For most integration firms, returning customers play a huge role in bringing in revenue.
Loyal customers contribute to a company’s bottom line and establish firms as trustworthy, knowledgeable and reliable.
But how do companies turn a new customer into a loyal customer, especially in an ever-evolving industry where integrators’ roles are changing along with customers’ needs?
At NSCA’s 2017 Business & Leadership Conference in Chandler, Ariz., Bob Lobascio, CTS, James Kane, behavioral scientist and expert on loyalty, Michael Shinn, director of global managed services, Verrex, and Jay Myers, CEO of Interactive Solutions discussed what it takes to develop true customer loyalty in the integration industry.
Death of a Sales Hero
When it comes to building loyal customers, “trust is at the forefront,” said Lobascio.
So how does an integrator earn trust? Think outside the traditional sales strategy box. IT directors are now customers’ key decision makers, so integrators need to be able to identify what an IT director needs from them, and it’s likely different than what decision-makers needed in the past.
“If you’re selling stuff, you’re going to lose. Relationships matter more than anything else.”
“The days of the sales hero may be over,” said Myers. “Be a resource to answer technical questions and be of value to them. How can you make their life and job easier? Dig deep to create that value.”
Making connections with customers is a big step towards finding a deeper understanding of what decision-makers need from your firm, but that insight won’t be gained with a simple phone call.
“The phone is less popular,” said Shinn. “You have to earn trust in other ways. The most successful relationship we’ve had all came out of being able to identify with the customer and become an extension of their organization. We met [the customer’s] cultural needs and desires.”
Commercial Integrator is NSCA’s media partner for its 19th annual Business & Leadership Conference. Find continuous coverage here.
Integrators need to hang up the phone and connect with their customers in different ways. This includes extending communication to in-person meetings by attending industry conferences and public events. When phone calls or emails are required to build on customer relationships, it’s important integrators bring more than a sales pitch to the conversation.
“The customer’s personality has evolved,” said Shinn. “Assess how you’re communicating with customers. Some [customers] may be more analytical and want more technical answers than back in the facility manager days. Successful salespeople have a level of technical understanding that is much deeper than the industry needed 10 years ago.”
Building Relationships Is the New Sales Pitch
Getting to know your customer on a deeper level starts with building relationships.
“If you’re selling stuff, you’re going to lose. Relationships matter more than anything else,” said Kane.
Kane suggested going beyond speaking with customers’ IT departments and finding ways to speak with their CEOs, CFOs and other key players in their companies. AV firms can do this by selling differently.
“Swap discounts for one meeting with the top guys,” said Kane. “The meeting is valuable to you, not the discount. [Now] you’ve basically bought the meeting.”
Swapping “selling” methods to “buy” clients’ time enables integrators to provide a direct, clear message to important people within clients’ businesses and eliminates the opportunity for messages to get muddied when filtered through IT departments.
Beyond making connections with various personnel within a client’s business, integrators can bring value to clients by showing strength in numbers.
“Show teamwork. Bring in other coworkers so you’re not just one person representing the value of the company,” said Myers.
“A good relationship salesman will have a job forever.”
“Technicians and project managers are salespeople, too,” added Shinn. “They represent the organization and convince [clients] your firm did a good job.” According to Shinn, working with your team to build relationships with clients develops loyalty and trust.
In order to solve customers’ various challenges, integrators need to make the relationship with the client the number one priority, and ditch typical sales tactics.
“A good relationship salesman will have a job forever,” said Myers.