Improve your sales follow-up sales process

Improving your sales follow-up process is one of the simplest and most efficient ways to increase sales conversions.

Many small businesses and entrepreneurs often find themselves too busy running a business to follow up on sales proposals and leads. While some customers will be easy to convert, others may need more than one meeting, email or conversation to progress them from a ‘prospect’ to a ‘client’ in your sales pipeline. This constant follow-up process can be perceived as an unnecessary drain of time – but it shouldn’t be!

A study by Brevet revealed that 80% of sales require an average of five follow-ups. However, 44% of businesses only follow up once, and 94% follow up four times before giving up.

So, why do some people need so much convincing? The common misconception is they’re not interested. However, the more likely barrier echoes your own business challenges: they’re busy too. Decision makers have a lot of conflicting priorities and different demands for their time. According to Harvard Business Review, professionals have, on average, over 200 emails in their inbox at any time.

Many business owners and salespeople fear the follow-up stage of the sales process because they worry it annoys the prospect. Some people also don’t like to hear the word ‘NO’. However, this can be a gift, as a definitive answer means you can cross it off your list and divert energy to another prospect.

Here are five ways to improve your sales follow-up approach and increase your sales conversions.

 

1. Change your mindset

Following up on sales quotes and proposals is the simplest way to increase sales conversions. You’ve already put in all the hard work; it would be a shame to let all the potential go to waste because you didn’t send a few simple emails or made a telephone call.

Remember, you’re not following up with your prospect to spam them, annoy them, or pressure them into making a purchase. Instead, see this process as part of building a relationship, and you’re being persistent because you have a solution that can help fulfil a need.

 

2. Vary your approach

When people are busy, certain platforms (such as email) may become overloaded, and you may need to look at things differently to break through the noise.

If you’ve phoned a few times, perhaps follow up with an email or WhatsApp message. Alternatively, you can try ‘popping in’ on your way to another meeting or message your prospect on LinkedIn.

We’re not suggesting you bombard prospects. However, different people may respond better on alternative platforms. Varying your approach will help you understand which platform they are more likely to respond to you through.

 

3. Space it out

Decision-making processes can vary widely. Therefore, ensure you understand your client’s timescales and plan your follow-ups accordingly.

For example, on shorter timescales, when there is a looming deadline, it might be appropriate to follow up a couple of times within a week. However, following up frequently may be annoying if the process is longer.

Don’t be afraid to ask the prospect the best time to arrange a follow-up call, meeting or email. Once agreed, make sure it’s in your diary and follow through. Fulfilling these simple agreements will help demonstrate trust and reliability.

 

4. Provide value with each follow-up

The hard sell doesn’t work anymore. Instead, try and use each follow-up to build your relationship with your prospect. Even if they choose not to buy from you this time, keeping the relationship strong will increase the likelihood of them considering you in the future.

With each sales follow-up, try and add more value. You don’t need to continually focus on the sale; vary your approach and instead focus on building a relationship. Try:

  • Asking them about certain aspects of their business (use your notes from your initial sales meeting)
  • Send them a link to a relevant blog or news article
  • Send relevant case studies
  • Notify them of an upcoming sale

Remember that “value” does not have to be financial. You need to ensure that you are offering something useful to the prospect each time you speak.

 

5. Know when to stop

At a certain point, you will need to stop your sales follow-up process if you’re hitting a brick wall; continuing may seem pushy and aggressive. But, ultimately, unanswered contact can be a waste of resources. Know when it’s time to move on.

There is nothing to stop you from adding the contact into a ‘lapsed prospect’ list and occasionally updating them on relevant offers or services in the future. However, ensure enough time has lapsed before you reestablish contact. You can use your marketing intelligence to determine an appropriate time, for example, at the end of a typical contract length.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help creating a sales follow-up process and converting more sales, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Building a Successful Sales Pipeline

The sales pipeline, or sales board, is a set of defined stages that a prospect moves through to become a customer.

