Ask Customers This

Sometimes, assumptions can hold our businesses down. I have come to recognize at least one assumption that often keeps businesses from selling more to their existing customers. The benefit of escaping that assumption can mean increasing your revenue by ten to twenty percent—or more. 

Ask Customers This in 2018

The assumption is that your customers—even the loyal, longtime ones—know all of the things you offer.

Why wouldn’t they? I mean, how long has your average customer been doing business with you? We are all creatures of our comfort zones. Your customers might be quite comfortable in what they buy from you today, how they have dealt with you in the past, and how they have come to think of you over time.

Yet haven’t your offerings expanded over time?

I recently spoke at the annual conference of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA). Many of the members own and manage businesses that deliver water, coffee, snacks, and the like to home and office customers. Over the years, these businesses have evolved to sell an ever-growing list of products. In my conversations, I consistently heard that product lists have grown by twenty to forty percent during the past few years. That puts pressure on salespeople, route drivers, and account managers to keep up. The difficult truth is that your colleagues might not fully understand the breadth of your offerings. If that is the case, then your customers certainly won’t know.

A friend once led a national fast-casual restaurant chain. She told me, “Jim, when I began, more employees knew how to apply for time off than knew everything on our menu.” She started a policy so that everyone—from the front lines to the back office—knew everything that customers could buy.

She wasn’t alone in that industry. The restaurant consulting group Aaron Allen & Associates advises that teams “should study the menu regularly and take verbal tests to see if they are ready to sell popular, profitable items…they should know the menu inside and out, and be able to answer questions about how dishes are prepared, which are most popular, and common allergens or dietary restrictions about each item.”

This gap doesn’t just exist in the beverage or restaurant world. Alex Goldfayn is a fellow consultant and speaker. He works with sales teams at small- to mid-sized private companies—manufacturers, distributers, retailers, and service providers–on ways to build revenue. Alex asks his clients a pointed question: What percentage of all your products and services is your average customer aware of?

Give that a moment. What do you imagine the answer is for your business? Across many years and a large client base, Alex reports that the average response is twenty-five percent. That’s pretty close to what I heard from IBWA members as well.

Note that this isn’t a question of knowing specific details about products or services—just their availability and how they help the customers who buy them. The implication is that your customers might know and understand less than half of what you do. The good news is there is a simple way to address that.

Here’s the question to ask your customers on a regular basis: “Did you know we also do X?” (Of course, X is an additional product or service you believe would help your customer.)

That means you probably need to lead two steps. The first step is making sure all of your team members are fully versed in all of the things customers can buy from you. The second step is to encourage everyone to ask the “Did you know…” question on a consistent basis.

Not all of your customers will immediately buy more from you. But imagine the impact of bumping what Alex calls your “awareness percentage” by ten or fifteen percentage points. This doesn’t even take into account your plans to attract new customers next year.

This might be the most simple and practical jump-start to your revenue goals.

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