Pushy sales people and aggressive marketing campaigns are well and truly a thing of the past. Enhanced consumer knowledge and understanding; general access to online information about products; an ability to thoroughly research before buying; and a highly competitive market place where the consumer is able to vote with his or her feet means businesses must think very carefully about their approach to sales.
The biggest change to a business’s approach to sales is the availability of technology solutions that can be used by all members of the team and all customer-facing company functions to standardise processes, enforce rigorous data governance, hence protecting the consumer, and to deliver a straightforward and excellent customer experience.
At the heart of the business should be a great data system. This will enable the business to manage contact records, keep all information centrally, allow data analysis and generally take a more data-driven approach to sales. A good system – known as a Customer Relation Management (CRM) system – will be intuitive and easy-to-use.
By giving its employees all the information they need at their fingertips, the sales staff are able to be proactive and provide the customer with a great service – the very thing that will keep customers coming back.
With a well-informed and well-trained sales staff, the approach to sales should be about ‘engagement’ rather than ‘promotion’. The consumer needs to feel he or she can trust the member of staff to help in their decision-making process. There should not be a feeling of overtly pushing the consumer into a decision, but rather a feeling that the staff member is offering guidance and help.
And the mentality among staff members should be one of long-terminism, to encourage customer loyalty. The first interaction should be seen as the start of a sustainable relationship, which gradually grows and strengthens.
Through this approach, a business will be in the strong position of ‘knowing its customers’. By gradually developing a detailed level of insight into customers’ preferences and interests, a business can make interactions personalised, relevant and timely.
Customer profiling is a key element of this approach. For example, the sales team can create a fictional profile of the most desirable customers, based on age, gender, locations, interests and even values.
A second layer of information can be added – what communication channels are preferred – email, SMS, phone, post; how long an interaction takes; what factors might trigger a decision.
All of this information helps companies deliver the right integration at the right time.
Of course, the recent GDPR regulations mean that companies have to be extra vigilant about data collection and how they use that data. Companies now have a legal responsibility to justify why contacts are in their database.
There are five lawful bases including ‘legitimate interests’ or ‘contract’ which provide grounds for processing data, but if not, then consent must be freely and explicitly given by the consumer.
Companies can no longer fall back on pre-ticked opt-in boxes to keep people on email lists. The most GDPR-friendly way of capturing data is to attract prospects to the business so that they willingly divulge their personal data in exchange for content that they perceive as genuinely valuable.
Business is moving into a new era of consumer engagement and, if a company is to succeed, then an open and friendly attitude towards customers will go a long way.
The source of information for this article is the online business publication Real Business.