An effective sales pipeline allows you to track the progress of sales opportunities and ensures you take each prospect on the best possible journey to maximise conversion. Keeping track of prospects also means you shouldn’t forget to follow up on leads, and it allows you to ‘qualify’ or prioritise opportunities.

If you want to increase sales and profits, you need a sales pipeline.

 

Do you have a sales pipeline or sales list?

It’s common for the sales pipeline to be confused with a list of prospective contacts. Although a contacts list is valuable information, it isn’t the best way to manage sales opportunities.

Here’s a quick test to see if you have a pipeline or a list of people you’re trying to sell to:

Right now, without opening more than one spreadsheet, document or app, you should be able to answer these simple questions:

  1. How many new prospects do you have?
  2. How many quotes are with clients?
  3. What’s the value of your last quote?
  4. How many days until you need to follow up on your latest quote?

If you can’t answer each of these questions with a number, you need to re-evaluate your sales pipeline.

 

How to create a sales pipeline

When creating your pipeline, we recommend you start by looking at the stages you went through to secure your last successful sale.

The structure of a sales pipeline can differ from company to company, but here are some typical stages:

  1. 1st Contact. This is the initial exchange of information; this could happen via a referral, a phone call or a meeting.
  2. Appointment. This is where you set time aside to understand their needs and outline your solution. This could be via a phone call, an online meeting or face-to-face.
  3. ProposalAt this stage, you outline the solution that best fits the prospect’s need and the cost.
  4. Follow-up. You should always follow up on each proposal. Sometimes, it may take several attempts to close the sale. Keeping on top of your follow up schedule will keep your pipeline live and useful.
  5. Sale (Close). This is where the final negotiations are made, and contracts are signed. The prospect is now a customer.

After you’ve written down the stages you need to make a sale, talk it through with someone who knows your business. They can help fill in any gaps or remove any unnecessary steps.

You may find that there are steps you want to add based on your sales experience. For example, you may like to send some introductory marketing between 1st contact and appointment, or your business may typically need two meetings before you can deliver a proposal.

The idea is to keep the sales pipeline simple but not void of substance. As a guide, why not refer back to the questions at the start of this article. If your pipeline doesn’t allow you to answer these questions quickly, you may have missed a step.

Top tip. At the appointment stage, it is important not to sell your services until you understand their particular needs or challenges. Your time at the appointment stage should be heavily weighted to understanding your customer’s challenges (often referred to as ‘pain points’). It’s important to understand your customer’s pain so you can tailor your sales proposal to directly outline how your services are the remedy.

 

Create your pipeline today

Today, most businesses have their sales pipeline on a spreadsheet or use a sales tool built into their CRM system. If more than one person is working on sales, having a pipeline that can be accessed remotely will help keep it up to date.

However, if you are a new business or sole trader, at an early stage, it’s probably best to keep your pipeline as simple as possible. A complex tool or spreadsheet might prevent you from continually using it.

Ultimately, a sales pipeline is only useful if updated and reviewed. Here are some simple ways to help you create and maintain a pipeline:

 

Online tools

Free tools like Hubspot and Trello allow you to create digital boards. You can then move each contact through the various stages of your sales pipeline. Here’s an example of what a digital pipeline can look like:

hubspot sales pipeline
Credit Hubspot: https://www.hubspot.com/products/crm

 

Spreadsheets

Don’t want to use online tools? Why not use a spreadsheet? Create a list of all your prospects and detail what stage they’re at in your pipeline. You can then use filters and formulas for summarising information quickly.

 

Whiteboard

Have your sales board information prominently displayed in your office on a whiteboard. Then, divide your board into a grid and manually move each contact through the board. This is a great way to feel physically connected to each stage of the sales journey.

Top tip. If you prefer to go down a digital route, we still recommend using a whiteboard. You can keep the detail on your digital version, but use the whiteboard to remind you how many contacts are in each stage without opening up a document or app. This is a great way to keep you sales focused.

 

The benefits of a sales pipeline

If used correctly, the sales pipeline is probably one of the most powerful sales tools at your disposal.

