All posts by Arthur Boyle

Arthur is a marketing intern at ReadyTalk, working mostly on content creation. He likes books, nature, humans and sometimes all three.

How to Establish Rapport and Why It Matters

Building rapport with your customers may seem more like a pleasant side-effect of correspondence than a serious business strategy. Sure, it makes conversations more interesting, produces a real connection, and reminds you that the statistics you’re chasing — whether they be sales conversions or MQLs or anything else – are tied to real people. But building real relationships for your business is more than just a nice guy routine. It can have a noticeable impact on your business.

Want your customers to succeed

Seems simple, is simple. Your customers are the lifeblood — to be cliche — of your business. Their success is your success. Give them information and tools to help them be successful, including thought leadership content, ebooks and more.

Meet face-to-face and know your customers

You have to know your customers and let them know you. Meet face-to-face and build relationships.

Drew Frey, Customer Marketing Manager at ReadyTalk said, “You do business with people, and more importantly, you do business with people that you like — that make it easy for you to do business with them. It might be Mark from sales, or Cheri from account management — putting a face to a name is really powerful.”

Deliver a positive brand experience every time

itAnother aspect is a customer’s relationship to an organization as a whole. Deliver the brand promise in every interaction — from Marketing to Sales to Account Management to Customer Service. The entire process should be about building a good relationship at every single touch point, everywhere along the journey.

With social media, it’s more important than ever for those touch points to be positive, too. People will tell friends and family (potential customers) if they like or dislike their experience.

Turn Mistakes Into Opportunities

Mistakes happen no matter who you are or what your business is, but the way you address them can make a world of difference.

“I’d argue a huge part of ReadyTalk’s success is the rapport part of our business,” said Kim Wachtel, ReadyTalk’s director of customer experience. “If something goes wrong, handling it with integrity and proactive communication can actually build on that rapport and relationship, helping you retain customers in spite of those problems,” said Kim Wachtel, ReadyTalk’s director of customer experience.

Recently, a customer let us know our theories were right with a small unprompted post.

Target true advocates and give them opportunities to shine

Seth Godin talks about bringing advocates into your tribe, because they’re stronger than just brand ambassadors. They’ll talk about your product with friends, share thoughts on social media, and go beyond the typical business relationship to provide benefits you never thought of.

Take a recent experience at ReadyTalk. One of our salespeople cold-called a prospect, and on the other end of the call was someone who’d recently had a bad experience with a competitor and was considering switching. That prospect became a customer, and because ReadyTalk delivered more than the bare minimum, that customer became an advocate.

“Not only does he love ReadyTalk’s core product, but he’s so passionate about the experience he’s had that he’s willing to go above and beyond,” Drew explained. “A customer that started from a cold call has now provided us with a case study, a testimonial, and feedback to our product team, and will be mentioned in a media opportunity. And that’s just the last two weeks.”

You can cultivate advocates like this in a number of ways, and while they receive an experience they never imagined, you’re getting smart, savvy and loyal customers to share what they think about you.

Invite them to tradeshows

Shelby Knops, a ReadyTalk customer from Birst, attended a recent tradeshow with us. Shelby agreed to speak candidly with potential customers about ReadyTalk and our products. He answered questions and endorsed ReadyTalk consistently and honestly.

That never would have happened if Shelby didn’t feel a real connection to ReadyTalk, and real connection only comes with an intentional effort, consistent integrity and goodwill, and a desire for your customers to truly succeed.

Give them a community … and prizes

Another powerful part of ReadyTalk’s customer marketing is the Summit Club. It’s an online community where customers — true advocates — can interact with peers and employees. They’re also rewarded for feedback and “challenges” — like sharing information with peers. They get points for their advocacy and can redeem them for prizes.

In the end, happy customers create more happy customers

“Word of mouth is the oldest marketing channel in the book,” said Drew. “It’s also the most effective. If you provide a good experience, and go above and beyond to help your customers succeed, they’re going to tell people.”

Who? They’re going to tell their families and friends, people at networking events, partners, vendors — and those referrals are more powerful than any other marketing tools.

