I’ve been lucky enough to have worked virtually, on-and-off, for the past 16 years. I’m in the office more often than not these days, but I’m still incredibly grateful to work for a company that trusts me enough to choose where I work.
My longest stint of remote work has been here at Batchbook, which began as a completely virtual company seven years ago, when everyone on the team worked from their homes (or cafes, or co-working spaces, or at the library). Since then we’ve learned a lot about what makes remote working both successful and challenging. The things we’ve learned have been mostly human in nature, not technical, so while there are a ton of great tools out there to help remote workers stay efficient and connected, what we’ve been practicing – and need to still practice more of – falls into three, largely-non-technical categories: communication, collaboration, and trust.
Remote work at Batchbook is as diverse as our team’s needs. We have four always-remote people and five mostly-remote people. The rest of us either work remotely one-day-a-week or just when we want or need to. There’s a big difference between someone who can come into the office once a week and someone who’s not sure exactly when they’ll be in next. It’s harder to gauge how always-remote folks are doing – whether they’re happy, feeling like part of the team, or in a rut. When they’re not around the office you don’t pick up on verbal or physical clues.
Know what makes it hard
Being aware of the disadvantages of distance is a good start. Take it to the next step by scheduling regular check-ins that aren’t specifically related to deliverables. Use this time to see how your remote colleague is doing. Are they stuck on anything in particular? Are they feeling connected to the team? Are they clear on the company’s current goals and direction? Do they have concerns or questions about anything? Getting into the habit of checking in with those you don’t see that often will remind you that they’re part of the team and, like their less-remote colleagues, need regular, personal, and thoughtful attention and interaction.
If you are getting good engagement from your blog, newsletter and social sites, but are not seeing the results on your bottom line, you may be unaligned on your sales efforts. Just like you would go to a chiropractor for alignment issues in your spine, you’ll need to address this issue in your business. We can help!
Sales Goes Beyond Marketing
Many people confuse sales with marketing. Marketing is the effort you make to get the word out about your product or service. It is the advertising, the networking, the blog posting, the social media contests, etc.
Sales includes this marketing effort, but also involves the many other steps that go into determining what is being purchased, processing the transaction, delivering it to your customer and making sure they spend a lifetime pleased with their purchase. These efforts are just as important to the health of your business and should get equal, if not more attention than your marketing efforts.
Many small businesses spend the vast majority of their resources “getting the word out” with their marketing efforts, and very little time considering the thought and effort that should go into the other phases of the sales process.
This is a guest post from Emma Siemasko. She is a Boston-based writer and small business owner. She’s the content marketing specialist at Grasshopper and the founder of Frog2Prince, an online dating consultancy. Connect with Emma at @emmafayes.
“Provide great customer service” and “customers are the key to success”– How many times have you heard these phrases?
If you’re like most small business owners, you hear them all the time. The phrases are followed by stats:
89% of customers have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service. [RightNow Technologies]
It takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative experience. [Parature]
70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. [McKinsey]
Yeah, yeah, you’ve seen these numbers before. You already know it’s important to provide great customer service, but how do you actually do it? Well, you can start by learning how to pick up the phone. CEOs, sales teams, and customer service reps are constantly messing up when they get calls (just look at those numbers!), so get an edge on the competition by giving excellent service each and every time the phone rings.
Simply avoid these 5 common mistakes:
Mistake #1: You don’t have a plan
Do you have a simple, go-to plan your employees can always use when answering the phone? Having a plan allows you to answer calls consistently with the same greeting (“Hi! You’ve reached Hershey’s, How can I help you?”) and provide the same support, no matter the customer. Draw out plans for what happens when you have an unhappy customer, come up with a list of “never say” phrases, and prepare whoever will be answering the phone with a short handbook. Here are a few “never say” phrases that’ll enrage the customer rather than calm them down:
We’d like to celebrate this week of love and heartfelt huggery with some creativity, charisma and extra yummy chocolate. We will be collecting stories of creative kindnesses that small businesses show their customers. Fun thank you gifts, a customer name on a bourbon barrel, chocolate sketches on a food plate; these are some of the ideas we have found roaming around the web. But we need more! We’re out to set a Valentine’s day record for the most small business love that can fit into one blog post.
