We are all connected. “Look up at the stars, they are the same ones I see”, is a go-to saying to folks when we have to be separated by miles. Connecting to one another is built into our core programming. All romances ultimately revolve around affirmation and acknowledgement. We thrive when we are reminded we are not alone.
“Can you see me?”
“Am I awesome?”
“Yes, yes you are.”
Done! Happily ever after.
I get it, you are overwhelmed. The word traction has been burnt into your mind. You must get traction to prove your idea should live. Traction means real people using and ideally paying for your product. The vision for the perfect product often becomes blinding. The trenches of managing the product makes it difficult to see the world in which your potential users live. Entrepreneurs become bogged down with distractions. Motivation becomes centered around the product vision.
1. Re-Define Your Customer by Giving Them Back a Human Identity
- Listen to your customers
- Learn from them
- Encourage yourself and your team to engage them
Then, only then can you attach numbers and analytics to them. Think of your leads as customers instead of numbers. Treat them like customers, customers you already have. Use the numbers and the data to better serve them. Give them the best experience possible and they will be more than traction. They will trust you. Look up to you. Those customers will be your evangelists.
Have a doctor’s mindset: Stop thinking like a salesperson. Instead, think like a doctor. When a patient walks into a doctor’s office with a problem, does the doctor state her solution at the beginning of the visit? No way. Instead, the doctor spends time examining the problem, asking questions and then, only when she’s confident she has the right answers, does she offer a solution. Apply this same approach to your selling.” – by Marc Wayshak, Entrepreneur.com
Invest in a quality contact management system. I have seen it done well in Excel, Highrise and Salesforce. Choose a system that works best for you. Record interactions with customers giving a seamless experience to the customer no matter which person on staff they work with. An impressive extra that startups have been adding is asking customers for a list of folks on their staff who are A-OK to talk with about their account. One startup even has their own, “safeword” (their word, not mine). That way instead of Samantha, your customer service gal, asking for your customer’s account number, she will ask them for their name. If their name isn’t in your contact management system then you ask for the business email address and safeword. If the person doesn’t know the special key phrase only certain aspects of the account can be managed. Need a link to how to export to Quickbooks? Sure thing, here yah go. Need to change the business email address over the phone? We care about your account. Please go through this secure process.
2. Treat Online Leads like You Met Them in Person
The smile, introduction, shake of the hand, exchange of business cards, the glance over the information on the card and small talk afterward is all part of the courtship of networking. Online, these exchanges are expedited, often stripping away that precious first interaction. Customers deserve two excellent experiences: the conversion page and the first interaction with your staff.
Tools like Olark, an online chat client allow your customer service, sales and marketing folks real-time interaction with customers. Find out where the customer came from, (referring URL), their location, and even what page they are currently viewing. Tons of excellent information over and beyond what you might get in person. You are now empowered to give that customer a fantastic in-person-like experience online! Spend that extra moment to virtually shake their hand. Ask them questions, answer questions and share like you would in person. Guess what? You can even ask them if it’s okay to follow-up with them. Let them know when and who will contact them.
Engaging people this way will help you:
- Deliver a consistent friendly brand experience
- Give a connoisseur experience to the website
- Answer questions from leads faster
- Deliver cleaner leads to your sales staff
- Warm up qualified leads and give sales staff conversation topics
- Filter non-leads like potential partnerships, job seekers and recruiters appropriately
- Reduce your general inbox inquiries
Oh conversion, it’s such a rush. However, this isn’t a game of Whack a Mole: you are nurturing leads and developing a relationship. Ever heard of a Lean Marriage? Every entrepreneur wants to lead their customers down the aisle to happily ever after as easily and quickly as possible. Well, buddy, this isn’t Vegas. Tools like surveys, usability studies, customer case studies and customer testimonials are all great ways to develop love maps with your customers. These are leads: folks who have just begun to get to know your business. Your product is looking shiny and they have been tricked before. Gaining trust means listening, asking questions and appreciating the person’s time.
“People want to talk about themselves and their problems. All you have to do is ask. The closer you are to someone’s pain, the more they will want to talk about it. Remember the golden ratio; you were born with two ears and one mouth. Use them in proportion. The more you listen, and ask, the more you will learn about customer need.” – by Chikodi Chima, PR Tips for Startups
Listening more might need to happen in person. Explaining to a Hero developer to leave the lair and attend a Meetup group event can be quite the task. Three hours away from coding? Yes. This will be time well spent. Trust me! In person conversations are excellent for testing out product pitches and they are even better at asking questions, listening to customer problems and sympathizing. Invest the time in careful listening without expectation of a credit cards being handed over (but bring your Square reader just in case).
Remember your product and business are ultimately going to be judged on these three factors:
- Does the product or service understand my needs?
- Can it meet my needs?
- Is it qualified to do so?
I dream in data, give thanks to all my automation tools, and delight in seeing revenue numbers go up. I couldn’t savor those things unless I got there with a strong foundation: folks that supported the startups I have been involved in and customers who stood up for our brands by sharing their experience and referring us to their friends. This all happened from giving leads their well deserved human identity, a fantastic experience online (or in person) and taking the time to really listen to them. Time perfectly spent.