Transforming Prospects Into Customers

Book excerpt: The right customer-focused processes help generate referrals and convert leads to sales.

"Think about connecting what your business does, who it services, what value it brings, and ultimately why someone would refer you, with what feels authentic to you," writes John Jantsch in The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself. "You can't really expect much in the way of referrals if you don't believe in your referral strategy 100 percent. And you won't if it's not authentic."

In this excerpt from The Referral Engine, Jantsch explains why many businesses have unique processes that play a significant role in attracting prospects and converting them to customers:

The secret sauce: TIHWDIH

There are seven words that the most widely referred businesses use as a way to free themselves and their people to perform in a manner that can provide the customer with the best possible experience. Those words are: "This is how we do it here."

Those words, uttered in many a selling situation, can keep you from promising something you can't deliver or cutting your prices on demand.

Of course, it's not just the words, it's actually following through on them. Every small business is constrained by its ability to deliver the goods with limited resources. The best way to do that is to get very good at a set of proven processes and then stick to them as though your life depended upon it.

Widely referred businesses always have a special way of doing it that plays a key role in attracting and converting the right leads, properly orienting new customers, doing the work and shipping the product, and then following through to make certain a customer is happy.

The first place you might start saying TIHWDIH is during the selling process. When the prospect starts the sales call off with a round of pointed questions and pronouncements of just what it is they need, stop them and suggest that you would like to walk them through a process that you've found can help them uncover the value of working together, or not, head-on and that you would like to engage them in that process. (That's code for TIHWDIH.)

I'm not saying that there is never a time to bend and fl ex as new opportunities arise. Rather, that without your own stated processes for excellence you will get pushed and shoved more than bent and flexed. Sticking with your proven delivery mechanisms will help you avoid taking business that you know you shouldn't take. Your processes are the filter for identifying ideal customers. (If a prospect won't sit still for your needs analysis, that might be a red flag.)

For example, in a consulting environment, it's generally a good idea to state very clearly up front the level of participation the client must commit to, the documents and reports you'll need access to, and how the flow of meetings and communication should work. If a client waffles here, things will go downhill fast.

I've worked with software programmers who tell me it's commonplace in their industry for projects to never be completed because a business-development person is so eager to get the business that the scope of the project is never nailed down. This can apply to window cleaners, plumbers, and remodelers as well. Too often a prospect wants you to jump in your truck and come out and bid a job just so they can find the lowest price. This is fine, but you're not the lowest price, you do special work, carry proper insurance and licenses, and pay your people well. A sales process that stops the customer long enough to appreciate those differences is essential. This approach won't appeal to every potential customer, but you're not looking for every potential customer; you're looking for ideal customers who appreciate the extra care and attention you bring to every project.

Your processes will ensure that everyone in the organization is delivering the same message, experience, and brand. Remember this: A seemingly great opportunity that pushes you outside of your proven processes often costs far more to deliver, and may even cause you to take you eye off of serving your core ideal customer.

Demonstrating that you actually have proven processes can be very alluring to prospects. Too many small businesses pitching their wares these days are making promises right and left but falling down when it actually comes to delivering on those promises. Your ten-step needs discovery process will automatically set you apart from the pack and will likely lead to the ability to raise your prices.

All of these processes, or touch points, exist as intentional ways to assure customer satisfaction for the widely referred business, but there's always some secret sauce that really makes them stand out.

What's the one way you do business, package your products and services, engage customers, audit for problems, or create a path to the final results about which you can confidently state, "This is how we do it here."

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About the Author: John Jantsch is a marketing and digital technology coach and author of Duct Tape Marketing.

Excerpted from The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself by John Jantsch by arrangement with Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright 2010 by John Jantsch.