We’ll be publishing ideas as part of our Doing Sales Right: The Small Business Guide to Customer Happiness in the “Making Friends” section. And as a special treat to anyone who shares their special treat stories with us, we’ll be sending out some Rocky Rhode Island (it’s a yummy chocolate treat, not the dirty snow piled outside our windows).
We need your help!
Please send us stories of any fun gifts, kind gestures or above-and-beyond services that you have given or received from a favorite small business. Even small acts of kindness can go a long way in inspiring others on ways they can show their customers some love, too. So don’t be shy. Share the love!
How to share:
- E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “We Heart Customers”
- Tweet me @pamohara with the hashtag #weheartcustomers
- Share a link in the comments below
- Go crazy – send me a Valentine <3
Please help us search the web for more stories of customer kindness. We can never have enough love in our small business world!
Follow Batchbook’s board We Heart Customers on Pinterest.
Okay, we get it. You are a free-wheeling, creative-thinking, world-changing entrepreneur. Your business is awesome, customers like your product, and yes, sales are coming in. And all this is happening without any real sales plan written down. If this is you, first of all, kudos. Secondly, don’t neglect the importance of a plan when it comes to truly making your customers happy and managing the growth of your business.
“I Want to Sell More”
A lot of “sales plans” consist of little more than this noble aspiration. But, as we point out in our guide to Doing Sales Right, you need to know important details like how much more you want to sell and who you want to sell to and is the customer happy after the sale? A big part of your sales plan is deciding and working towards your business goals, both in the near future and the far off someday.
Goals are great, because they help you be more focused. They give you something to measure against. They help you answer the question, is this working? So, start right there. What are your sales goals? Do you want to sell 1,000 more units per month, book 3 more consulting gigs this year, or what? Once you know that, you can start to figure out the how.
Your Sales Plan is Your Path to Success
We can all be a little more successful when it comes to sales. It’s one area of your business that you can devote effort to and see real improvements. So the question is, if you really can improve your sales, why wouldn’t you? Here are a few things having a good sales plan can help you with:
- Putting in measurements to find out which sales tactics are working best
- Making the sales process easier on your customers
- Finding more of the right types of leads to follow up with
- Hitting follow up out of the park by staying engaged and helpful
- Bringing to the surface the little things that go a long way toward customer happiness
You know that sales person — the quota guy or the commission girl — the one who thinks you want to talk to a stranger about refinancing your mortgage at 9:00 pm on a Friday night. Or the one who adds you to all 13 weekly email lists their company sends out just because you bought a new laptop from them.
They work for a big business. Not that there’s anything wrong with big businesses. They keep a lot of giant, important gears turning in our world. But these armed forces of shareholder value have taken sales to a ridiculously aggressive level.
Sales for the Rest of Us
This kind of selling sometimes gives the rest of us a bad taste. A lot of small business owners aren’t in love with this idea of sales. They don’t want to count phone calls and bang on shut doors. What small businesses want is to connect to the right people and show them how their lives can be improved by becoming a customer.
We are in the second camp when it comes to sales. And we thought it was time to pull together some useful advice on sales for small businesses. Let the big guys obsess over their quotas. Your job as a small business is to sell your awesome product or service, and to have you and your customer both feel good about it.
Free Sales Guide for Your Small Business
Today we are launching Doing Sales Right: A Small Business Guide to Customer Happiness. The entire Batchbook team, from product managers to onboarding specialists to the communications team have developed this straight forward guide to setting up your own customer-centric sales process. We’ve included step-by-step process suggestions, examples of what other businesses are doing and some tips on how to avoid being that pushy sales team.
We’ve got a new partner to introduce you to. Updentity has just completed their Batchbook integration and we’re very excited about it!
It can be hard to keep your contacts’ information up to date.
