Are customers getting lost in your sales process?

Are customers getting lost in your sales process?

It always amazes me how many people expect me  (a customer) to jump through hoops for the privilege of giving them my money.

Utilities and government agencies are famous for this, but even small companies can be guilty as well.  I purchased an advertisement in a publication. The salesperson promised me a complimentary copy of the magazine (which seems reasonable, since I’m spending $300 a month!)

After completing the forms and information required to place the advertisement, (most of which he could have filled out himself because he had the information from our conversations) the sales person asked me to call the circulation department for my complimentary subscription. The subscription department sent me yet another form to fill out and fax back, consisting mainly of information I had already provided on the telephone to the salesperson  in one set of forms to purchase the ad.

None of these forms were online, (the only option was to print them, write on them,and fax them back)  and none were prefilled with information I’d already provided to the magazine. I spent more time and effort than I had intended just for the privilege of purchasing a service.

Jay Levinson’s classic book Guerilla Marketing lists as Rule Number Eight –  You must aim to run your firm in a way that makes it convenient for your customers.

This has always been important, but customers’ expectations have been rising over the years because of excellent companies like Zappos and Disney which flatten their competition by going above and beyond, anticipating customers’ needs and providing related services easily and conveniently.

Walk through your sales process as if you were a customer. Better yet, get a friend or colleague from outside your business to actually buy something online, in your store, or over the phone. You may think that your process is perfectly sensible and may be resistant to change things that would be a hassle for you, because your “software doesn’t do that” or your “system doesn’t work that way” but your customers don’t care about your software or your systems.   They expect you to make it work and they don’t care how.  What is convenient for your customers is often inconvenient for you, the business owner.

Successful companies will spend the time, energy and money to make their process convenient for customers.

Ideally, a company should not require a customer to provide the same information more than once, and should allow that customer to provide it in whatever method is most convenient. If you offer the option to take information by phone, fax, or email, you cover a wide range of folks, including those that do most of their business on an iPhone at the airport, those that have a (possibly justifiable) fear of providing confidential information by email, and those that don’t have a fax machine.

Convenience for customers depends on the  intersection between marketing, sales and customer service – which can be complicated in larger organizations, and expensive in small ones. But without considering the convenience factor, you could be wasting your marketing efforts. In the current economic environment, customers will give up at the first sign of complexity or difficulty and buy from someone else, because they can.

After the sale, your product should be easy to use. You can provide better service and additional sales by anticipating ancillary needs for accessories, refills or related services and conveniently providing these things  your customers need them.