How Helping Others Can Help Your Business Grow

Martin Hansen-Lennox

Published Tue 21 Oct by Martin Hansen-Lennox in Marketing More Effectively

With sales spiel more and more out of fashion, how can you grow your business and sell your products without being pushy? This article shows you how...

‘Today’s successful business owners are using a new strategy for selling. And it’s based on helping first, and generating revenue second’ - Derek Halpern, Social Triggers

The traditional way of selling is dying out, especially online. The hard sell, where people are cajoled, threatened even, into buying products or services, is becoming a thing of the past. Consumers are so tired of cold calling, charity workers parading along our high streets trying to sign us up using emotional blackmail, and pop-up advertisements flashing at us when we go online, that it’s no wonder. 

How Can the Hard Sell Damage Your Business' Reputation?

  • Being pushy and using underhand tactics to trick people into buying can backfire. People do not like to be told what to do. They like to be encouraged, not bullied
  • Lying and deceiving potential customers - making promises that things are free to lure people in is all well and good, but not following through on this can damage your reputation and undo any trust you have managed to build up. Nobody likes to feel that they have been taken in / duped, and people will associate this uncomfortable feeling with you and your business if this is the tack you choose to take
  • Word of mouth spreads like wildfire - it’s well known that if people are unhappy with service they have received from a company, they are more likely to tell someone else about it than if they have received good service. Unfortunately, bad news spreads fast! 'People are twice as likely to talk about bad customer service experiences than they are to talk about good experiences' - 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer
  • Making wild promises that you have no intention of fulfilling is bad for business - if you can’t follow through on something, it is probably not worth making the promise in the first place
  • Starting off nicey nicey then turning to the dark side - this is one thing in particular that is a turn-off for potential new customers. Customers are more likely to respond well to people who come across as genuine. It's a good consumer experience if the sales person you are talking to lets you make your own decisions without pressure, and maintains their positive regard for you even when you decide not to go through with the purchase. Who knows, when your circumstances change, you may change your mind about the product or service, and then they're your first choice to go back to
  • Cold calling and unsolicited marketing is one of the major bugbears of modern society - as well as annoying potential customers, its effectiveness is seriously dwindling

Practical Guidance

Helping out your customers and potential customers doesn’t always have to incur high costs to you and your business. It can be as simple as giving a bit of your time or rolling out special offers to those who qualify (such as those who tell someone else about your product or service and give you a good recommendation).

Building up recommendations as an expert in your field can help your reputation and forge a loyal customer base. But as with many things online, this can take time. Here are some practical steps you can take to help your target audience:

  • Offering a free half hour consultation - if this is genuinely free, with no ties or obligations, people are more likely to trust you. Luring people in with a promise of something free then charging them for it at the end can really damage your reputation. It might be tempting to do the free consultation then immediately bombard them afterwards with a whole load of marketing material, but our advice would be easy does it. Remember that people like to be encouraged, not bullied. If they feel obligated or intimidated they may never come back. A softly softly approach is more positive for all concerned
  • Being generous with your knowledge - offering free advice sessions once a month can get you in touch with a wider audience - these can be face to face or even in webinar form if your target audience is not local
  • Building and writing a blog on your website - a blog is a great way of offering something genuinely useful for free. The whole ethos of the blog is about knowledge-sharing. It’s interactive and focuses on your readers. Addressing your readers in a friendly, yet not over-familiar way can help build up a meaningful interaction with them over time and they will begin to trust you and look forward to your practical advice
  •  Offering free product samples - everyone loves something for free and this great feeling will be associated in potential customers’ minds with you and your business. You could even go one step further and offer free samples for them and a friend if they recommend you
  • Asking questions on social media to find out what your target audience needs - this shows a genuine interest in your audience. What questions do they need answering? What gaps do they have in their knowledge? Seek to address these in your website’s blog, on your social media posts and generally in your products and services, and you’re onto a winner
  • Recommending others - If people are seeking a product that isn’t in your range, it might seem counterproductive to recommend other companies. However, recommending other providers, even if they are your competitors, can actually have a positive effect on the way these potential customers will see you. If they’re happy with your recommendation, they will probably tell others about your generous spirit in helping them. There’s something to love about people with no ulterior motive. Show you’re honest and generous and potential customers are more likely to go back to you when they want your particular product or service in the future
  • Providing A1 customer service - unhappy customers are highly unlikely to come back. A staggering 89% of consumers report having stopped doing business with companies because of bad customer service (RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report). Customer service covers anything from the way you and your staff address potential customers, either in person or over the phone, to your returns policy and delivery costs. Getting this right and showing that you’re there to help your customers is worth its weight in gold. As the quote above shows, only 11% of people would consider going back to a company that offered bad customer service. Work on this and people are much more likely to not only buy from you in the first place, but recommend you and come back another time. Loyalty is something that is still strong, even in this day and age of short attention spans, because essentially we are creatures of habit!
  • Transparent pricing, especially when it comes to costs that are often hidden, such as booking fees, delivery charges and mail order returns, is something that is greatly appreciated by customers. Just look at the anger Ryanair invoked in their customers when they hiked up prices advertised as bargains with numerous add-ons that were obligatory...
  • Providing helpful product descriptions - both on your website and in your printed material. As our recent article Attracting Buyers with Your Product Descriptions highlighted, product descriptions that are detailed and focus on benefits help your customers find exactly what they’re looking for: 'if the user cannot find the product, then the user cannot buy it’ Amy Schade, NNG. Helping your browsers every step of the way during their purchasing journey will not only make them feel good about their purchase, but will mean they are more likely to do business with you, both now and in the future
  • Helplines that do help - customers appreciate access to a landline number that is low cost, where someone actually answers the phone! We’ve all experienced helplines that don’t actually help very much! It is one of the most frustrating experiences possible as a consumer. In a 2013 UK study of things that drove us mad, a staggering 47% of those questioned said that being put on hold frustrated them the most. Avoid this by providing good customer service, preferably with a human being to answer the phone and talk to customers. It’s also a good idea to provide, on your website, more than one option of getting in touch, so you won’t be overwhelmed with phone calls. Giving out an email address, using contact forms on your website that are quick and easy to use, and being open and quick to respond to enquiries / comments via social media, are all ways of reducing the need for so many calls, as is providing clear and sound content on your website 
  • Offering technical support - with some products and services, the relationship with your customer is not finished the minute they buy and take home your product. Making it easy for them to get in touch with you to get help when they’re learning how to use your product, is always greatly appreciated by customers. A little bit of your time can go a long way

I hope this article has helped you and given you some ideas about how to avoid putting off potential customers by the hard-sell, and instead attracting them naturally with the genuine offer of help. Please leave your comments below to let us know if you've tried any of these tips, and how it has worked for you. 

Got a question? We'd love to hear from you on our ask an expert page!

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