Without complicating your pipeline, adding additional information will allow you to measure sales success and evaluate specific areas of your business.

For example, if you record when you first made contact and when you closed the sale, you can start to understand how long it takes you to convert a prospect to a client (on average). This helps you better forecast and understand how many prospects you need at the start of the year to pay the bills and grow your business.

Likewise, this information can be used to understand how many prospects turn into customers. This will tell you how many prospects you need at the start of the pipeline to make a profit.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help creating a sales pipeline, or if you have one and want to get more from it, please get in touch.

If you’re new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Interested in winning more business and earning more profit? Read our summary guide to creating a winning sales process for your small business.

Create a Winning Sales Process for Your Small Business

An effective sales strategy and process can make all the difference in a highly competitive market. Unfortunately, many small business owners and entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed when it comes to sales; either they don’t like ‘selling’ or don’t have enough time to follow a structured process.

In this guide, we’ll look at the top eight things you can do to improve your sales process, win more business and increase your profits.

 

Step one: A sales winning attitude

Many small business owners believe that only salespeople can sell. This just isn’t the case. Anyone can sell. The only difference between you and ‘salespeople’ is attitude.

When business is good, and you’re busy doing the stuff you love, the first thing to drop is usually marketing and sales. However, neglecting these core functions can have a potentially devastating impact on your sales pipeline and cash flow if you’re not careful. So, even if you hate sales, make sure you set time aside to prepare for the future.

Learn more about adopting a sales winning attitude.

 

Step two: Building a successful sales pipeline

The sales pipeline, or sales board, is a set of defined stages that a prospect moves through to become a customer. Each businesses’ pipeline might be different, but its objective should always be to keep track of progress and maximise conversion.

Learn more about building a successful sales pipeline.

 

Step three: Sales meeting preparation

There are two schools of thought when researching a company before that first sales meeting; either you can thoroughly investigate the company or go straight in there without doing any research at all.

Regardless of your prefered approach, it’s always best to understand a bit about the company and the industry they operate within before you meet with them. Nothing stalls the progress of a meeting more than making the wrong assumptions or delivering incorrect information.

Learn more about preparing for a sales meeting.

 

Step four: Conducting a sales appointment

Remember, people buy from people. So it’s always best to establish a rapport with your prospective customer. You’ll find people open up more, give you more information and will sometimes tell you exactly how to win their business. Ultimately, the key to a successful sales meeting is to listen to the client and directly answer how your product or service is the solution.

Learn more about conducting a sales appointment.

 

Step five: Quote based on value, not price

Many businesses, especially small businesses, believe that they need to be ‘low cost’ to win business and be competitive against more established companies – this is not the case.

Quoting your solution based on value, not price, will increase sales and boost your profits. If you understand the customer’s pain points, this should be easy enough to demonstrate.

Learn more about quoting based on value, not price.

 

Step six: Writing a winning sales proposal

Sending a quote or proposal to a client may seem like a basic step in your sales process, and something that must be done after a meeting. However, it can be one of the most powerful, tangible sales tools you have. So don’t underestimate its value.

The proposal you send your client is perhaps one of the only tangible references to your compelling sales pitch, so you must make sure it’s personalised, get’s your value proposition across and is easy to understand.

Learn more about writing a winning sales proposal.

 

Step seven: Follow-up

After each meeting, quote or proposal, don’t forget to follow up. Your customers are just as busy as you are, so sometimes they’ll forget to take action. In addition, prospective clients may have questions they’ve since thought about after your meeting or receiving your proposal; a follow-up call gives you the chance to address these.

Learn more about improving your sales follow-up process.

 

Step eight: Customer care and up-sell

Once the sale is complete in larger organisations, customers may transfer over to an account manager or to the customer service team to handle any further communications. However, in small businesses, it’s usually best for the salesperson to stay in contact with the customer.

