Every business looks for ways to improve sales productivity. The key lies with your existing customers. Successful entrepreneurs certainly think so. Find out what Howard Schultz and others do to keep customers.

Do you want to know how to improve sales performance?

Of course you do. Every business owner does. Higher sales means more revenue, which fuels growth and later successes.

The problem is that many people think that their strategies to improve sales productivity should focus on new customers.

That isn’t the case.

Authors Emmett C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy point this out in their book, Leading on the Edge of Chaos.

According to them, 20% of your company’s current customers generate 80% of your profits.

80%. That’s a huge number.

It’s also something that the world’s leading entrepreneurs and business leaders understand. Howard Schultz, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson all prioritise the customer experience. That’s because they know that creating happy customers is how to increase sales in an organisation.

Along with other business leaders, they have some advice for those looking to improve sales techniques.

 

Howard Schultz – Have Shared Values

Customers today identify with your company’s brand more than ever. The internet and social media offer them so much information about your company and its mission. If you don’t share your customers’ values, you lose them.

Starbucks founder Howard Schultz recognises this.

He says: “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

That concept of brand loyalty is how you improve sales techniques in the modern business environment. When customers share your company’s values, they connect to what you’re doing on a deep level. They keep coming back because they know that your competitors don’t offer that level of synergy.

Here’s what this means in practical terms. Know what your customers want and align your business to meet those needs. It’s not just the product that’s important. How your business conducts itself and the values it holds are just as influential.

 

Steve Jobs – Inform Your Customers

An uninformed customer is an unhappy customer.

At least that’s what Steve Jobs said. The former head of Apple, Jobs led a resurgence that led to the company becoming a leader in the tech sector. Apple also has a customer retention rate of 87%. Once somebody chooses Apple, they’re likely to stick with them for years.

Jobs put this down to how the company informs customers of what they want.

“Get closer than ever to your customers,” he said. “So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”

Here’s what he meant. Customers often don’t know how much an innovation benefits them until they have it in their hands. This means they may not even latch onto the exciting new product you’ve created.

Apple’s philosophy is to create something new, and then inform the customer. Tell them why they need it and you position your brand as one that’s always serving customers.

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Ross Perot – Listen to Your Customers

A former business magnate and billionaire, Ross Perot is also a former United States presidential candidate.

He says: “Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.”

This is especially important in the social media age. Your existing customers are the best source of information you have for finding out what’s wrong with your company. They’re the people who’ve used your products and services. As a result, they’re the people who are best placed to pass judgement on what you do.

Listen to what your customers have to say. Increasing sales productivity and performance starts with knowing what the customer wants. Use your social media channels to communicate directly with the people that your business serves.

 

Jeff Bezos – Don’t Stagnate

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos constantly looks for ways to improve sales techniques. Each year, he releases a letter to shareholders offering information about Amazon’s policies in this respect.

Bezos places great importance on customer service as a means of retention.

He says: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

Here’s what he’s saying. Being satisfied with “good enough” does not serve your business. As soon as your competition offers something better, you lose brand loyalty. Customers migrate to the competition, which affects your bottom line.

It’s all about improving the customer experience in any way that you can. If you don’t strive to improve, you become what Bezos refers to as a Day 2 company. This is a business that’s declining towards an eventual total failure.

 

Bill Gates – Pay Attention to the Negative

The co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates is one of the world’s most successful businesspeople. He’s held the title of world’s richest person at various points throughout the years. Gates also believes that the customer experience is key to retention.

Gates keeps it simple when he says: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Catering to your happiest customers isn’t one of the best ways to improve sales productivity. It’s important, but you lose sight of where your company could improve if you don’t listen to negative customer feedback.

Your customers want you to recognise that they have a voice. Most importantly, they want you to take action when they tell you about something that they don’t like. Don’t block out the negative. It’s usually the best way to find out how to improve sales performance with existing customers.

 

JC Penney – Be Your Customer’s Friend

Retail magnate JC Penney built his store’s reputation on the service it provides to customers. He believed that friendly service creates a personal connection that encourages people to come back.

“Every great business is built on friendship,” he said.

Here’s what he’s saying. Having a relationship with your customers isn’t enough. It’s the personal experience that really counts. Customers want to feel like your business cares about them as people, rather than as a source of income.

Modern technologies offer you the opportunity for greater personalisation. For example, a customer relationship management (CRM) system allows you to store information. Your business can use this to send personalised emails and messages that show you care about what the customer wants.

In doing so, you find one of the ways to improve sales productivity. Your business helps the customer find things that they need based on your previous interactions with them.

This also extends to your customer service. Nobody wants to talk to a faceless machine when they have a problem. A simple friendly voice on the other end of the phone can be enough to show customers that you care.

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Tony Alessandra – Don’t Rely on Your Pricing and Products

The author of The Platinum Rule, Tony Alessandra wrote about strategies to improve sales productivity.

He says: “Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.”

It’s a simple point. Matching your competitors doesn’t lead to customer loyalty. It just shows your customers that they can go elsewhere as soon as you don’t satisfy their needs.

It’s not just the quality of your products or the price attached to them that creates loyalty. How you make customers feel when they interact with your business influences their loyalty.

 

Jeffrey Gitomer – It’s a Long-Term Process

Sales coach and author Jeffrey Gitomer also focuses on the relationship between business and customer. He stresses patience as how to improve sales performance to existing customers.

“You don’t earn loyalty in a day. You earn loyalty day-by-day,” he says.

Think about any relationship in your life and you’ll recognise the truth in this quote.

Customer loyalty is not something you can expect to earn instantly. It comes as a result of meeting or exceeding a consistent standard.

It takes patience. You need only make one mistake to send your customers elsewhere. Carefully consider any move that may impact your relationships with your customers.

 

Shep Hyken – Satisfaction Isn’t Loyalty

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert who’s written several books on the subject. His book, The Amazement Revolution, focuses on how keeping customers amazed is the key to winning their loyalty.

He says: “There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer.”

So, what is that difference?

A satisfied customer is one who received your service and got what they expected.

That’s not bad, but it’s not great either.

A loyal customer is one who sees that you go above and beyond whenever you provide your service. That’s a customer who’s going to come back for more.

 

Nelson Boswell and Richard Branson – Exceed Expectations

Author Nelson Boswell’s books offer in-depth advice on how to get as much as possible out of life. His writing examines everything from personal to career issues.

It’s in talking about business that Boswell hits upon a simple way to improve sales techniques to existing customers.

“Here is a powerful yet simple rule. Always give people more than they expect to get,” he says.

This ties in with Jeff Bezos’ earlier advice, but Boswell takes things a step further. Don’t just improve customer service in-line with the customer’s expectations. Instead, do everything that you can to offer more than the customer expects.

This creates the feeling that the customer gets more than they pay for when they use your service. They come back for more, and often bring new customers with them.

Virgin founder Richard Branson agrees with this point. He says “The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.”

 

Conclusion

Here’s what you can learn from these entrepreneurs and business advisors. Meeting customer expectations isn’t how you improve sales techniques. Customers want you to wow them with your service and show them what they missed when using a competitor.

In the end, offering quality service is one of the best ways to improve sales productivity. You give existing customers a reason to stick with you. Plus, you encourage them to talk about you to others. As a result, your customer retention strategy doesn’t just keep existing customers on board. It helps you to attract new customers too.