Building Business Relationships

Are you struggling to create and keep profitable customers? Columns for Sales and Marketing Management who wants to build business relationships.
Monday, October 06, 2003

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Sales templates support personalization with consistency

Your customers want to be treated as individuals with every interaction-- but how are you know what works to build strong buying relationships?  If every customer interaction is different it can be very difficult to discover best practices without some form of strategy.

Use models or templates based on the successes of your best sales people to guide each customer interaction. A template provides guidelines for the interaction and could even include short scripts to help employees along. Each interaction needs nothing more than a single page guide-- more materials can be used in training, but at the interaction a few tips is all that is required.

A template example that helps customer feel like individuals while reducing your costs is a sales offer that,

  1. Opens with a personal message from the sales person which is of interest to the reader,
    • Reference specific elements of the previous interaction,
    • Recall concerns previously identified and addressed,
    • Acknowledge customer requests as addressed in communications,
    • Note events or information of interest to customer related to message,
  2. Concludes with a specific paragraph that outlines the offer, and
    • Common between all interactions with the same desired action,
    • Materials to include with communications like brochures or samples,
    • Case scenarios with specific scripts or actions to take in interaction,
    • Fill in the blank paragraph that makes an offer to the reader but addresses specific elements pertaining to interaction,
  3. Concludes with a real signature
    • Each letter is signed by a real person with a title, this is a personal communication with a buyer,
    • Include a relevant postscript (P.s.) that summarizes the benefit desired by reader and specific offer,
    • Gives the reader a real person to contact with questions or to order,

Each customer would receive a personalized letter (or phone call, or email) that took their individual needs into consideration. This "partial script" or "total personalization" method doesn't tell a sales person exactly what to say, but guides a letters content around the needs of a reader.

This does take more time and makes testing of individual copy elements difficult-- but with a proper template you team can test different approaches, story angles, or writing styles. Use this strategy on smaller letters to existing customers, it's not appropriate for larger marketing efforts unless your margins are high enough to cover the costs.

Tracking is very important because elements of your best interactions can expand templates for future use or contribute to your mass marketing efforts. Since this method takes more time, you may want to reserve it for your most profitable accounts. As your team becomes more familiar with the process your costs will reduce, reusing your successes in larger campaigns further reduces your costs.

As an executive, you may consider written lift letters and other supporting materials that express the benefit of doing business with your company. These materials can be used in various marketing efforts, while providing a more universal reason to purchase from your company. Avoid communications that focus on your company, instead focus on the benefit from a readers prospective.

While the document management behind purely personalized interactions can be difficult, make a point of collecting samples of your best practices. The lessons learned will provide invaluable insights into what influences your buyers.

Test these templates one another to discover those which produce consistent results.  This template method can be used in your sales, customer service, and marketing efforts. You can double your effectiveness when you have a practice in place to propagate best practices-- How are you using templates to increase personalization while maintaining a consistent message?

Justin Hitt teaches executives strategies to improve business relationships that can increase revenues while reducing costs of service. Publisher of Inside Strategic Relations, a twice-monthly newsletter.

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