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The Single Best Sales Tool

Posted by Bill Gilbert on Feb 10, 2017

Every business is looking for the “silver bullet” that makes customers stay (companies with a subscription type service) or return regularly (those with transactional products or services).

I’ve sometimes heard reference to product/service “stickiness” as something that all businesses aspire to achieve.

In practical terms, where do we find this magic elixir?  Generally, by adding value with and around your product/service so that customers are less price sensitive and, best case, don’t want to be bothered by your competitors.

But what is added value and where do we find it? While the answer varies widely by business, most businesses can find it the same way: create excited customers. Some people call these customers advocates; others, like Bain and Company, call them promoters.

Regardless of label, enthusiastic customers behave that way for a reason: your company has figured out how to make their life better. Therefore:

  1. Find these customers
  2. Ask them why they like your company/product/service
  3. Figure out how you can do the same for other customers

How do we find them? You probably already know some of them as your best (repeat) customers. But the proven way is to do a simple customer satisfaction survey using the NPS (Net Promoter Score) question: “How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?” with a 0 to 10 answer scale where 0 is “not at all likely” and 10 is “extremely likely.” Followed with “Why or Why Not?”

There is a whole science behind and around NPS which I strongly recommend. But we can easily and quickly get important insights without getting hung up on the details. All we need to know is that customers who answer with 9 or 10 are promoters (advocates), those with a 7 or 8 are passive supporters and the lower scores are detractors; i.e. unhappy.

Knowing this, here are some of the actions we can take:

  • Determine what is different for the 9’s and 10’s vs. other customers. Answers to the “why or why not?” question are important here. We are looking for patterns but “one off” examples often yield insights as well.
  • We can do the same for passives and detractors but the issues identified may or may not turn them into advocates. Nonetheless, there may be important learning: e.g. a segment of customers whose expectations are very different than yours.
  • Calculate a “net promoter score.” Simply subtract the number of detractors from the promoters and divide by the total number of customers surveyed. This percentage is the formal NPS score. Obviously, the higher the better. But just as important is measuring the trend over time, which is why many companies do these surveys regularly.

Clearly there is a lot more we can do these types of analyses. But the title of this post is “The Single Best Sales Tool.” So what is it? Simple: a testimonial or case study from one of your advocate customers. Not only will they be glad to provide the testimonial, more than likely they are already promoting your company to others!

Bottom line: creating the sales tool is easy. Making sure you have enough enthusiastic customers is where the hard work needs to focus.