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Here’s an easy competitive advantage that most startups miss

Excellent pre-sales is an important thing to master for your business, and here’s why:

Because most service businesses do it badly.

So think of pre-sales this way. If you can master customer excellence, you immediately have a competitive advantage.

But what makes a great customer experience during the pre-sales phase? Here’s a guide to the most important factors you need to consider:

  • Transparent pricing. You might recoil at the idea of advertising the full details of your pricing, but here is why pricing is important. People want to see value. If you simply provide a fixed price without backing it up with details about what that price includes, it will be difficult for potential customers to understand what the value is of your service. So when I suggest transparent pricing, what I really mean is being absolutely transparent about the services a customer will get when they buy from you (and just as importantly, what services they won’t get).
  • Fast response times. I’ve walked away from contracts at the eleventh hour simply because I was getting slow responses from the company. The reason I’ve walked away is because it makes me question what the service will be like once I’ve signed and once I’ve paid my money. Many potential customers have exactly the same mindset. You need to demonstrate that you are quick to response before the contract is one, because it reassures your customer that you will be as responsive as your sales literature claims once they’ve signed.
  • Friendly. Customers like to work with people who they can relate to. That’s a simple fact. If you can form a solid relationship with a customer, exchanges start to feel more like a conversation and less like a sales pitch. That is important if you want to win customers, so work hard on building a rapport with your potential customers and breaking down those barriers.
  • Pressure-free zone. Successful selling doesn’t have to involve high-pressure sales. A far better strategy is to take your time to build up a rapport with a potential customer so that you establish a high level of trust. Trust is a far stronger factor than pressure when it comes to people signing for a service. So hold back on the high pressure sales tactics.
  • Giving something for free. Think about the last time you were at a food market. I’m going to bet that many of the stalls were offering a free sample of their delicious food. It’s obvious why they do this. They are so confident about their product that they know that one taste will convince people to buy it. So have the same confidence in your service. Offer a small sample of your services free of charge, so people can see just how fantastic you are, as this will give your customers the confidence to know that they won’t be disappointed when they buy from you.
  • Listening to the customer. I’ve sat in hundreds of sales meetings in my time and I often closely watch the reactions of the customer when the pitch is being presented. It’s interesting to see how much an individual’s face changes when the sales person quotes them word-for-word, because they know immediately that they are being listened to. If a customer believes that you listen to them rather than selling to them, it’s going to make a huge difference in winning their business.
  • Flexibility. I explained why responsiveness is important in pre-sales, and the same rule applies to the art of being flexible. This doesn’t mean you need to be flexible on pricing or services, but you do need to be flexible in areas that you have the ability to change, even if that’s something as small as the time and date scheduled for a phone call. Demonstrating flexibility prior to a sale shows the customer that you will be easy to work with.
  • High quality sales material. Spending time and money on high quality sales material helps you position yourself as a premium company with a premium high quality offering. It doesn’t matter what you are selling. If you want to demonstrate quality and value, you need to showcase that in every aspect of your business, and that includes sales material.

Have a look at these different areas and ask yourself honestly how many you are currently doing well. If there are areas you can improve on, then make that change today as it is going to have a huge impact on your business. If you are a  startup and haven’t approached your first customer yet, then put this in place from day one. It’s going to make that first sale far easier, and when you are new to an industry you need to grab every advantage you can.

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Inspiring women series – Lisa

IMG_20130606_160149In the first of my series talking to women who have started their own business, I interviewed Lisa from http://www.sparkleandcharm.co.uk. Sparkle and Charm was established in February 2013. Lisa designs and handcrafts her own jewellery and accessories for adults and children. All items are made to order and can be adapted and personalised for each customer.

I wanted to find out a little bit more about what inspired Lisa and what advice she would give to other women planning to start their own business. Here is what she said:

1) Lisa – what inspired you to start your own business?

I didn’t intend to start a business. I just love to create jewellery. It’s a hobby/passion of mine. I decided I would make some children’s bracelets to sell at my children’s school fete this year to raise some money for them. I showed a friend who asked if I would make one for her, which I did…then she asked me to make matching earrings. My friends were very impressed with their jewellery and told me I should showcase is on Facebook . so I did! Within a few days I was growing quite a fan base… A few weeks later I had people I didn’t know asking if they could buy jewellery! I was pleasantly surprised by how popular my creations were, so I decided to set up a website.

2) What do you think has been your biggest breakthrough so far? 

My biggest breakthrough has been discovering the power of social media, without it I wouldn’t be where I am today. I decided to enter the world of twitter! Since joining twitter I have won business awards, been contacted by 4 magazines and built up a fantastic customer base. Just over 3 months on and I have gained quite a following on twitter – over 3000 followers, web traffic is fantastic and am very busy with web orders and bespoke orders.

3) What advice would you give to other aspiring female entrepreneurs?

I would advise you to use social media and network, network, network. The networking hours on twitter are great for making valuable contacts and friends! Remember your customer is king or in my case probably Queen! I pride myself in giving an outstanding service, working with my customers to achieve the results they want. Nothing is too big an ask. Be positive – you need to believe that you are the best in your industry. If you don’t believe it no one else will!

Do you have a story worth sharing? Would you like to be featured in the next interview? If so, contact me at lauren @ theglitteringeyesbrigade.com and tell me a little bit about yourself. 

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