“It’s easy to discount word of mouth virality because it’s hard to track… But I really think there’s this undercurrent of good will and doing the right thing that goes a long way. It can even smooth over some rough patches,” said Drew. And that brings us full circle.

“How can you attain these prospects that don’t even know about you? I think a lot of it can be done with, yes, marketing efforts in general, but also by providing a great experience for your existing customers so they can’t help but tell their friends,” Drew says.

Empathy Improves Sales

Sometimes salespeople get a bad rap. It’s a little too easy to imagine Jordan Belfort on the main floor of Stratton Oakmont yelling to money-grubbing cold callers, “Pick up the phone and start dialing!” Those tactics, and their subsequent failure, leave a lot to be desired.

We’ve all had pushy salespeople, whether getting a new car or buying software. It just doesn’t feel good. That’s not how ReadyTalk Sales works.

For companies interested in outstanding customer service, meaningful relationships, and sustainable practices, there are better strategies. Empathizing with potential clients and establishing connections with them is not only more ethical, it provides better results. Those better results are all about making prospects — potential customers — happy, while selling great products.

Salespeople are partners

Don’t take the approach of being a salesperson, take the approach of a consultant, someone who genuinely cares what the client is trying to achieve. An effective sale starts by building trust with the customer. If you can build rapport and ask the right questions, and the client can share information with you, you can better provide the right solution. Everyone walks away happy.

Listen, understand and ask the right questions

Imagine you have a client that has asked for advice. You know the best solution for them, the one that will save them the most money and allow them to get the best value. But they’re too worried about the up front sticker price, and would prefer a less committed option — even if it might end up more expensive. You could cut your losses and walk away.

Or you could ask some questions. Find out why they’re uncomfortable, and work to build a rapport so the client can trust you. You might notice a solution that didn’t exist before, because you didn’t have the relationship it needed to be built upon. Sometimes a small change in a solution can go a long way in converting a maybe to definitely, and that customization let’s the buyer know they’re in good hands.

You get a sale, the buyer gets what they need. Listening, understanding, and putting in the effort to make it work: that’s what being a salesperson is all about.Customer marketing

Listen and work to implement good ideas

On some occasions you’ll get the opportunity to find out more about a client’s personal life. You’re not the best of friends, but you keep up with the important aspects, and enjoy the fact that your relationship is more than purely transactional. These are the perfect candidates to offer feedback about new products. They already provide good business, they might provide more if they like the product, and they’re comfortable enough to tell you the truth.

In some cases the feedback will prove useful, and if you’re lucky enough to work with a responsive product team, you may be able to push the client a prototype that addresses their “must-haves.”

Not only is it valuable information, but the “improved” product increases the chances to expand a potential revenue stream, and reinforces the idea that you care about the client’s business.

Understand sometimes the prospect should use another solution

Clients are going to leave. It’s a sad fact we all must face. But a departure doesn’t necessarily mean a failure, especially if done tactfully.

Your organization’s product won’t always be the right solution for the customer. When you see that, be upfront about it. It’s unethical to trap someone into a contract if you know it won’t work, but more than that, it burns all bridges to later business.

Your organization might develop a solution that does solve that customer’s needs, but the customer won’t work with you if you’ve deceived them in the past. The proactive approach will let you sleep better at night and help you convert a lead to a sale down the road.

What goes around comes around

It’s all about listening and understanding. You can’t change people’s needs, you can only do your best to ask questions and understand exactly what they need. To be a great salesperson, it’s about empathy — to think less about the “win” and more about what’s right for your prospect and customer.

9 Ways to Meet Your Deadlines and Commitments

Oh no! It’s Thursday night and you just remembered you promised you’d have something complete by Friday at 8 a.m.. There’s no way you’re going to get the work done.

Everyone’s been there … but there are some of us struggle more than others. Whether you need help getting over that procrastination, figuring out the right organization, or sticking to a plan, here are some tips that might prove helpful.