Keeping in contact with your customer will help you understand how they’re getting on with the product or service, allowing you to provide aftersales care; you will also have the opportunity to up-sell additional services.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help with your marketing and obtaining new clients, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Creating a successful marketing plan

A marketing plan is an operational document that outlines how an organisation will communicate and promote its products or services to its target markets.

A good marketing plan capitalises on the business’s market research and understanding of its unique selling points to better promote and communicate its products and services to a target audience.

Or, to put it simply: It’s a simple step-by-step guide on how and where to market/promote your business.

Remember, depending on your business, it can take 3-6 months for your activity to produce outcomes. Planning will ensure you’re not missing out on time-based opportunities, help you allocate resources, and prepare for quieter business periods.

Marketing plans needn’t be an overwhelming, complex document full of clever marketing terms. However, not having one could be detrimental to your business.

Here are three steps to help you create a successful marketing plan:

 

1) Create an annual, calendar-based plan

While it’s good for a business to be flexible and adapt quickly to unexpected changes, you still need to have a structured plan for when things do go as expected. Running all your marketing on an ad-hoc basis just won’t cut it.

First, create an annual plan. Outline all the critical dates in the year, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day and Halloween. While some of these events might not affect you directly, they may have an impact on your suppliers and customers.

Next, take a look at previous sales information and see if there are any trends. For example, do you need to account for the school holidays? Is August typically a slow month for sales?

Using this information, you can allocate resources and plan when key marketing activities need to happen. For example, as a flower shop, Valentine’s Day is typically an important event. Therefore, your plan for this event might look something like this:

  • Adjusted stock order complete by 1st December to accommodate increased demand
  • Temporary sales staff interviewed and employed by 25th January
  • Update website 1st February
    • New products loaded to the website by 25th January
    • Promotion codes loaded to the website by 25th January
  • Advertising should start on 1st February
    • Message approved 11th January
    • Designs approved 18th January
    • Printed materials ordered 19th January
    • Digital adverts scheduled for 1st February
  • Email campaign sent on 1st February
    • Email design by 29th January

As you can see, there’s plenty to plan for this event. What you might consider being a simple leaflet, webpage or promotion might require multiple steps that need to start months before the actual event.

In addition to this, if you’re using external resources, such as a design or web agency, you may need to factor in their workload too. Technically, it might only take them a day to create the things you need for your marketing, but they may need a week’s notice for that day. Planning will ensure your marketing activity can be delivered on time.

 

2) Keep your marketing plan strategic

While you might like to include tactical elements such as ‘social media post published to Facebook on 12th February‘, within your Marketing plan, it’s essential to link all your activity back to your core objectives.

Thinking strategically will help ensure all your tactical marketing activities are focused and support the larger business goals.

For more information on identifying your target customer, please read the first in our How to market your small business series: Organising your customers to grow your business.

 

3) Take action

As with all planning, it will be a waste of time if you don’t take action on what you plan to do.

Once you better understand your annual plan, you can begin to break this down into more manageable chunks. First, create a rolling quarterly plan, then assign actions and responsibilities each month.

Scheduling monthly planning meetings to assign responsibilities is a great way to keep activity moving. If two or more people are in your team, you could define roles for each task. For example, you may be accountable for the social media post that needs to be published on Facebook on 12th February, but your marketing assistant is responsible for creating the post.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help creating a successful marketing plan, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

How to market your small business

In a highly competitive market, promoting a small business can be a real struggle. Owners and entrepreneurs can face an overwhelming amount of marketing information and advice, and with limited budgets, it can be hard to know where to invest your time and resources.

In this guide, we’ll look at the top eight things a small business can do to successfully promote its products, services and brand.

 

Step one: Who is your customer?

Market research is essential in understanding who your target customer is. This research will also help you identify market trends and keep an eye on what your competition is doing.

Understanding who your customer is, forms the basis of all your other marketing efforts. Even if you think you know who they are, it never hurts to do some research every now and again; things might have changed.

Learn more about the importance of understanding your audience.

