen as knowledgeable experts, so why is it when a customer has a question they are sometimes told "I don't know"? Whether or not you have the answer, you can use this as another opportunity to wow the customer. Instead of saying "I don't know", try saying something like this: "I'm not confident I can fully answer your question but I know someone that can." If you have employees, teach them that there's always someone with the answer. Teach them to pass the customer off to a more experienced team member, manager, or even directly to you. If you can't answer their question, they're bound to find someone that will, and I can promise you it will more than likely be with a competitor.
While shopping for printer ink the other day I was curious if there was a newer printer that could utilize the same ink my older printer used, I wanted to consider purchasing a new printer. When I asked a store employee I was told "Nope, the newer printers don't take that ink." If I were like most consumers, I would have simply moved on with my ink purchase and left until eventually, an employee somewhere, would show me the value of upgrading my printer.
I later learned that the ink I was buying was much more expensive than the ink I could buy for a newer printer, almost half the cost, and that upgrading to a newer printer would cost less than the older ink I was buying. If the employee I spoke to said "The ink you have is from a much older line of printers that has since been canceled, that's why it's more expensive. I'm not sure if you've consider upgrading yet or not, but the ink for newer printers is less than half the cost of what you're buying and you can get a similar printer for less than $100.", I would have purchased from him right there and then. Instead, I was left to my own devices and eventually purchased from someone and somewhere else.
For your business to grow you have to train yourself and your team to think beyond the sale. Remove obstacles by approaching every question as an opportunity to connect with and provide value to your customers. In doing so, you'll make it easier for them to say yes in the form of choosing to do business with you and harder to say no by choosing to do business with your competition.