Scott Kay is president of Modern Marketing Concepts (MMC). MMC’s most successful clients and business partners embrace technology changes in building products and understand they can transform their business by engaging in digital market reach. Visit mmcbuildingproducts.com.
To understand how to better market your services, you should first take a step back and challenge your perspective. While you sell your services, you should also consider the receiving end. Many dismiss this perspective, claiming that positivity and preparedness from customer satisfaction teams quell these concerns. Though these teams may intercept some problems, they are not enough. Relying too heavily on a customer satisfaction team is like preparing to fail—it’s a backup plan for when things go off the rails, so you know you can recover later. Going beyond what works best for you and understanding what works best for your customers is what proves transformative for true growth, no matter the company.
When you gauge customer service performance based on achieving satisfaction, you may be in trouble. Optimal satisfaction should be your target, and that means thinking beyond straight-line customer satisfaction and, instead, creating a more ideal customer experience. Many people hear the words “customer service” and think of consumer-packaged goods and retail experiences, but at the end of the day, each one of us is a consumer.
When one of your customers can have shoes overnighted from Zappos.com and then call them with a question, only to find out that the company will do anything to please them, that influences expectations all around. So, when that commercial property owner accepts bids on a job and some bidders are late, don’t answer their phones, or are difficult to schedule meetings with, you can imagine a customer’s quickly emerging frustration.
When customer experience is ignored for too long, a trend of disruption surfaces. And there isn’t just a threat of disruption in the market—it’s already happening. Disruption is driven by less than ideal customer experiences. When other aspects of your life become easier to resolve, you are less likely to stay settled in a system that no longer delivers on your needs.
Customers undergo this pattern in all facets of buying—from ordering a pizza without being put on hold to car shopping online without bickering and bartering, real estate becoming more digitally advanced and completing every bit of holiday shopping without setting foot in a crowded mall. Online wish lists, registries and automated grocery delivery continue to set a new precedence and level of convenience that are shortly followed by a new set of higher expectations.
So, why should a property owner work with one commercial services provider over another? Suddenly it’s not just about the product, service or even the price. If all else is equal, knowing you will have to “manage” one company less than another can become the deciding factor.
3 Disruptive Sales Opportunities
This is not bad news for your sales team. If you are the construction sales leader or business owner, you likely have several main concerns. Consider the following three ways this disruptive shift in the sales universe turns new expectations into opportunity for you.
- Reduction in cycle time—At its best, the traditional business model drives leads from manufacturers to contractors from customers making an inquiry on a website with little information about their true level of interest or position in the sales cycle. A lead could be someone in early exploration who wants to get on mailing lists, or someone who knows exactly what they want but needs installation services and bids. Chances are, they are seeking multiple quotes to compare in a bid process, so an email or callback is necessary to get their contact info and set up a time to visit and measure, plus a return to your office and another appointment set up for the bid presentation. You might be worn out just thinking about all the steps involved.
Instead, consider providing an option to request samples online and the ability to accurately measure your project needs, product visualization and pricing all before a potential client needs to speak with you—unless, of course, they request an in-person consultation. Think of all the time and coordination you save, allowing you to focus on details of in-progress jobs or those closer to being awarded.
- Reduction in cost—The above savings in time equates to a cost savings. You won’t need to invest time into a lead until you understand it is qualified by the actions they take online to invest their own time—an indication of their level of seriousness and placement in the sales funnel. And, quite frankly, many people would prefer to not interact with a person as long as the information they seek is readily available. This doesn’t mean wiping out the need for salespeople altogether, but rather better targeting their efforts for greater impact on your bottom line. Think of the savings in having your lead salesperson reach out via phone to two leads who are making final decisions versus five leads that you discover are just considering a project for the following year, exploring ideas for a commercial build or looking for samples.
- Represent your own business—Another ongoing problem is hiring a salesperson you can trust to represent your business the same way you would as an owner. As the process becomes more digital with the property owner in the driver’s seat, the marketing materials can be developed once using the specific language and tone you desire as a business leader. The level of interaction needed from a salesperson to close the sale reduces, as does the opportunity to overpromise or embellish details to earn a commission. If these benefits seem worthwhile to you, you may find yourself asking how to get there. The following tips will help.