 

Step two: Organising your customers

Once you understand who your customer is, you will need to learn a bit more about them so that you can organise them into groups (segments).

Trying to promote your products and services to absolutely everyone on your target customer list will be extremely expensive and ineffective – even if you believe everyone can use or benefit from your product/service.

Grouping or segmenting your potential customer based on particular characteristics will allow you to focus your marketing efforts – and find that low hanging fruit. This grouping could be based on:

  • Geography
  • Demographics (age, gender, occupation)
  • Behaviour (loyalty, readiness to buy)

Learn more about organising your customers to grow your business.

 

Step three: Understand yourself

Once you know a bit more about your customer, it’s easy to assume you can jump straight in and start cleverly marketing your business in all the right places. But why should someone buy from you? What makes you different to your competitors?

Sounds simple, but formalising this ‘Know thyself’ stage is often overlooked.

To do this, you need to clearly understand what your unique selling propositions (USPs) are. What makes your business stand out from the crowd. Why do your customers buy from you instead of your competitors?

Once you understand this, you can then develop your marketing message.

Learn more about developing your USP.

 

Step four: Create a clear message

Your business offering needs to be straightforward and easy for people to understand.

All your communications with clients and prospects should include how your business can solve a particular problem. If you’ve done the research and successfully segmented your customer base, you can start tailoring messages based on each group’s needs.

You should always try to avoid industry jargon and assume the reader is relatively new to the market. For example, we’re business and management consultants. However, we can’t assume everyone knows what that means. So, following this business classification, we elaborate by saying, “we help small businesses grow and become more profitable”.

Learn more about creating a clear, strong marketing message.

 

Step five: Create a marketing plan

A marketing plan needn’t be an overwhelming, complex document full of clever marketing terms. A good marketing plan outlines:

  • Where you’re spending resources
  • Why you’re spending resources – applying it to your customer research
  • What you’re going to say (message and design)
  • Where you’re going to say it (online, in a magazine, via email)
  • What you expect the outcome to be

For example, your marketing budget might be small, so competing against larger competitors on social media, Google, or on billboards might be too expensive. Therefore, you might want to construct a guerrilla marketing campaign – a low budget means of being creative and an unconventional way of sharing your message. View HubSpot for more information on guerrilla marketing.

Learn more about creating a successful marketing plan.

 

Step six: Build a database

Your database is the lifeblood of all your marketing (and sales). Building your own database will help you directly and regularly communicate with your contacts.

Remember, all those contacts you have on LinkedIn or Facebook aren’t yours. If LinkedIn stopped tomorrow, could you still speak to your connections?

Your own database allows you to send things like monthly email newsletters and promotions that will help nurture prospective clients into leads, and ideally, customers.

Learn more about building an effective marketing database.

 

Step seven: Build loyalty

Your customers are the key to your success, so it’s essential you look after them and encourage loyalty.

Typically, someone who uses your business for the first time isn’t particularly loyal. Their first-time experience with your company determines their return. Developing loyalty and trust with that customer can transform them into advocates, someone who is willing to refer your business to others. And ultimately, you want to develop all your customers into brand ambassadors; those who believe in your business so much they act as an unofficial sales team.

Loyalty is usually earned by focusing on delivering exceptional customer service and exceeding their expectations on multiple occasions. However, you can encourage loyalty by rewarding customers for their repeat business by creating a loyalty scheme (like Costa, Boots, Ikea and Tesco).

Learn more about building customer loyalty.

 

Step eight: Monitor, review and learn

It is important to regularly monitor and review your marketing activities to ensure they achieve the desired outcome, such as increased sales.

Ideally, you should review your marketing plan every three months. Today, it can be relatively easy to determine what marketing activity has led to a sale. Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) can track customers’ behaviour and identify what information they saw before a sale.

Continually monitoring and reviewing your marketing will allow you to build on what is working and change what isn’t.

Learn more about measuring your marketing success.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help with your marketing and obtaining new clients, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

The importance of setting business goals

Everyone has an idea of where they want their business to be in the future. Your ultimate goal may be to earn enough money to retire early, create a legacy for your children or it could be world domination.

