Don’t hang up – telemarketing drives incremental sales!

As the UK takes its first faltering steps to economic recovery, according to the latest statistics showing the end of double dip recession in the last quarter, many FMCG brand owners are looking for opportunities to claw their way back to pre-double dip recession sales levels.

And companies that fared well before the slump want to be sure to keep their customers as the competition intensifies, particularly as a new price war looms on the high street.

The use of telemarketing may provide an answer for brand owners looking to maintain a competitive advantage.

It pays to cross sell by telephone

And cross-selling via telemarketing is the new game in town.

For the uninitiated, cross selling is offering the customer a product or service related to whatever he or she has already bought or is in the process of buying.

And it isn’t just the sales department that is involved in cross selling – customer service reps are also getting in on the act.

For example, many high tech companies such as Dell now ask their support engineers to become salespeople by recommending product upgrades and to contact customers to renew warranty agreements.

Despite advancements in technology to identify sales opportunities through segmentation and behaviour analysis, if customer service professionals who speak with customers don’t want to sell or don’t introduce the sale in a way that benefits the customer, then no sale will take place.

When presented with an up-sell and cross-sell initiative, many customer service professionals run a mile as they don’t see it as their job to sell.

That’s someone else’s department they say.

And that’s fast becoming a minority view.

Cross-selling techniques should be built around serving the customer, not just selling more stuff.

It’s a telemarketer. She says if you’re not busy, she’ll call back when you are.

It’s also important not to overload customers with too many unrelated cross-selling suggestions.

For example, you could be successful in cross-selling the entire list of ingredients for a recipe but the customer is unlikely to be in the frame of mind to purchase an expensive liquidiser at the same time.

Another successful strategy of cross-selling is to bundle products that will appeal to the customer and offer a special price on these bundles. More retailers are going down this path whereas in the past they may have relied on buy one, get one free (BOGOF) as a way of driving incremental sales.

This more sophisticated approach to cross-selling can work extremely well in clothing, fashion accessories, stationery and food and drink where multiple purchases can be very appealing as well as help to drive profits.

It can also work well in professional services, such as accountancy, law and engineering.

There’s evidence that clients who receive several services tend to be more loyal than those who receive a single service.

This makes sense.

It becomes much harder for the client to totally sever the relationship should something go wrong. The multiple relationships and values you are providing can help you buy time while you fix the problem. If business in one area drops off, the firm is often able to hang onto business in another.

In time, professionals may be able to rebuild the relationship from this alternate position, a task that would be much more difficult if they were no longer working with the client.

Cross-selling in the virtual world is about offering related items that customers or prospects have recently searched for.

The compelling argument for investing in a cross-selling system is that it can generate more profit per sale in the same way that up-selling can drive the total value of a sale.

By simply placing higher priced alternative items next to items that a customer has expressed an interest in purchasing is a very efficient way of cross-selling on-line. It also can create a more personalized shopping experience and utilizes behavioural analytics in order to remove the guess work from what can be suggested to the customer as they browse the web site.

For example, alongside an expensive pair of leather shoes could also be the product details of a specialist leather care product that will help to keep those shoes in pristine condition.

On-line sites are also easier places in which to navigate and search for similar and related items compared to the time it can take in a physical environment, which may not yield the same results as some products may be out of stock or not available in the store at the time of the visit.

One of the most powerful ways of cross-selling and up-selling is the use of recommendations from other customers.

Psychologically, people want to feel they are making “the right choice” and deep down they may also be seeking recognition in having made this choice as well as earning the “approval” of their peer group.

Ardi Kolah is author of The Art of Influencing and Selling, published by Kogan Page (£19.99) on 3 January 2013.

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