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As entrepreneurs, you know how challenging it is to prospect new clients. It is often the most challenging part of running a successful business. Finding the right sales strategy to meet your business needs and objectives can take time and effort.
You’ve probably gone through various iterations of trial and error, from cold calling to email campaigns, experimenting with a mix of strategies rooted in the traditional sales model. While the conventional sales funnel works for many businesses, it’s not the only approach. You can tailor or even eliminate the sales funnel, the route we chose for Rentec Direct, the property management software company I founded. The traditional sales model didn’t make sense for us, so we focused on service instead of sales.
Before I dive in, below is an overview of the typical sales funnel that most companies rely on:
- Awareness: A prospect becomes aware of your business and its products and services, perhaps through an advertisement, Facebook post or Google search.
- Interest: A prospect gathers more information about your company by visiting your website, reading a case study, or signing up for your newsletter.
- Decision: A prospect decides whether or not to buy your product or service. Many companies entice customers by offering a promotion or discount code.
- Action: A prospect buys your product or service. Many companies offer training, education and support at this final stage.
The typical sales process also includes a lot of cold calls and prospecting through third parties. Through trial and error of the above, we discovered what worked for our business. We realized we were losing people at the top of the funnel when we didn’t establish that relationship early on. That’s when we shifted to building customer relationships at the very beginning through our free two-week trial, onboarding and training programs. As soon as a potential customer signs up for our trial, a dedicated account specialist reaches out to walk the prospect through the account setup process, provide step-by-step training, and go over how to access helpful resources on our blog to get the most out of the user experience. This personalized approach might seem like a high overhead to invest in a trial client who has yet to pay for the service, but we’ve found that the additional attention is of significant value to these new users.
By focusing on service instead of sales, we no longer engage in prospecting. Instead, we meet our clients with what they need, proactively scheduling meetings to ensure they get set up correctly on our software. This approach stands out from competitors, allowing clients to ask questions early on and access resources at no additional cost. Consequently, we’ve built trust, resulting in more referrals and long-term relationships, with many clients staying with us for over a decade!
Here is an example of that approach in action. We worked with a California landlord struggling with manual rent collection. She knew she needed to automate but didn’t know where to start. After a friend recommended us, she signed up for a free trial. Our account specialist contacted her when she signed up to set up her account and train her on automating rent payments. This one-on-one assistance helped her increase efficiency in minutes and gave her the confidence to incorporate the software into her daily routine. Soon after, she became a client. This personalized approach laid the foundation for a long-term relationship.
Below is the framework that we use to focus less on sales and more on service, which may be helpful for your business, too:
- Build relationships early: Build trust early with potential new clients through an educational blog.
- Offer a free trial or demo: Give potential customers a chance to experience your product or service before committing to a purchase. Like in the use case above, the customer decreased her time processing rent in minutes, demonstrating the value of our software.
- Provide proactive customer service: Learning a new technology can be overwhelming, and knowing where to turn to get the right help can be tricky. Don’t wait for your customers to come to you with questions or issues. Instead, offer assistance before they ask, showing that you are invested in their success early on.
To summarize, focusing on service instead of sales has been a game-changer for our business. By providing this early support and training, we have built lasting relationships with our clients and have grown our business. It sets both parties up for long-term success and is worth a trial if you want a new sales approach.