The best way to achieve this future is to create a road-map of how to get there: otherwise known as a business plan. However, when you are planning for the future, it’s essential to keep your goals in mind. Everything you put in your business plan should be centred around achieving your goals.

If you haven’t already written a business plan, we recommend you read our Business Planning for 2021 article, which outlines how to structure and write a plan.

 

Setting goals

When we set goals, business owners tend to solely focus on their business. This is not surprising as it’s what you do for a living, and business goals are vital to maintaining motivation and drive. However, it is essential not to forget our personal goals – where do you, personally want to be in 3, 5, 20 years in the future?

Your business facilitates your personal goals. Therefore your business and personal goals must be aligned, but separate.

For example, a personal goal might be to own a beautiful chalet in the Swiss Alps where you can ski to your heart’s content. To achieve this personal goal, your business goal might be to earn £100k per year and have management staff to run the day-to-day business.

It is the personal goal that motivates and inspires you. The mechanism to achieving this goal is the business goal of earning £100k per year and employing management staff.

 

Setting achievable goals

Continuing with the example above: If you currently earn £30k per year and your goal is to make £100k in 6-months, you’re probably going to need a considerable business scale-up programme and investment – now, we’re not saying this isn’t achievable, but it’s perhaps unlikely.

Is not hitting this goal going to motivate you to continue? – probably not.

When setting goals, it is important to challenge yourself, but they should be realistic and achievable within a specific timeframe. One proven strategy for goal setting is to use SMART.

Goals should be Specific – make it very clear to you and everyone else what your goal is.

Goals should be Measurable – can you quantify success? You can also try putting milestones (mini-goals) in place to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

Make sure your goals are Achievable – can you, or your business accomplish the goal? The point of a goal is to challenge and motivate yourself. If your goal is too high, it can cause stress and decrease the chance of reaching your goal. Likewise, if it’s too easy, it will stop you from pushing yourself and doing more.

Are your goals Realistic? – ambition is a powerful trait, but you need to ensure your goals aren’t fantasy. Successful business people don’t just become successful overnight.

Finally, remember to make your goals Timebound – When are you going to have achieved your goals by?

 

How long should your business goals be?

In business, it is important to have a mixture of short, medium and long-term goals to keep you motivated. What defines the actual length of these goals in terms of time is based on you and your business.

For example, a business start-up with young directors might want to have some goals that stretch as far as 20-30 years. However, someone starting a business in their 50s probably would prefer to be achieving their goals a lot sooner – but, they might want to leave something behind for their children.

If you have ambitious, achievable goals that will take a few years to accomplish, then we recommend breaking those down to become more manageable. We mentioned setting mini-goals (milestones) above in terms of setting measurable goals. Milestones are a brilliant way of keeping you motivated when you’re working towards long-term goals (5, 10 or 20 years into the future) as they create the opportunity to celebrate success and achieve a ‘win’.

 

Setting goals for 2021

It’s no surprise that many people’s annual goals in 2020 were seriously interrupted or shelved. Certainly, at the start of the pandemic, businesses were operating on a day-by-day basis.

When setting goals for 2021, it is important to have learned from the unexpected, unprecedented nature of 2020. 2021 promises a large deployment of the vaccination and ‘business as usual’ by Easter. It could also bring a different strain of the virus and more lockdowns. Which do you prepare for?

The answer should be both. Throughout 2021, keep reviewing your goals and milestones to check that you are heading in the right direction. You will need to stay flexible and adapt to change. Try not to be stubborn and set rigid goals.

Finally, remember that ‘business as usual’ will be more like it is today than it was in 2019. Technology has dramatically advanced the way we do things forever. Consider the new opportunities now available to us and the new ways of working. As an example, we are more likely to have more meetings over Zoom than face-to-face than we did in 2019 – so, do you want a fleet of business cars anymore?

