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Ask the expert: Dermot McConkey, MD of sales training consultancy

Q.1: We work in a very tough economy at present. What should be my main objective for 2014?
A.1: Develop your existing customer relationships.

Good relationships are about time, listening and fun. How much time you spend with them, how much listening you do (market research) and how much you laugh together. They are the three gems in helping build and maintain ongoing relationships. How often have you spoken with your top customers in the past year? Most business people I meet complain about business, but do not keep in touch with their market by talking to them at least once per year. Make that a goal. Think about who you give your money to every day. How often have they asked you for feedback on their products and services … if ever?

Q.2: What is real customer care?

A.2: The best definition I’ve ever heard is: It’s what you do after you do what you are expected to do that counts! How do you do that at present? It’s frequently simple things like “thank you” that make the difference. Best tips for customer care: Do something you do not have to do. Do something that is not expected.

Q.3: What is the best letter you could send to a customer?

A.3: Write to them; include the following five essentials: ¦ Thank them for their continued support in the past challenging 12 months. ¦ Inform them of progress (improvements) you have made in the past year. Include details such as: new staff, products, marketing communication, new qualifications, tie-ups, etc. This reminds them they picked professionals/winners and made a good choice. ¦ Ask them for their advice on how your service could be improved. ¦ Advise them of your continued ongoing service and support in the future. ¦ Thank them sincerely once again.

Q.4: What do customers want? A.4: The latest research suggests that four things matter to a buyer — TMQQ — time, money, quality and quantity. Do your marketing messages cover these four influencing triggers? How do you make or save them time or money? How do you provide a different end product / service (quality). What extra (quantity) is included in the deal. Answer these questions well and you may win the business.

Q.5: What about sales development? How can I develop sales?

A.5: Seek to understand before being understood. If you and your staff communicate this way, you will be interesting to most prospects and customers. Listen your way to sales success. Make a minimum amount of outbound calls per day to your market. Train your staff to do this well. Keep in contact with people and they’ll have a contact in the business.

These are the un-asked questions a prospect has in his/her mind when they meet you for the first time or are considering doing business in your industry:

¦ I don’t know you.

¦ I don’t know your company.

¦ I don’t know your company’s typical customers.

¦ I don’t know your company’s products or services.

¦ I don’t know your business track record to date.

¦ I don’t know your reputation.

¦ I don’t know what you stand for.

Answer these questions in your face-to-face interactions or marketing material and you will increase the prospects of doing business.

Q.6: What about networking? Is this something I should be embracing?

A.6: A common goal in business today is to network — two or more businesses sharing customer information with a view to developing separate business for both (or more) parties while providing the joint customer base with a more streamlined “all in/one stop” service. If you go to a networking session/event, do one thing. Come away with an appointment to meet up with your target networkers. You will not do business by swapping information in five minutes with anyone. You need more time, to listen and laugh!

¦ Dermot McConkey is founder and MD of Dermot McConkey Development & Training Ltd, a business development and sales training consultancy.


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