As the actor Alec Baldwin's real estate salesman advised in that classic scene from Glengarry Glen Ross: “Always be closing.” "ABC" is now a popular saying in sales circles, and sales representatives who can bring in new business are prized by their organizations. After all, revenue is required to stay in business.
Today, however, the all-consuming goal of the close may not be as on point as it was a decade ago. Today, the customer experience is more important than ever, and businesses that fail to think about the entire process may miss out on initial or repeat sales.
What’s so special about the customer experience?
Consumers today can get the item or service they’re looking for from just about anywhere -- a local boutique, a big box store or an online giant. And with online, that purchase can be made from halfway across the country or across the world. Given the resulting increase in competition, more companies are looking for alternative ways to distinguish their brands. Focusing on customer experience is one way to do that.
When people make purchases today, they want that purchase to make them feel a certain way. They'll choose one grocery store over the other because the people there are "always so kind." They'll go to this fast food restaurant instead of that one because the counter people don’t look miserable in their jobs.
It’s not the product that influences these individuals’ decisions; the product may be roughly the same whatever the label. Instead, it’s the experience that makes the difference. Consumers may want to purchase a product, but they want to do it in an atmosphere, online or in-store, that makes them feel something positive.
And that's something that's relatively new: There was a time, after all, when experience was a luxury. People went to high-end boutiques -- and dropped a lot of cash -- because they were paying a premium for both the product and the boutiques' exceptional, rarified service. Today, people expect that same rarified service from every purchasing experience, whether the product is the latest fashion attire -- or life insurance.
Word-of-mouth marketing is still the most valuable tool.
In today’s world, business doesn’t necessarily come from a pitch or advertisement. In fact, word of mouth marketing is still considered the best, most valuable marketing tool that a company can use. That makes sense. Whom are you more likely to trust when it comes to buying a new coffee maker or razor: the salesperson who earns a commission? Or your best friend who has been using the product and raving about it on social media? Almost half of the millennial segment -- and one in three consumers overall -- say they are influenced by social media and use it to make purchasing decisions.
Companies that ignore these statistics, and still rely on the same tired old sales tactics, are not seeing the same results as before. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Repeating the same process over and over again and expecting different results?
The only word-of-mouth strategy you need starts with a good customer experience.
Any company that focuses on providing the best experience to each potential customer and existing customer has an opportunity to earn free marketing. Contented customers, and sometimes even contented prospects, can and will share their experiences with their communities. In our digital world, with our uber-savvy digital consumers, all a company needs to earn the curiosity of 100 or more friends and followers is one heartfelt post on social media.
It costs more to bring on a new customer than to keep one you already have, making that recommended focus on customer experience an effective strategy on many fronts.
Not only will companies keep down the costs associated with acquisition, they'll save on marketing. When organic “brand ambassadors” start talking about the brand experience online, all a company need do is continue to provide that same level of excellent customer experience to any prospect or existing customer who subsequently materializes.
Shifting the focus more to the customer experience doesn’t eradicate the sales function, but it does change a sales representative’s priorities. Instead of working hard to earn a sale, representatives may be able to merely answer questions and provide consumers with a knowledgeable, friendly experience.
The product and the overall experience are the deciding factors in the consumer’s decision, and chances are good that he or she has already made a choice by the time of that phone call or chat with a sales rep. By focusing on the customer experience, your company can make sure that that choice is to purchase.