- 34% of Americans Create a New Email Address Each Year
- 18% of All Phone Numbers Change Each Year
- 11% of All Addresses Change Annually
- 1% of People Pass Away Annually
- 86% of Women Change Names When Married
The Updentity Batchbook integration allows you to seamlessly update and fill-in missing information for both the people and companies you store in Batchbook. Updentity provides fresher, more complete data by regularly updating contact and demographic info using online resources and third-party sources.
You can learn about the integration over on the Updentity site. They also have a Free Residential Address Updates Promotion available until 2/28/14, if you’d like to give them a try.
The contact form is one of the most overlooked forms in all the land. Well, okay, that might be a bit dramatic, and since I work for a form company, my bias to all-things-forms is obvious. But I do think that the contact form is an incredibly under-utilized lead generation opportunity. It’s often regarded as the simple little thing people tuck away on their “Contact Us” page, left to linger on the internet, lonely, collecting virtual dust.
Well, I am here to dust that bad boy off and give you three places you could be using that oft-forgotten form to generate new sales opportunities.
1. Offline Networking
In the age of smartphones and instant connections, contact forms should be shining bright. I have a simple (and mobile optimized!) contact form on my phone that I pull up anytime I meet someone at a networking event. It’s always right after they say “Do you have a card?” The form has three fields: first name, last name, and email address. I put the contact’s information in the form, and my confirmation email goes directly to them as soon as I hit Submit. The email has a little note and my contact information. Boom! No business cards, no hassle. And, if you are really smart, you can pass that contact info to your CRM.
Over at CMS Wire they have a really cute infographic about customer service during the holidays, but the stats aren’t cute at all.
74% of the respondents in the survey believe that contacting customer service is more of a hassle during the year-end holidays than at any other time of the year. 37% percent said they’d rather eat last year’s stale fruitcake than contact customer service during the holidays.
Sure, it’s kind of a funny statistic, but what it’s really saying is that there is some room for improvement for the holiday customer experience. So here are some tips to help your business shine during this busy season.
Empower Your Team
If you haven’t already seen this video from Canadian airline WestJet, take 5 minutes and give it a look. As much as the customers enjoyed this holiday surprise, the WestJet employees really seem to be the winners here. Imagine how much fun they had pulling this off. (more…)
Knowledge is power. Knowledge of your customer. Knowledge of their needs. Knowledge of their habits and desires and beliefs. As important as building the right widget or service to meet their needs, is building the right process for finding those who will benefit from your product and selling it to them.
Today we are releasing a new set of sales tools in Batchbook to help you better develop and manage the right sales process for your business. We’ve made it super simple to create a process for turning your interested visitors into paying customers and long term champions.
The new deals tab in Batchbook will let you:
- Easily work through your sales process – Easily sort deals based on assignments. Quickly preview action needed, contact your customer and update the deal stage from one screen.
- Customize your sales stages – Create your own custom deals stages based on the steps involved in marketing and selling your product or service to your customers. Update that process as you learn more about what is working and what isn’t.
- Categorize different deal types – Create your own categories for the different services you offer, versions of your product or distribution channels. No matter what you are selling and who you are selling it to, you can easily set up different strategies that will work for you.
- Create your own territories – Create your own territories and track all deals based on those areas. Whether you distribute opportunities to your sales team based on locations, or just need to track different currencies across your sales region, you can use custom territories to track locations that make sense to you.
- Manage sales from your phone – The new deals tab is designed for mobile first. All features available in the web version are also available across all smartphones including searching, viewing, updating, quick calling and mapping customer locations.
- Involve everyone at your company in the sales process. The owner, partners, business development, front desk, support team. Everyone is part of the customer conversations, so make sure everyone is sharing their conversations and notes in Batchbook. Unlimited users means everyone can be involved for the same low price.
Get a Glimpse of the New Sales Tools
As with the rest of Batchbook, we have made the new Deals feature extremely customizable. Creating the right process for yourself and your team is a very important and an ongoing process. Below are a few screenshots of the easy customization and deal flow in the new Batchbook Deals feature.