- Meet with customers on their terms—Getting time on business calendars to sit down around the conference table is getting more and more difficult. With more pressure to manage more projects in less time, respond to business needs, payroll, HR and more, many business leaders are in the game of defending what little time—if any—they have left. Instead of shoehorning a meeting at traditional times, offer to fit into their schedules. Give them the visibility to your business, product offerings and options so they can explore your website. If you aren’t quite there with your website, work with your manufacturer partners to ensure your business is properly listed on their partner pages so you can be easily located. Make yourself available for calls, emails and instant messaging at their convenience instead of holding off conversations.
- Give them confidence and options—Today’s customers are well-informed. Chances are, before they have begun to look for a business to provide installation or other services, they have seen products or services at a trade show, read reviews online, talked to neighbors and friends and done a lot of digital window shopping. The next step is critical: If you can create a space that allows potential customers to feel like they have done their research, then give them the platform to review multiple options and decide what best fits their needs, they will keep moving full steam ahead. This typically means having good/better/best options in a variety of styles with performance differences clearly defined. Consider saving favorites in an account or have them sent to you for safe-keeping.
- Measure and price—Visualization tools are a huge benefit. Many companies offer a way to view the actual products on an installed visual. Those who combine visualization and measurement take it one step further down the sales and convenience funnel toward success. New technologies are already in play in the residential market and will soon transition to commercial. Some forward-thinking software programs let the homeowner take a few snapshots of their home and upload them. In return, they receive a 3-D rendering of their home with accurate measurements and the ability to visualize their product choices on the model. This is similar to the technology used in the past to measure commercial roof spans from above. These few minutes spent on a smartphone with a submit button accomplish the same thing as a salesperson hauling actual product samples to a residence, which you view while they walk around a home with a measuring tape and ladder. Instead of the back and forth from home to office, this allows clients to go online and toggle between options, view the associated pricing and see a 3-D rendering of their home with the products they choose. The same can be done for a commercial space, and it’s a race to the finish line to see what companies will help evolve the market with this technology first. This approach with a scaled rendering is an excellent way to make your commercial bid stand out.
Certainly not every business is able to employ all of the technology processes listed here, but every business owner needs to understand that this is where the market is quickly headed. Your sales process is no longer your process—customers own the experience, and you work for them. While virtual measurements may seem far-fetched, many of these technologies are already available as software packages or are in development with manufacturers. Businesses that don’t move to incorporate these types of solutions are going to quickly lose market share.
This does not mean the salesperson is being eliminated—you still need confidence and trust involved in closing the job. But technology does mean that you can get to the closing stage faster.
“It’s a natural extension of online research,” said Dale Thornberry, CEO at Remote Sales Force. Instead of meeting face-to-face, “Now the majority of customers who do their research online can also finalize their designs and make the purchases online.”
As a business owner, the more sales cycle tools you can get into consumer hands, the faster that cycle will move. If, for now, that means being responsive via email and replying during the evenings to close the loop, then it’s a step in the right direction. If you don’t, one of your competitors will.
Adopting tools such as these will help to differentiate your business from the competition. If you get on board early and embrace the change, your sales team and your customers will be one step closer to the closing the deal.
Get a More Social Approach
You already know your company’s customer service can make or break its reputation. If you aren’t already using social media to connect with current and potential new customers, start now. Establishing positive, active social media profiles for your company on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or other platforms could be the key to increasing leads from a market area you may not have otherwise reached. In Hubspot’s 2017 State of Inbound marketing report, 74 percent of survey respondents said they use Facebook for professional purposes.
The report (hubspot.com) also found that content consumption on Facebook has increased 57 percent over the past 2 years. In addition to being a good place to find new clients, LinkedIn is a great resource for marketing your company to potential new hires. Look for opportunities in which your company’s active presence on social media further establishes the organization as an industry leader.