I am not going to suggest that you don't need marketing and advertising to introduce customers to your product. Nor will I suggest that you don't need for a sales force. However, your sales force, and everyone else in your company who deals with your customers, will sell more product if you just "Make it easier for customers to buy!"
Think About It
Once someone has decided to buy your product (or service) what do they have to do to complete the transaction? Think about the last time you went to, for instance, the hardware store to buy a new door knob. You knew what you wanted, or at least what store carried several good kinds.
You went there, read the advertising on the packaging, selected the product and went to pay for it so you could go home and finish the project. Instead you found yourself waiting in a line that never moved. There were ten registers, but cashiers were only working three of them. Did you get tired of waiting and go to a different store? Did you at least consider it?
Smart retailers use staff from other functions as overflow cashiers. That way they can keep down the cost of cashiers standing around with no one to wait on, while at the same time reducing the length of a customer's wait in line.
It is a sound idea, but the overflow cashiers have to be alert, and they have to recognize the value of providing that customer service. Restocking the shelves, finishing the paperwork, counting the number of widgets on aisle 3, etc., can wait - take care of the customer - "Make it easier for the customer to buy!"
How Not To Do It
Recently I shopped for a piece of exercise equipment. I looked at half a dozen brands at several retailers before deciding what I wanted. The outlet for that brand didn't have any in stock, but promised them in two or three days.
A week later I called him back. He still didn't have them in stock, and "what was it I wanted again?" He would get some in "in two to three days" and would call as soon as they came in. By the weekend he still hadn't called so I called another outlet at another mall. Yes, they had them in stock and if I would come in and complete the paperwork they could have the unit for me the next day.
I drove 45 minutes to the mall, found a place to park and worked my way through the shoppers. The paperwork I had to fill out consisted of printing my name, address, and phone number on the top of an order form. As I drove home again I wondered why he hadn't simply taken that information from me over the phone instead of making me come in. The next day, I went back to the mall, ran my credit card through his system, and loaded my purchase.
I was convinced that their product was superior so I put up with all the unnecessary impediments, but I wonder how many other potential buyers for these big ticket items just get fed up and walk away. How many more sales could they make if they would simply "Make it easier for customers to buy!"
Here's How Simple It Is
My wife received a certificate for a free pizza. It was a token of appreciation from a local pizza chain for the catering orders she places with them. (That's a smart business practice in itself, but it's not the subject of this article.)
When she called to order, the person at Pagliacci Pizza asked for her phone number. Based on the information that showed up on her screen (at 7pm on a Sunday) she confirmed my wife's identity by first name. She could also see that a gift certificate had been issued and not redeemed. She asked what three toppings (per the certificate) we wanted, confirmed that as on previous orders we wanted "very light cheese", and verified the delivery address was the same as her screen showed.
My wife was impressed (not easy to do) that all she had to tell them was her phone number and what toppings she wanted. The store did every thing else. They really "Made it easier for the customer to buy!"It may not be the best pizza in the world, after all I prefer thick crust, but you can bet we will buy a lot of our pizzas from them in the future, just because of their customer service.
A Shorter Example of the Right Way
The first weekend of the last Christmas rush people at the mall were three and four deep at the registers. Except at Nordstrom's. They set up extra "customer service" stations and added extra cashiers. Nobody had to wait just to pay for their purchases. Want to take any bets whether the sales per register were enough to justify the extra sales help?
What Can You Do?
Take a look at your operation. From the moment a customer decides to buy, until they have the product in hand, what do you make them do? Can you cut out any of those steps or speed them up? Can you make technology do things for them?
Think outside the lines. Don't do things just because "that's how it's done." Don't do things because it's easy for your staff or because you like doing it that way. Look at it from the customer's perspective and "Make it easier for customers to buy!" You will increase your sales - Guaranteed.