How to Have More Productive Customer Conversations

In our last post, we introduced the four stages of the customer buying process: awareness, interest, evaluation, and conversion. We also explained that customers don’t typically move through the buying process by themselves. On the contrary, they have to be carefully “nurtured” from one stage to the next.

But how can businesses actually do this? The answer is simple: through deliberate, meaningful interactions between suppliers and customers.

There’s no set number of interactions a sales person will need to have with a customer before the customer is ready to buy. In some industries and with certain customers, it may be very few. Others may need much longer. And interactions can take multiple forms: a phone call, an email, a lunch at a restaurant.

Setting call objectives and expectations

There are two characteristics all customer interactions should share, however: the salesperson should have clear objectives for the sales call, and they should establish clear expectations of what will happen next.

Clear objectives mean that before making a call or sending an email, a salesperson should decide exactly what he or she wants to accomplish. It could be determining whether the potential customer is indeed a good fit for their company. In this case, the salesperson might ask questions based on the Customer Compass.

Another objective could be learning whether one’s company is the type of supplier the customer wants. To find out, the salesperson could ask what other suppliers the customer is currently using and what qualities they are looking for in a potential vendor.

During a phone call or face-to-face meeting, it can be tempting to become sidetracked by other topics. But if sales teams go into every encounter with a clearly defined goal, they’ll have more productive meetings that bring customers closer to a sale.

The second important characteristic of good customer interactions is to have clear steps the salesperson and customer agree will happen next. Oftentimes, next steps after a sales call are ambiguous. For instance, I have often heard salespeople say, “The meeting went well! The customer liked what I said and agreed to get back with me.”

Each time a salesperson ends a meeting or call with a customer, they should specify the activities they will undertake after the meeting. For example, rather than saying, “I’ll check in with you next week,” a sales person could say, “I’ll email you by Tuesday with the 18 model numbers we discussed. I’ll give you a call on Friday to go over any questions you have.”

Ideally, the agreement will include not just the next step, but the next two, three, or more steps. Proactively including the next several steps makes it easier for the customer to agree with those next steps in the future and helps shorten the time frame of the sale.

Maintain the momentum

There’s no magic formula when it comes to the timing and form of interactions with potential customers. It all depends on the way customers prefer to interact: some may be more comfortable using email, while others may like to speak by phone.

No matter what pattern a business chooses, the important thing to remember is that it’s up to the seller—not the potential buyer—to take initiative and keep reaching out.

Some businesses may turn out not to be ideal fits and may decide not to buy—and that’s okay. But the only way a company can find out which customers are good fits is to get in touch and be persistent. That’s the best way for businesses to turn prospects into customers.

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