 

How ETC can help

If you need help setting SMART business goals or creating a comprehensive business plan for 2021, please get in touch.

If you’re new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Prepare your business for a change in lockdown restrictions

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, governments are introducing new lockdown restrictions to keep everyone safe. The introduction of the new covid three-tiered lockdown system in England aims to avoid national lockdown by classifying areas based on the rate of infection. And in Wales, the short, sharp “firebreak” lockdown returns the country to nationwide lockdown for over two weeks.

Throughout the pandemic, there has always been a warning before a change in restrictions. However, this notice is usually days, and as a business owner, this poses the question: How prepared is your business for a change in lockdown restrictions?

Depending on your area’s circumstances, you may need to turn services on and off quickly to comply with social limitations.

Here are four simple steps to preparing your business for a sudden increase in COVID-19 restrictions.

 

1. Flexibility

Planning ahead and developing flexible operations could help keep your business running through new lockdown rules.

Office-based business
It’s likely travel restrictions will limit access to your premises. Ensure your business can run remotely. Focus on protecting staff (both physically and mentally) by implementing quality remote working solutions now. Poor internet connection, file accessibility or restricted access to vital systems can hinder productivity and damage employee morale. Streamlining procedures and investing in quality equipment and applications can connect remote workers and help you deliver excellent customer service. For example:

  • Do you have a customer relationship manager like HubSpot to ensure notes on a client are logged
  • Project management tool like Monday.com can help keep track of team tasks
  • A virtual assistant like I’m your PA can help manage calls and your diary

Public-facing business (shops, bars and restaurants)

Footfall is likely to drop, or stop. Therefore, you’ll need to evaluate how best to deliver your services in the most efficient way possible.

  • If your shop shuts, do you have an online store? Is this optimised for conversions and upsell?
  • As a pub or bar, do you serve substantial meals? Could you operate a takeaway service? Have you considered an app to limit customer and staff interaction and speed up delivery?

Personal note: I heard a story about a client who went to a pub and waited over 40mins to receive their first drink. The pub was operating table service and the staff were run off their feet delivering menus, taking orders, serving both food and drink and taking payments. As winter approaches, having customers wait this long outside is not ideal. As a result, the client admitted they wouldn’t go back.

A simple, low-cost solution to this would be to provide quality WiFi and a QR code that links them to an online menu and order form. A better solution would be to offer an app to handle the whole order and payment process, allowing the bar staff to focus on delivery and customer service.

 

2. Promote COVID-secure

Regardless of your local restrictions, or what type of business you are, you should be promoting your business as COVID-secure. All your communications should enforce this message.

Let customers know you are safe to do business with.

As restrictions and local guides are different, there is usually some confusion about what your customers or employees should be doing. Therefore, ensure your message is clear and visible. Make it easy for people to follow the rules.

  • Place signs up around your place of business for both visitors and staff
  • Use your website to explain any changes your business is making to keep people safe
  • Send email updates and evidence of any changes to your customer list
  • Use social media to demonstrate how you’re safe
    • Why not use videos and pictures of people in PPE delivering services?
  • Include information with posted packages to reassure customers you’ve taken extra precautions

 

3. Act COVID-secure

Working hand-in-hand with promoting that you are COVID-secure, is acting COVID-secure. This is absolutely vital to your business.

Keeping customers and staff safe is imperative and can help avoid a business shutdown. If a member of your staff tests positive, you will have to close your business. If they spread the virus to other members of the team, you might be closed for a long time. Not to mention the loss of faith or trust customers will have in your business.

If you say you’re going to keep customers and staff safe, make sure it’s obvious you’re doing so, any advice is simple to follow, and the rules are enforced. For example:

  • Create large, simple to follow guides for any visitors
  • If you operate a one-way system, use signs and tape on the floor and place do not enter signs for anyone approaching the other way
  • Have hand-sanitising stations
  • Use perspex dividers
  • Encourage masks or appropriate PPE (whenever possible)

 

4. Focus on customer service

At this time, quick, efficient service delivery is what’s going to see you through any changes in lockdown restrictions. Systems, processes, and operational mechanisms should all focus on exceeding the customer’s expectations.

