In a recent Gallup poll, sales professionals were ranked lower on honesty than Congress. This exemplifies why consumers are increasingly looking to their peers, rather than companies, “gurus,” and experts for advice on what to buy, eat, listen to, read and watch. Amazon, for example, can attribute much of their success to mission-critical consumer reviews—raw peer-to-peer interaction that carries an enormous amount of weight in the hearts and minds of wary consumers.
As more people participate and contribute to social media, consumers are getting savvier by the day. The companies that thrive in this extreme vetting environment are the ones who boast salesmen who don’t actually sell!
Over two million success and marketing books are published each year, and most of them are fluffy and useless. When added to the thousands of marketing articles that also come out annually, there is a ton of information to sort through to the point of information overload. This as online entrepreneurs and business owners face a tremendous number of obstacles when it comes to marketing their Internet-based companies. I know because I’ve been through them all and, in working through these adversities, I have developed a precise methodology to achieve long-term online marketing success.
As examples, here are three methods you can use right now to shorten your sales process and start to close sales without actually selling:
1. Garner reviews on both your website and third party websites that you do not control (Ex. Yelp, the BBB, and Google Business Pages)
From my experience, people have an aversion to asking for reviews from customers. It is an uncomfortable part of the conversation if not handled correctly. There is a right way and a wrong way to do it. The most critical key is timing. The best time to ask for a review is after the service is complete and the customer is entirely satisfied and happy with the product or service. So how to do know when that is?. From my experience, customers appreciate the question and it and shows to them that you care about their happiness. After they have confirmed they are happy is the time to ask for a review. There is no need to be pushy about it. Plant the seed and let them know you will send them an email with a link to where they can post their feedback. It is as simple as saying, “is it alright if I send you a feedback email?” After the customer confirms, you have a commitment.
When sending the feedback request email, include a link directly to the URL where the customer can post a review. We want to make it as easy as possible for the customer.
It is best to get feedback on your website first because it is feedback that you control and have the option not to make public. If the customer provides a 5-star review on your review system, then email them again with the exact comment they posted, and include links to 3rd party sites like Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, and Google Business.
2. Leverage your online reputation for building trust with potential customers
If you have garnered reviews on your website and third-party websites you are halfway there. It pains me to see companies with great reviews not make them visible on their sites. I think people consider it a form of bragging to display reviews. It is certainly not. From my testing, I have found that the last thing a customer does before making a purchase is a Google search for your company name followed by “reviews” or “complaints.” People want to verify that you run an honest business.
I have found that displaying links to third-party review sites on your website shortens the sales process. People do not need to spend time searching your company online or contacting references. Potential customers know that you value your reputation. By leveraging your online reputation, you have built trust and conveyed accountability. This is the cornerstone of becoming a salesman who doesn’t sell.
3. Delegate, systematize, and automate the sales process so you can shorten the sales process and sell while you sleep
You have built up reviews and have them prominently displayed on your website. To keep the reviews coming in it is vital to make obtaining 5-star reviews a company-wide initiative that you can delegate. We have all our salespeople, and customer service representatives ask customers to leave feedback. We have found it helps to incentivize employees with bonuses tied to their reviews.
Reviews are a big part of shortening the sales process, though there are other sticking points. Make your frequently asked questions and terms and conditions visible to potential customers. As potential customers flow through your sales funnel, systematically answer their questions and concerns. What is your return policy? What is the time frame for delivery and shipping costs? Who do I contact for problems? Offer a way to make the purchase risk free by offering a free trial or money back guaranty.
To further lessen the resources needed in the sales process, automate as much as possible. Email software such as Active Campaign can send out an automated drip of emails. Tie into shipping carriers such as UPS, FedEx, and the USPS to automatically email tracking codes. Upload sales data to QuickBooks accounting software. Utilize a ticketing system like ZenDesk to answer customer service requests. There is a multitude of software solutions available to businesses to make conducting business more manageable.
Establishing an online reputation is like building up assets that produce dividends. Every time you contribute to your assets, you are building a foundation that will continue to bring in revenue for the long haul. I have two golden rules. The first is to treat your customers with the same quality of service that you would like to receive, and the second is that happy employees mean happy customers. With these fundamental concepts, businesses can build lean enterprises that will serve their customers, employees, and profits in the most successful manner.
Brian J. Greenberg has founded companies in e-commerce, marketing, and financial services. He has generated over 50 million in revenue from his businesses, collected over 10,000 reviews and testimonials from customers, been named one of the most creative people in financial services, and has been called “The Salesman Who Doesn’t