The traditional sales model entails a salesperson calling or talking to a customer to tout the benefits of buying a particular product or service. Today, that paradigm has shifted thanks to online research and savvy buyers who already know some aspects of a company's brand. Customer education has replaced the sales pitch as the new norm.
Rather than merely showing a product's best features, companies today should focus on telling customers how a product or service benefits them. Salespeople balance a line between customer service and marketing as part of the overall customer experience. Defining the best customer education protocols results in customer loyalty and increased profits in a contemporary Internet-based sales environment.
Consumers want to buy, and they want to research the most relevant information possible. That information includes getting price quotes for services. While some large companies with huge marketing teams can afford to place labels on their websites that say "Call for Quote," smaller businesses should display clear-cut pricing information to show customers exactly what kind of value they get for their money.
Customer education includes providing information on pricing, delivery dates, warranties and provisions for follow-up customer service. Buyers want to have this information in hand before they speak directly with sales professionals. A restaurant menu should show pricing of each dish; a day spa brochure should include the cost of each service offered.
Companies stand to benefit by admitting to customers that people have preconceived notions of their brands. Customer education doesn't start when someone calls for extra information; the customer experience begins long before the first contact with a sales rep. Product websites, reviews, social media posts and consumer forums — not to mention banner ads and television commercials — all serve to educate the customer before the first personal contact.
One way to enhance sales revolves around having a better all-around customer interaction during a service call. For instance, a front-line clerk notices the consumer has a company plan with certain services. Fortunately for the company, a new plan just became available that costs less money but provides the same services. An inbound service center clerk can suggest the new plan as a marketing tool, educating the customer while making a subtle sales pitch. A viable customer interaction occurs simultaneously with a sales agenda, even though the customer may not perceive it as a sales pitch.
Companies that invest in sales must also recognize that customer service affects repeat business. Businesses earn brand loyalty after the sale. Lower prices on products or services don't matter to angry, irate customers who have been treated poorly by customer service staff. Firms must be mindful of the effect customer support has on the customer's experience with a brand. These experiences can create positive or negative feelings associated with the company that, in turn, affect revenue streams.
Customer education relies on data analysis, but also on the art of the sale. Selling no longer hinges on convincing someone that a product or service is the best in the industry, but rather on how a business says it helps improve someone's quality of life.
Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net