What makes some people willing to pay five bucks for a cup of coffee when they can get one across the street for 85 cents? Why do they make reservations at a favorite hotel without even asking the price? Or put themselves on a waiting list for a car when a roomier, faster – and less expensive – model is sitting on the lot with a big “Buy Me” sign behind the windshield?
Sure, the coffee is strong, the beds are soft and the car looks good. But they aren’t that much better than their competition.
Passionate customer loyalty isn’t just about features, benefits and price. It’s about the customer’s experience. As a salesperson, you can manage your customers’ experience to create this passion.
The big payoff
When you do, the payoffs are enormous. Devoted customers not only forgive you when you make a mistake, but help you correct the problem. They don’t just recommend you; they actively promote you to their friends. They defend you when others criticize you.
Sales consultant Chip Bell conducted interviews with many organizations that earn this high degree of loyalty from customers. From this research, he’s identified five key principles that you can use to create exceptional experiences for your own customers:
1. Reduce uncertainty. Consistency soothes the soul. Inconsistency creates anxiety, even when service is otherwise pretty good. For example, which of these provides a better customer experience: an airline whose flights arrive on time 90% of the time, or one whose planes always arrive 20 minutes to an hour late?
Surprisingly, it might be the second one. If customers know the planes are always late, they factor that into their planning. Customers who count on a plane’s timely arrival may get left in a lurch – and end up frustrated and angry.
The lesson isn’t to run late, of course. It’s about consistency and expectations. Customers know that problems come up and will forgive you for things you can’t control. But they won’t forgive the uncertainty of not knowing. So if your customer’s waiting on a critical delivery and there’s an ice storm in Memphis, communicate early and often about the status.
2. Be real, be clear. Be upfront about your own objectives. Loyalty is built on trust, and we trust one another when we see that motives are genuine. For example, don’t be afraid to acknowledge that you have a financial interest in a sale. In fact, bring it up first. Buyers know you’re not offering them charity and they certainly don’t expect it. Your honesty builds trust.
Crystal-clear communication also builds trust with customers. It tells them, “This is exactly what I’m willing to commit to.” Fuzzy communication sounds evasive and can create false expectations.
3. Share the passion. Good salespeople rightly focus on the buyer’s personal experience. They want each customer to feel they’re the most important person in the world. But that’s only part of the equation.
Passion also comes from shared experiences. You may be more comfortable watching the game on TV in your living room. But it’s not the same as elbowing your way through the bleachers. Look for ways to turn individual experiences into group experiences. For example, introduce customers to one another. Or encourage them to bring colleagues along to a plant tour or product demonstration.
4. Engage their curiosity. The compulsion to learn is hard-wired into our DNA. When you can create “teachable moments,” you strike a deep chord. For example, one manufacturer urged its salespeople to show customers how its “commodity” product was made. Sales increased dramatically.
5. Find a unique appeal. Look for something unique that calls attention to the customer’s experience, identifies it as unusual and leaves a positive emotional afterglow. Ask: “What can I do that’s not just better, but different?” One company, for example, booked a seminar in a newly rebuilt local landmark, giving customers a behind-the-scenes look at the renovations. It was a small detail – but it left a lasting impression on customers who’d been curious about the unique venue.
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