Small business fights for survival as big operators continue to muscle in on the market. The conglomerates have the upper hand because of their buying and pricing power, management systems and marketing experience. Undoubtedly big operators have significant advantages, but small business has its benefits too.
To increase market share, boost productivity and widen profit margins small businesses need to work extremely hard. They would jump at the chance for an easier way – a system that was tried and true, and guaranteed to deliver outstanding results.
But just how can small business compete with the ‘big boys’?
The two major factors that most businesses, including big business, ignore are the two most potent weapons against the competitors. These factors work very well to helping businesses attract and retain their customers.
Weapon # One.
All mums know about it – dads too. They use it regularly to motivate and keep in line any dangerously idle offspring.
Mums say, “If you tidy your room you can have some ice-cream”.
Dads say, “I’ll give you $5 to mow the lawn”.
Parents would be the first to tell that what gets rewarded gets done.
Reward your customers
Reward your customers for coming into the store, for buying something, for referring business and for coming back.
The most basic reward is good service. Say “Thank you”, be prompt and polite, assess their needs, offer solutions, and make them feel good about being your customer.
It sounds easy enough but rarely happens. Most salespeople don’t see past selling. Staff should be trained to consider the big picture – teach them to be ‘Needs Analysts’. A far better way to sell a product is to tell of its merits according to the needs of the customer. Make them believe they need it, that it will solve their problems and make life easier.
Find out what your customers needs are
When a man walks into a clothing store to buy a suit the salesperson should find out how often he wears a suit, what colour shirts and ties he already has, what sort of industry he works in and how often he is in an air-conditioned office and car.
Once this ‘analysis’ of the customer’s needs is complete, the salesperson can offer solutions. And these solutions carry enormous credibility because the customer knows his needs have been carefully considered.
When he decides on a suit, reinforce his decision immediately by saying, “Now that looks great, and the colour really suits you. You’ve made an excellent choice.”
Deliver more than you promise
Every time a customer makes a purchase, deliver more than you’ve promised. This will put you head and shoulders above the competition. If you sell shoes, give the customer some polish. If you’re a landscape gardener, give them a small pot plant. If you sell suits, why not throw in a tie?
Give your customer one last reward to ensure they come back. Good service is a reward for the customer because they enjoy their shopping experience. It also is a reward for the business because a sale has been made. What gets rewarded gets repeated.
If people are rewarded for buying from you they’re going to keep on buying.
With referred business decide on an appropriate reward for the referee. Flowers, wine or tickets to a show are always appreciated. Thank you letters also have an enormous impact.
People appreciate being appreciated – they like to be liked. So send a person a letter saying, “Thanks for your help. I really appreciate it.” You will be amazed with the results.
Weapon # Two
Contact, contact and contact. The follow-up is absolutely vital and opportunities for this are endless.
Make a follow-up call or send a thank you letter to your customers immediately after the purchase. This is not a sales pitch, but a courtesy call.
“Are the shoes as good as we said? How is the retaining wall? Were you happy with our service? How did you find the book? How’s the suit going? How is it in the hot weather?”
Window of opportunity
There is a window of opportunity with all sorts of products. If a customer buys a new car there should be a bottle of champagne in the backseat with a bunch of flowers and a handwritten card, “Thank you for your custom”.
Two weeks later the salesperson should call the customer, “How are you enjoying the new car?”
Ten weeks later the salesperson should send a note with a copy of a rave review of the car from a newspaper or magazine. The customer is not thinking of buying a new car.
Keep in contact – it’s the key to success
Twelve weeks pass and the customer should find the dealership’s newsletter in the mail – with the salesperson’s compliments. Then ten weeks after that – a Christmas card and an invitation for a Christmas drink. A clever salesperson would even send a birthday card to his customer.
On the customer’s first anniversary of car ownership there is a congratulations card in the mail from the salesperson offering a free detail for the car. The customer is still not thinking of buying a new car.
There are four more contacts made with the customer – urging them to visit the dealership’s new web site, another newsletter, a survey, and an article on the excellent resale value of the two-year-old car. The thought of a new car still hasn’t crossed their mind.
Then the customer’s wife has their first child and the two-year-old coupe is too small for a baby seat. They decide to buy something bigger.
The customer will go straight to the same salesperson because they are top of mind. The salesperson kept the window of opportunity open and there’s the smell of another sale drifting right through.
Relationships beat expensive advertising
The big budget companies spending $5,000 per night to advertise their cars won’t get the sale. The salesperson that has taken such good care of his customer, at a cost of about $50 over 2 years, will.