Three Strategies to Get Customers to Say ‘Yes’

August 12, 2008 - 11:54

Sales teams at small companies are often outmanned or outspent by larger competitors. Whether it’s expensive seats at sports and entertainment events or just more staff and newer technology, bigger businesses seem to have an advantage when it comes to closing the sale. Here’s a look at how three smaller organizations were able to get the customer to “sign on the dotted line”

#1 Company: Tooling machine manufacturer

Problem: Custom tooling — where machines are manufactured one at a time to customers’ specifications — has taken on increased importance for domestic tooling firms. The small, 55-person firm lacked resources to follow up on every sales lead it received through its website. The site contained just basic information about the company’s products. The firm needed to respond quickly and easily show prospective clients the broad capabilities and high quality of their products online.

Solution: Working with an information provider and website developer for industrial companies, the firm completed a website overhaul that included a design tool that allows prospective clients to create a custom drawing of the product they wanted built. Customers then submit the drawing for a price quote. The need for multiple customer-service contacts to gain or understand specifications was greatly reduced or eliminated. Eighty percent of the prospective clients creating a custom design ended up purchasing the tool, and overall sales are up more than 20 percent.

#2 Company: Digital distribution and marketing firm

Problem: This firm works with artists, producers, photographers and directors to sell ringtones, images, and music and video downloads. Contracts sent to clients by e-mail in word processing format were often lost or misplaced. Multiple faxing took a long time, and when signatures were needed from different parties in multiple cities, some signatures were often missing.

Solution: The company began using an electronic- signature and document management service. Here’s how it works: Once a contract is prepared, you log into your EchoSign account, enter e-mail addresses of all the clients and their representatives, upload the document and click send. When all the signatures are obtained, everyone receives a legally binding copy. Processing time was cut from three weeks to two days. The company is now signing 300 agreements a year, up from 75, and they attribute 40 percent of sales to the new system.

#3 Company: Database administration service

Problem: The sales staff repeatedly had trouble closing the sale. Executives attributed this to a client’s lack of trust in a new vendor providing a new system to manage their data. Most potential clients were accustomed to using local vendors or in-house employees to manage their databases. The CEO said that trust plays a key role because clients paid to put their important and proprietary information in the hands of a third party. The company could only afford so many relationship-building “perks” and usually ended up being outspent by larger competitors.

Solution: A few years ago, the company CEO, who went to culinary school, invited a potential client to a class he taught at a local cooking school. The client ended up signing the contract shortly after the experience. Afterward, the CEO realized the classes helped the potential client feel comfortable and trust him in a nonwork environment, a key ingredient for a long-term relationship.

Now, the CEO invites prospects to the classes he teaches once a month at world-food emporium. Sometimes he even invites potential clients to his house for a private cooking lesson. All this builds a personal relationship and lets the client see another side of the people in charge. “I wouldn’t have signed the contract if I wasn’t confident in their system,” says one client who attended the class. “But if things go wrong and your databases are down, you have to trust the people that are going to respond to your needs. That dinner helped win that trust.”

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