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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

How Well Do You Convert Leads Into Sales?

Most of us have worked in a sales capacity; if not by title, then by need.  We’ve seen how difficult it is to uncover leads and how it’s even tougher to actually close on them.  We've found a study that documents the difficulty of lead discovery and quantifies how pitifully low conversion rates actually are.

A Broad and Objective Analysis

The study is from Implisit and was conducted in the business-to-business environment.  It offers more understanding of relative conversion-to-sales rates from various different lead-sources.  Based on input from nearly 500 US-based companies Implisit reports that:
Only 3.6% of leads from customer-referrals and employee-referrals convert to sales.  Imagine, 1,000 leads producing a paltry 36 closed sales!  However, 3.6% looks pretty hot when it's compared to conversion rates from other lead-sources.  Consider:

  • 1.6% for website leads
  • 1.5% for Facebook/Twitter/Social Media leads
  • 0.8% for advertising and marketing leads
  • 0.6% for trade show leads
  • 0.5% for webinar leads 

While discouraging, these closure rates probably aren’t a complete surprise. If you consider it further, the superiority of personal recommendations (referrals) shouldn't be a surprise at all.  We’ve previously cited research from Nielsen and other organizations to reinforce our belief in the power of personal communications versus institutional sources.  People simply trust other people!

There's No Hiding From the Numbers

Yes, Implisit gathered these numbers in a B-to-B environment. No doubt many consumer products enjoy higher close rates.  But even so if generating new sales weren’t so critical we might be tempted to ‘throw in the towel’ on the lot.  After all, the highest conversion rate is a measly 3.6%! 

Or, the Reality

The answer might just have to be one of generating a lot more leads - the most productive type of leads - those generated by customer and employee word of mouth.  Unfortunately, no matter how great your product or service, even the most loyal of customers usually don’t generate the level of word of mouth you deserve.  And strange as it seems, even those people whose paychecks are dependent on your company’s success (your employees) may not be of the mindset or have the total corporate picture needed to speak to their friends, neighbors, relatives or strangers about your brand.

Turning Customers (and Employees) Into Everyday Advocates

Positive word of mouth can be an incredibly powerful force in encouraging potential customer to consider and buy a brand, but it doesn’t easily happen without some facilitation.  Both customers and employees need a well-orchestrated word of mouth management program; one that provides them:

  • Motivation
  • Opportunity
  • Content
so they can effectively lobby for your brand.
Until such individuals are reminded of their connection to your brand they won’t be motivated to promote it.  This holds unless and until an incident or event occurs that provides them with an opportunity (and content) to share about your brand.  Unfortunately, most such opportunities are moments of failure; and the news that's disseminated about your brand is negative.
But we all have the chance to 'arm' our customers and employees with positive stories to tell; providing them both with opportunities and content.  And, the amazing truth?  It's all free!  Your everyday advocates are just waiting to be activated!
4:51 pm est          Comments

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Are Your Invoices Good 'Customer Ambassadors'?

What does your management think of when it comes to managing the customer experience? Their NPS score? Customer service? Tech support? Providing good value for the money?  How often do you think billing enters their minds?

Expand Your Thinking About Your Customers' Experience

If we accept that there are really a potentially large number of touchpoints that compose the total customer experience and together drive customer retention, customer loyalty, and the quality and quantity of word of mouth, then we also need to admit that our billing processes and instruments should be considered.  Done right billing may not win you loyalty, but done poorly it can surely weaken if not destroy relationships with existing customers.
A recent article on, by John Rampton, highlighted what he referred to as “Invoicing Etiquette”. It was addressed to small businesses, but the article offers a good reminder for all. We see too many organizations that fall victim to looking at things through an internal view - often historically derived.  This perspective causes them to lose sight of the fact that consciously and subconsciously every act and product of their organization will impact the financial future of their brand; either positively or negatively.  Acts and products far exceed those traditionally connected to customer satisfaction.  They range from how customer-facing staff is dressed, to how well they communicate their messages.  From the quality of packaging to the music or lack thereof played to calls on hold; all of these stimuli bombard the customer as s/he formulates an experiential 'picture' of your organization.  They're all part of the total customer experience you’re delivering to your customers and thereby potentially have positive or negative impact on the financial outcome for your brand.

Seven Rules to Strengthen Your Invoices' Customer-Winning Abilities

Rampton presents a creative view on how invoicing - when recognized as a valid component of the customer experience can be tailored to benefit the brand.  He offers a number of key points in handling invoicing/billing which we see as a way to make any customer experience more positive, so we build upon his framework below.

  1. Set terms up front and clearly list the services you offer - Of course your customers should know in advance what your service(s) will cost (at least approximately), and agree in advance to the process and timing for payment. Be sure to eliminate any 'surprises'. Those are the basics. But also be sure to list all the goods or services that you provided, as well as a reminder of any guarantees or warranties you may offer.  Manage evidence of the value you’re providing. 
  2. Create and stick to your policies - Once you set payment terms and timing, be consistent.  Don’t surprise your clients with things like fluctuating due dates or adding tax to one invoice but no tax to another.  If for some reason you must make a change, then inform them before sending the invoice. Even though it’s totally a financial action treat customers as professionally and considerately as you would like to be treated yourself
  3. Provide contact information - Don’t make anybody go searching for your contact information (address, email address or phone number). If there is a question or follow-up desired (or if the customer wants to buy something else), make sure it’s as easy as possible. Even a long-time customer may, on occasion, appreciate a reminder or need basic contact information.
  4. Make paying convenient - Every customer doesn’t do business the same way that you do. As much as possible offer multiple payment processes. Your accounting team may need a reminder that they are part of the customer experience. They’ll probably never come to the top of the list of key drivers of customer satisfaction or NPS. But your accounting/billing department will likely interact with customers and influence retention and word of mouth.
  5. Say “please” and “thank you” - Of course, your mom taught you that.  But how many times have you been told that billing is “just business, nothing personal” as common courtesies are disregarded. We look at it as part of a positive customer experience, but Rampton tells us it can have immediate bottom-line impact as well.  He reports that “a simple ‘please pay your invoice within’ or ‘thank you for your business’ can increase the percentage of invoices that are paid by more than five percent!”  Routine courtesy pays dividends.
  6. Politely follow-up - In Rampton’s words, “when a client doesn’t pay your invoice it’s your responsibility to follow-up with them immediately. While most invoicing software will send automatic payment reminders, there will be times when you’ll have to contact the client personally".  Invoice follow-up is probably no one's favorite activity, but the longer it goes in time, the tougher the interaction gets.  ”Instead of threatening or screaming at the top of your lungs, be professional and keep your composure". And, unless you decide it’s a customer you don’t want to retain in the future, remember even payment reminders and collection calls are still part to your total customer experience.
  7. Deliver invoices digitally, in-person and by mail - Customers, and accounts payable departments, still come in all shapes and sizes. Some customers prefer to receive and pay everything electronically and barely know how to handle paper documents nowadays. Yet, in the right circumstance, even a personally delivered bill might be viewed positively. If you are trying to improve your customer experience then the key is to listen to your customers’ preferences, and try to make bill-paying as convenient for them as possible. You may have to remind your financial folks that it’s the customer who ultimately pays their salary and their actions are influencing the likelihood of future business.
8:47 am est          Comments

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Customer Experience Partners, LLC
Measurement, Management, Optimization
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