I was talking to a distributor about a building material manufacturer. I asked him how they could grow their sales. “It’s simple,” he told me immediately. “They just need to be more responsive. The pace of business is speeding up and they haven’t adjusted.”
He regularly gets requests for pricing or availability from contractors. Those contractors are expecting answers ASAP so they can check something off their lengthy to-do lists. To them, making progress is more important than getting the best price. They realize there is a cost to added time and that the cost of a delay can easily exceed the savings from a slightly lower-cost product.
The manufacturer we were discussing takes days to get back with an answer. Most of the time, the contractor ends up choosing a competitor who got back to them faster. As a result, the distributor recommends this slow manufacturer less frequently.
Delays Are Costly
This is not a universal situation. Some customers still move at a slower pace and are primarily focused on getting the lowest price. They may even be the majority of your current customers. Their numbers are rapidly declining, however, as more customers focus on reducing waste and inefficiency.
You probably have some large customers who do things the way they always have. In the next few years, they will either be out of business or overtaken by smaller but smarter competitors.
The reason so many building materials companies are too slow is a need for control. The first person the customer talks to should be able to answer their question, but sometimes they’re not authorized to do it. Instead, they have to send the question up through the organization to a senior person.
That senior person isn’t sitting around waiting to provide quick answers. They have many other commitments, so it takes a while to get around to answering the customer’s question.
This causes a delay in getting the answer. More and more, those kinds of delays are costing you sales.
Anyone who talks to your customers should be able to provide them with answers as quickly as possible. Ideally, that means providing the answer themselves, whether they’re sales reps or customer service.
Even better if the customer can get the answer they need online. They are used to shopping on Amazon where they can get 90% of their questions answered without having to talk to anyone or waiting for an answer.
Your customers don’t see why they can have an Amazon experience in their personal life but not have a similar experience in their professional life. If other companies can provide that kind of convenience, why can’t you?
Two Steps You Need to Take
- Stop losing sales because you can’t respond fast enough. Empower more of your people to answer the customer’s question with minimal extra steps.
- Make customers happier while reducing your costs. The easier it is for a customer to get the answers they need without talking to anyone from your company, the happier they will be and the lower your costs will be. This will free up your people so they can focus on more important things.
If you are focused on individual sales, you are not focused on the bigger picture or the future of your business.
Take the big picture view. Meet your customers’ needs by getting them the answers they need – without delay.