Why Customers are More Than Just Sales- A Lesson Learned

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Jerry Sevier

Guest Post by:

Jerry D. Sevier, Founder
ExamShout Mobile Certification Study Solutions
A division of Gensev, Inc.

Customers are more than just a figure in your sales log. Many companies have learned that they are an incredible resource for information. They can tell you when you aren’t doing the right thing or validate you are, in fact, moving in the right direction. However, I have recently discovered they can do even more. The simple act of reaching out to your customer base to honestly CONNECT can have profound results.

Before I get too involved, I’d like to take a moment and thank Scott Cooksey for the opportunity to make this guest appearance on CookseyConnects. I have known Scott for over fifteen years as he and I worked together in what was my first professional job in the Information Technology (IT) industry. Today, I own a successful business that sells mobile applications for devices like Android and iPhone.  [No “thanks” necessary, Jerry!  You are certainly WELCOME and I offer you many congratulations on your continued success! – Scott]

Since moving away from that small Oklahoma town where we first met, we’ve each been busy learning our life-lessons and establishing our careers. I had, for many years, a very successful consulting career providing software development services to many Fortune 500 companies all over the country. To put it simply, companies paid me a lot of money for what was, in essence, my opinion on strategy, direction and design on things like e-commerce and enterprise computer systems.

About two years ago, my wife asked me a pretty innocent question: “If you can help these companies make millions of dollars, why can’t you do that for yourself?” Little did we know, this simple question would change our lives forever. Since then, we have formulated a small consulting company that specializes in Mobile/Smart Phone applications. I figured, with all of my experience, ability to program, and such a thorough understanding of the industry, how could I fail, right?

We did everything by the book. We created the business plan, I researched our target market, I studied my competition and formulated a design for our software. I added many features that our competitors had “overlooked”. Because of this, what should have been a three month development cycle was dramatically extended. We launch almost a year later than expected.

Upon the software release, sales were very disappointing. Just like I learned as a consultant, I went back into business mode, modified our software design, and released a much-improved update. Still, sales were flat. I was frustrated and we were looking at losing everything we had invested in a venture that was clearly heading towards failure.

Out of desperation, I decided to ask my customers directly for their input. Instead of drafting some fancy e-mail campaign, I printed off a customer list and spent an entire week doing nothing but sending a personalized email to each and every one of the people who had purchased our program. As one then another responded, I’d immediately write them back. Before I knew it, I had an open dialog with dozens of our customers. I made responding to them my number one priority. Many of them were shocked that I would respond within minutes even at 2:00 am.

All while I was working with the customers, I was formulating how we could revamp our marketing strategy. We could do this… we could do that. Here’s how we could change our software. My mind was busy putting together the strategy. Then, something remarkable happened.

Sales began to explode! We were seeing sales at a rate we had never imagined.

But wait! We hadn’t done anything yet! How were sales skyrocketing before we’d made any real changes?

I am ashamed to say, it took me a bit to realize what had happened. It turns out, when I reached out and connected with my customers, I had unknowingly provided them with a feature that none of my competition had… a two-way relationship. Their input mattered, I did my best to change what I could and explain what I couldn’t. In exchange, they began to tell their friends about us, and a process was born that spread like wild-fire.

Customers are not just those statistics that you read on the daily sales log. They are real, hard working people like you and me. If you can reach out, develop a real conversation, you can empower them. And, more often than not, that new power will be used to help you take your business to the next level.

To this day, I attempt to send a custom, personalized letter to each and every one of my customers. While this is becoming more and more difficult to keep up with due to our new found success, it is a process I will never stop.

The Challenge

As a final note to each of you reading this: If you work in a service oriented industry, I challenge you to reach out to some of your customers and/or clients today and honestly ask them for their input, suggestions, and comments. I promise, the harder you work to respond to them, the more success you will find.

Thank you and happy connecting!

Visit Jerry’s Company on the Web at: www.examshout.com
Follow @examshout on Twitter

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20 Replies to “Why Customers are More Than Just Sales- A Lesson Learned”

  1. Beautiful. I loved your wife’s Pu-Pow question. And even better was your answer.

    So simple. And as you described it: “It turns out, when I reached out and connected with my customers, I had unknowingly provided them with a feature that none of my competition had… a two-way relationship.”

    Boom.

    A few years ago I ran a small company and I would regularly call customers. They seemed wary at first, cautious with their answers. But, as soon as I told them my purpose was not to sell them something. Instead, I want to hear how we’re doing, if there’s anything else we could be doing. And after their initial shock…they loved it. We saved a lot of accounts, generated a lot of referrals and upsells/crosssells. You know. A relationship, like you describe.

    To keep it consistent, we used the Net Promoter Score/Ultimate Question Survey. http://www.netpromoter.com. 3 questions, 3 minutes tops. And invaluable.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing your story. And thanks Cooksey for the heads up.

  2. What an excellent point. I can attest to being more loyal to businesses and individuals who show a personal interest in my success. It’s human nature! What more can you ask for than a business that is willing to change to better meet your needs?

    I also know Scott from his early days in Oklahoma. We are true believers together in the power of networking. Kudos to Scott Cooksey for being the one smart enough to build a career on something we love doing…Connecting to people!

  3. Very pithy article. Valued relations with customers is so much more than the initial sale.

    -Jamin Jackson

  4. Hey Scott, thanks again for this opportunity. And, thank you to everyone for the great comments!

    Zane: I have several product types that could benefit from the survey-format. I will check into it!

  5. Jerry, I agree with the points you’ve made in this post. I incorporate individual calls and snail-mailed items into the marketing plan I use for my own company (although on a smaller scale than what you describe here), and it definitely gets the attention of prospects and customers. As you mention, with calls in particular, sometimes you have to get past some initial wariness, but don’t let that discourage you.

  6. Jerry, excellent reminder that business, at its very core, is based on Human Connection … on all fronts. When we connect, listen and truly engage, we are serving the people. And in turn, they will serve us with their enthusiasm and support. Business is most definitely a 2-way street. One cannot survive without the other. The easiest part, and yet the least valued, is the importance of human connection and the value of real relationships.

  7. Kathy- Always love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by. Cant wait to see what kind of replies we get from your upcoming guest post.

    [If you are interested in writing a guest post, send me a note by clicking the “Contact us” button above…we will send you the details!]

  8. Great article. It nails the point to treat customers as how we would like to be treated. Relationship management is key to a successful business.

  9. Good article for reminding us the importance of “one to one” contact/communication with our customers. It really works wonders if you are willing to break down the barriers of the company to customer relationship. Thanks for hosting this Scott.

  10. And thanks to YOU, Andrew, for following what looks to be our most popular post to date! There are some GREAT new posts coming from around the country….stay tuned!

  11. I especially like the handwritten notes. People get SO few hand written notes these days.

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