Today’s customers are savvier than ever before, and they expect more from the companies they do business with. In most cases, they also have more options to choose from when making their buying decisions. Although cost can often be the determining factor, simply offering the best price for your particular product or service is no guarantee that you’ll make the sale. In fact, in some cases, prospects equate low price with low quality or a lack of service after the sale. Consumers also tend to do more comparison shopping before deciding to buy. For most, the majority of that comparison shopping is done online.
- You should never tell a potential customer that you don’t accept credit cards. These days, few purchases are made using cash, so telling a potential customer that you don’t accept credit cards could be a deal breaker. Setting up a merchant account allows you to accept credit cards at your place or business and online. If the majority of your sales are made online, you might consider establishing a PayPal or WorldPay account. Not giving your customers the option to pay with credit or debit cards is no longer an option at all and could cost you countless sales.
- Never tell a customer they can expect delivery by the end of the month unless the end of the month is just around the corner. Customers expect promptness from the companies they do business with. After hours or maybe even days or weeks of comparison shopping, once a customer makes the decision to buy, they don’t want to wait additional weeks to receive their purchases. You should always have ample inventory on hand and should offer a variety of deliver options including next day or expedited shipping. Failing to do so could cost you the sale.
- Never leave your business phone unattended. Incoming calls to your business should always be answered in a friendly manner – preferably by a live person with adequate knowledge of your services and products. If that’s impractical for your business, you should invest in a professional voice mail system that provides callers with a variety of options to suit their needs. If possible, forward incoming calls to your mobile phone when you’re out of the office. Be sure to check your voice mailbox frequently and respond to all callers in a timely manner. Making your prospects wait hours or days for a call back shows a lack of respect for their time and is almost guaranteed to make them take their business elsewhere.
- Don’t make it difficult for prospects to contact you with questions about your products and services. You should always include your business phone number in all your advertising and marketing materials and on your company Web site. Not providing potential customers with a way to speak directly with you is like posting a huge “No Questions” sign on your front door. You should also invest in a fax machine and include that number on all your sales and marketing materials as well. Fax machines have become very affordable in recent years. In addition to stand-alone fax machines, many copier / printers include fax capabilities. Although most customers will never fax you, having a fax number adds legitimacy to your business.
- You should never tell a potential customer that your business doesn’t have a Web site. These days, not having a Web site is like not having a business card. Having a Web site lends credibility to your business and provides consumers with a convenient way to research your products and services. If you don’t already have a company Web site, you should look at your competitor’s sites to get ideas about what to include on yours. In addition to providing information about your products and services, it’s a good idea to include some information about your company’s history and personnel. Since pricing often plays a big part in convincing your prospects to buy from you, you should include prices whenever possible. Telling your prospect to “Call for Pricing” can be a deal breaker. In addition, you might also consider using customer testimonials on your site. Most people will be interested in hearing what your current customers think of your business.
- Never tell a potential customer that you don’t have a business card. In fact, everyone in your company should have a business card and should carry it on them at all times. As with all your marketing collateral, your business card should include your phone and fax numbers and Web site address. You never know when a casual conversation in the grocery store checkout line might turn into a selling opportunity, and scrambling for a scrap of paper to jot down your company name and phone number can be embarrassing. Chances are that scrap of paper will wind up in the waste basket instead of leading to a sale. Quite often, the person asking for your card isn’t asking for themselves but wants to pass it along to a friend or colleague who has need of your products or services. They’ll be much more likely to pass along your professional-looking business card than your handwritten information on a scrap of paper.
- You should avoid the temptation to overpromise or oversell your products and services. No matter how good they are, there are always limitations and denying that fact can lead to headaches down the road. Telling a prospect that you can’t satisfy their every wish doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose the sale. Some customers will ask for the moon, knowing all the while that their requests are unreasonable. Telling them you can deliver on such unreasonable requests may make them suspicious of your other claims about your business. In most cases, being honest about the limitations of your products and services will gain the customer’s trust and respect. In any case, it’s better to lose a sale than to gain a disgruntled customer.
The bottom line is this: Customers want the companies they do business with to be accessible, responsive, professional and honest. By following these simple tips, you’ll show prospective customers that you’re serious about your business. You’ll also show them that you care about their wants and needs, that you value their time and that you welcome their questions and input as a way to improve your products and services. By doing so, you’ll gain their trust and, in most cases, their patronage.