There is one relatively easy way that you can distinguish your business's products or services: Do what you say you will do.
Sound simple? It is...and it isn't.
We're always tempted to embellish the features – or underestimate the time they will take. Erring on the side of caution is something smart business owners do, and then exceed their customers' expectations whenever possible.
It's important to be clear and factual in three aspects of your business: marketing, sales and customer service.
Good marketing does frame your product or service in the best possible light, but it also should be accurate. Customers do expect to get what you promised. Experiencing a bait-and-switch leaves a bad taste in their mouths.
We have trained ourselves to look for the asterisk (and the six-point font in italics buried at the bottom of the page) to try and find "the catch."
Here's something to consider: Online software packages often do a good job at visually showing what is and is not included in tiers of services, with short descriptive terms and check marks down a column of text. The basic level includes this, the next level includes the basic level PLUS "x." It's simple to understand with just a quick glance. Can your business do something like this?
You might want to consider explicitly spelling things out for people. Let them self-select if something is right for them or not. It's much better to have happy customers who choose your service knowing all of the relevant facts than to have one annoyed cus-tomer who challenges your employees and trolls you on social media and Yelp.
Sales professionals need to know what they can – and cannot – deliver. If you have built a rapport with the prospect and understand their problem, they will probably want to work with you.
Does the solution really solve their problem? Can you actually deliver it on time? If you are as honest as you can be with the facts you have, the customer will most likely be flexible.
If there is anyone who should not overpromise and under deliver, it's a sales represen-tative. Do you know that delivery dates are frequently missed? Add in a cushion of time. The client won't complain if their product arrives sooner – they'll be thrilled. However, if there is a delay, they may not be that understanding.
Also, if you don't know the answer to a prospect's question, go find out and then get back to the prospect with the correct information. Never wing it. Nothing annoys a client more than being told the wrong thing by a sales rep. This ties back to not having the right information to make an informed decision (see above).
At this point, the bar is set really low, and even average customer service can impress customers. Above average customer service can create raving fans who tell anyone who will listen about your company.
People are busy. Consider any technologies or processes that you can implement to get clients connected with the information they want or a customer service rep as soon as possible:
- Online reference. Have a FAQs (frequently asked questions) page that is written in plain English, so even a frustrated customer can understand it.
- Online chat. Many companies, even very small ones, have implemented a chat function to answer quick questions on the homepage of their website.
- Smart call queuing. Or, can you implement a call system that enables custom-ers to leave their phone numbers so you can call them back? This is a big im-provement over suffering through 20 minutes of hold music, and the customer will be less annoyed with the process. Any customer service rep will tell you that is a big plus and greatly improves not only their job satisfaction, but also custom-er satisfaction.
- Appropriate staffing. Have you ever walked into a bank and seen several em-ployees seemingly doing nothing when there is a long line waiting for a teller? Enough said.
Follow up on promises. If you say you are going to call back at a certain day or time, call back, even if you are just letting the customer know that you haven't heard back from someone yet. Your customer will be amazed (in a good way!).
As you can see, none of this is particularly difficult, but it will have a huge positive im-pact on your sales. Be clear on what your product or service can and cannot do. Give customers the facts and let them make the right decision for themselves and their busi-nesses. This will help you create a stable customer base that enables you to grow your business.
Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, a "recovering" investment banker, business advisor, entrepreneur and best-selling author of The Entrepreneur Equation. She also "plays herself on TV", as a reality TV show judge, media contributor and host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy. She's recognized internationally as a small business expert and has worked with startups to the biggest companies and brands in the world on everything from strategy to content creation and marketing to billions of dollars in capital raising and transactional work. She's been a public company director and invests in mid-stage companies as well.