This month the Construction Innovation Alliance is talking about pre-selling. We will be breaking the conversation down into four pieces: pre-selling to potential future customers, pre-selling to past customers, tips for effective pre-selling, and resources that can help you with pre-selling. Last week we defined pre-selling as, “the process of changing future customers behaviour to think of your business before they need to make the decision to purchase a product or service you provide” and we discussed the importance of delivering value and building trust when pre-selling. This week we are expanding our definition of pre-selling to talk about pre-selling to existing customers.
Our expanded definition of pre-selling is the process of changing current and future customers behaviour to think of your business before they need to make the decision to purchase a product or service you provide. Last week we spoke about pre-selling to potential future customers in terms of building relationships to get the first sale and this week we will discuss the importance of maintaining relationships to get repeat sales.
Maintaining relationships requires maintaining trust and continuously providing value. Current customers are looking to have high value contact with you, and some of the greatest value you can give them is to provide information about something they have already purchased from you without pushing them to purchase anything else right away. Providing information and not pushing for a sale right away continues to build trust with current customers because you are once again giving them something without attaching strings and are implying that you trust them to make the right decision for themselves.
So what information are current customers looking for? This is a great question, and the answer will vary slightly depending upon who your business sells to. Factors that can influence this answer include whether your business sells B2B or B2C, what industry your business is in, how large your business is, and how well known you and your business are. However, current customers will generally want to know about maintenance, upkeep, compatibility, or obsolescence of something they have already purchased from you.
Building upon last weeks example, homeowners who have hired your masonry company to repoint loose brick in the exterior walls of their house may not know that you also rebuild chimneys and fireplaces. Therefore, it might be a good idea to follow up six months after the completion of the original repointing work and inquire as to how its holding up. At that time, ask if the customer has noticed if any repointing of the chimney or fireplace is needed and send the customer information on how to maintain a chimney or fireplace. Again, include images that show customers what to look for and maybe insert a link to a short video that explains how the homeowner can determine whether or not they need chimney and fireplace work. This relevant, valuable, and unsolicited information can set you apart from your competitors by reminding your past customers of the value your company provides and continuing to build trust.
Your followup need not be product specific. It can also be service specific. If your company places a high value on customer experience, take an opportunity to remind current customers of that! Suppose that your company repointed a customers exterior walls and rebuilt the chimney, and you know the house has no fireplaces. What then? You can contact current customers with a request to review their experience in exchange for a credit towards future work.
Using last weeks example of, “‘making the customer a partner in the process,’” you can follow up with a customer in the winter months with a request for a testimonial or review. When you send them the request be sure to include things like your company’s mission, values, and service standards as context for your questions and as a reminder to your customer of how wonderful you are! Offering current customers a credit towards future work in exchange for their participation is just a nice way to highlight that your company is committed to improving the customer experience.
Right now some of you are thinking, “why would I give work credits away when trustedpros.ca, yelp, Google+, and other websites give me reviews for free? What more do I get out of soliciting reviews that is worth giving work credits for?” The answer is trust and specificity. Current customers trusted you enough to purchase one time but, does that guarantee that your relationship has been maintained sufficiently for them to purchase from you again? Why leave any doubt? As for specificity – there is value in collecting information on customer experience beyond maintaining relationships with current customers. This is an opportunity to be targeted in your approach to collecting feedback rather than passively accepting whatever information is volunteered online.
To summarize: we expanded our definition of pre-selling to the process of changing current and future customers behaviour to think of your business before they have a need to purchase a product or service you provide. Thinking of pre-selling to current customers in terms of maintaining relationships narrows the goals of your pre-selling efforts to maintaining trust and continuing to provide value. To gain trust and provide value to current customers you can educate them about the maintenance, upkeep, compatibility, or obsolescence of something they have already purchased from you. Or alternatively, you can solicit information about an aspect of your company’s service delivery. When you do this, be sure to include some information about a related product that the customer may need to stay top of mind.
Tune in next week when we discuss a case study in pre-selling, and please leave your comments and questions below. Good luck out there!