Customers are more open to change than ever before – so long as it keeps them safe and doesn’t put barriers in their way. 

A simple way to identify barriers is to talk to your staff and customers directly. Understand their ‘pain’ points and look to resolve them. Feedback should be welcomed and encouraged.

You can also use this feedback to convince others to use your product or service by turning them into online reviews through Facebook or Google My Business (an essential element of SEO). Even bad reviews, when addressed, can be a positive thing.

At a time of uncertainty, be the clear guide and focus. This will help to delight your customers.

 

How ETC can help

If you need help creating a comprehensive plan to help prepare your business for a change in lockdown restrictions, please get in touch.

If you’re new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

The key to ending your business lockdown

The UK is slowly reducing restrictions and ending lockdown. However, things aren’t going to return to how they were pre-COVID-19, and businesses need to prepare for a new ‘normal’.

The number one priority at this time is to re-open or return to work safely. A second lockdown, as seen in Victoria, Australia or local lockdowns as seen in Leicester, is a real possibility. And, as in the case of Leicester, local lockdowns could mean no special financial support from the Government – BBC News.

Government advice and changes are happening fast and planning for change is critical. To help prepare your business for these changes and for leaving lockdown, we have created an essential three-step guide:

1. Marketing should be your focus

Marketing is an essential element of bouncing back. 75% of consumers say that brands should inform people of what they’re doing.

There is still a lot of uncertainty around what businesses are doing. With some sectors still closed, your customers may need reminding that you’re open and ready for business.

There are many tools in the marketing toolbox, but at this stage, we advise that you focus on PR (public relations). This involves re-engaging with your target audience and rebuilding your relationship.

PR requires you to share your message through media channels, both traditional (press) and non-traditional (social media). The ultimate goal is to build awareness of your brand, reinforce your business values and demonstrate why customers will like doing business with you. This can include things like:

  • How you’re re-opening your business (making sure you focus on what’s important to your customers, not your company)
  • Case studies of post-COVID-19 business and success
  • How you’ve supported your local community

For more information on how to market your business, re-read our previous marketing guides, or contact us and let us help you bounce back.

2. Let customers and employees know how you’re keeping them safe

Public health is at the forefront of everyone’s mind at the moment and informing your customers and staff about your ‘safe’ re-opening can be a compelling message.

Messages about ‘safe’ have become more important as lockdown has eased. Larger brands are opting for a clear, positive, inspirational, and helpful tone over humorous, witty, or casual.

According to a study by Econsultancy: one in five consumers have actively stopped purchasing from a brand because of its response to the coronavirus outbreak. This included not providing a safe working environment for its employees.

In the same study, 62% stated that they were more likely to spend money with companies that prioritise the health and safety of their staff.

The full study can be found here: coronavirus impact on marketing, ecommerce & advertising

3. Be consistent in your message

After you’ve invested in PR and promoted your ‘safe to return’ messages, you should always ensure you follow through. It’s great to have handwashing stations and social distancing in place, but if these aren’t clearly visible people may become anxious about what the protocols are.

If you have been into a retail shop recently, you’ll have seen the answer to this yourselves: large signs above sanitiser stations and 2-metres or 1-metre plus signs on the floor.

Without these highly visible, tangible changes to improve safety, all your PR and messages will be wasted – and potentially counterproductive as it may appear disingenuous.

Finally, on a more serious note, the importance of these COVID-19 safe measures cannot be stressed enough. If COVID-19 gets into the workplace, everyone exposed will need to isolate, which may include some difficult conversations with customers.

To protect your business, get your cashflow going again and rebuild customer trust, don’t just give COVID-19 safe the lip service – it’s the key to ending your business lockdown.

How ETC can help

If you need help creating a comprehensive ‘bounce back’ plan to reduce recovery time, take advantage of new opportunities ETC can help, please get in touch.

If you’re new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.