Keys to Connecting With Customers

Business Proverbs
by Steve Marr

When customers walk into your business, you will connect with them more effectively, and increase your sales, if you will observe the following keys to success:

First, recognize that most purchases are based on the buyer's emotions, not on an objective decision-making process. Yes, price, quality, and customer service matter, but emotional triggers will ultimately determine whether or not your customer buys. Improve your sales potential by creating an environment that matches your customers' expectations.

"Creating an environment" encompasses your decor and everything else your customers see, smell, touch, or experience in your store or offices. Evaluate your establishment from your customers' perspective, then match or exceed their expectations. If you don't know what they expect, start asking, either through a survey, focus group, or conversations.

Color coordination is an important environmental factor. Start with neutral colors and add decorating touches that match your customers' expectations for the type and style of business you have. For example, a law firm might choose a rich, conservative decor, establishing an ambiance of confidence and stability, whereas a health club might opt for a more "energetic" feel, with clean lines, bright colors, and graphics that convey a strong, visual message: "Join us in our physical success. You, too, could be in great shape."

Present a neat, clean appearance in every aspect of your business. Start by removing all clutter from the customer's view. Post-It notes, newspaper clippings, and handwritten notes taped to the wall send a message of confusion and disorder.

Another key bellwether is the cleanliness of your public restrooms. Sparkling fixtures and clean floors demonstrate that you care and that you follow through in every aspect of your business. Clogged toilets and grimy tile send just the opposite message. How do you feel when you're dining out and encounter a messy restroom?

Next, connect with every customer who enters your establishment. Train your sales associates to do more than simply ask, "Can I help you?" The answer is usually "no," which breaks the customer connection. Unless you have a mass-market business, engage your customers in polite conversation. Ask if they have visited you before and be prepared to mention a special for first-time customers--or lead them to your most popular merchandise. If they have shopped with you before, find out what they purchased and offer a special on similar merchandise.

Discover what is effective and develop a standard customer approach. Put it in writing and ask your salespeople to memorize and use the presentation. An informed sales associate, who understands how to connect with customers and knows your products, can triple your sales volume. Coach your sales staff in the proper techniques and watch your sales increase. Don't assume that each salesperson will catch on, or follow your lead. Keep training until everyone produces the maximum fruit.

Studies demonstrate that a customer's "buy" decision is formed within one to two minutes of interacting with a salesperson. The customer may need time to arrive at a conscious decision, but the die is largely cast within minutes of entering the store. The Lord told Isaiah, "Present your case, bring forth your strong arguments" (Isaiah 41:21 NASB) be ready to present your strongest case to your customers right up front.

Finally, thank your customers. In Luke 17, Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one came back to thank Him. Make sure that your "thank you" is genuine. Take a moment to look your customer in the eye and smile. Then offer to carry out the purchase, or otherwise extend yourself after the sale. If practical, consider offering "frequent customer" discounts. For example, you might give every tenth car wash or sandwich for free. We all like free stuff.

Improve your customer connection, and watch your sales grow.

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