Zogby Analytics, a spin-off from the famous Zogby political polling firm, recently studied customer expectations online when purchasing significant products, services, or solutions.They came up with some interesting results. (http://www.slideshare.net/digitalinsurance/velocify-online-buyer-expectations)
For a start, look at what happens with the “contact us” section of virtually every website. The Zogby study found that 70% of business buyers have had business inquiries ignored. Responses often take a few days or fail to answer questions correctly. If you ask about bus service to Chancellorsville, you don’t want to be told that a company does not go to Charlottesville.
People do not like to have to say “please sir, take my money.” Business buyers do considerable research before they engage with your sales team. They already have some information, probably about other companies as well as yours. Roughly two-thirds of business buyers have spent three hours or more doing research. The same percentage has used mobile devices for at least some of their research. At least some of these buyers will use mobile devices for their inquiries. If your website cannot be clearly read on a mobile device as well as a laptop or desktop, fix your website.
Potential business buyers have usually checked out other firms — frequently three or more — so it is very much in your interest to send them a rapid answer. A majority want an answer within 24 hours. An overwhelming majority want a response within 48 hours.
Three-quarters of business survey respondents said the first company to respond has a sales advantage. Fewer than 2% thought being first would be a disadvantage. So, we can assume that there is a little disadvantage, and more potential, in responding to an inquiry quickly and accurately, setting the bar for the sale.
Answer their questions by the method or methods they prefer — ask them and listen to what they say — email, phone, mobile media, carrier pigeon, even snail mail. You can be persistent and send a follow-up response, but don’t overdo it. Spamming a person does not mean a company cares.
The business world is becoming more and more competitive. Sales are even more competitive. You have to convince customers not only to like your product but to like you and your company. A major part of effective sales is to relate your product or service to the client’s needs. You cannot relate to the client unless you communicate with the client, starting with a timely and accurate answer to the potential client’s initial inquiry. If you are selling something, a slow, inaccurate, or rude response is going to make the client wonder, “If this is what they are like before the sale, how will he or she be after the sale?” A polite, and quick, response, even if it does not earn the sale, leaves a good taste in the mouth of the potential client. They may seek you out in the future. They may comment favorably if a friend at another company asks about you. On the other hand, seeming not to care enough at least to answer initial questions is a very bad start to what you want to be a good business relationship.
As a seller, you have to adapt to the new world — of speed and of a lot of choices. Ticking off clients runs a major risk of losing the sale and tarnishing your brand. People are not going to want to beg you to take their money. Potential customers expect speed, courtesy, accuracy, and signs of interest in them from the start. Buyers are looking for partners, not just vendors and suppliers. Give them what they ask for.
Remember that you need customers more than they need you.