Before you agree

Euler’s diagram is often referred to in project management where people are invited to pick two: good, fast, or cheap. The idea being you can’t have it all. If deadlines are tight, something probably will suffer. Maybe you can produce something faster and cheaper, but it’s of low quality. Maybe it’s good and fast, but it’s expensive. As you’re thinking about the deadline, keep this in mind.

1. Keep it clear

Make sure exactly what’s being asked of you. Clarify the necessary deliverables, exactly when they’re due, and if there are any intermediate steps that need to be taken.

2. Look for options and say, “No” if you have to

If it looks unlikely, figure out other alternatives and discuss them. Can the work be done differently? Can you get help? Can it be done by someone else? Does it have to be high quality? Is the deadline a hard date, requiring completion by then?

No one relishes saying, “No.” But after you’ve exhausted options, it might be the only thing left to say.

When you do have to say, “No,” let the person know up front. It shouldn’t feel impetuous or apathetic, because in reality, you’re saving all parties involved time and stress. Explain the situation, and explain that you don’t feel you can offer quality work after already agreeing to so many responsibilities.

3. Negotiate a cushion

Sometimes deadlines are set in stone, but most of the time you can find a little wiggle room, especially at the beginning of a discussion. Keep it reasonable, but always see how much time you really have so you can accommodate for surprises, unexpected delays, and accidents.

4. Understand priorities and re-prioritize if necessary

Is the new deadline more important than other work. Negotiate on other deadlines as you need, explaining that a priority item came in. Talk about how this item helps your department and the company, too.

During

5. Make the master list

Create and maintain a collection of all deadlines. When you receive a new deadline, break it up into action items, and estimate how long each item will take to complete. Plot each action item on your calendar in sequential order, and give yourself enough time to complete them. Setting start dates and completion dates for each item can help you measure your progress.

6. Take one step at a time

9 ways to meet deadlinesBig projects can sometimes seem so overwhelming they’re difficult to start. On the other hand, a large project with a distant deadline can give the illusion that you have more time than you really do, and make it easy to put off until the last moment. In both cases it’s important to focus on the day-to-day; don’t think about the final product. You’ve already broken your task down into action items – all you have to do is take it step by step until you reach the goal.

7. Meet your commitments

If you’ve already agreed to the deadline, it’s important to meet it. If you need help, ask for it or maybe even hire it. Re-prioritize. Check in and make sure you understand what needs to be done with your manager or the client, sharing what you’ve already committed to.

8. Last resort: push it back

Things happen. If there’s no possible way to deliver on time, notify the person you promised. The earlier you notify them, the better they’ll be able to plan for the delay, and the less upset they’ll be.

After

9. Reflect

What went well? What didn’t go well? Should you have asked for more time? Was there some part you didn’t understand well enough that waylaid you? Asking for feedback from your manager and the people you had a deadline with may help you be more successful next time.

Have other ideas?

Let us know! We’d love to read them.

Ready to Return

People leave the workforce for a variety of reasons, many times related to caregiving. Sometimes after they leave, they want to come back. In those situations, a long gap in a resume can seem an insurmountable barrier to rejoining, but there are programs created specifically to assist in the transition. And ReadyTalk has a success story.

John Bortscheller was a stay-at-home dad for seven years, but before that, he was a corporate account manager at Verizon. He had fantastic skills and a great attitude, but didn’t consider rejoining the workforce until the summer before his second son entered kindergarten. Even at that point, he wasn’t actively looking for work. He was concerned that he’d have to accept suboptimal positions to regain experience.

Meghan Deangelis knew what a gap in her resume might feel like. Last year, she planned to leave her job to care for her child. She even gave her notice, explaining to HR that while she loved ReadyTalk, she needed to be home. That’s when they mentioned their interest in the Path Forward program, an internship for caregivers who’d left the workforce for a while, but were ready to return. HR offered her the opportunity to work part-time searching for potential hires through the program. Meghan accepted, agreeing to stay on working contract hours. johnb

She posted positions all over, including a Denver neighborhood forum. Ironically, John rarely looked at that forum, but saw the post from ReadyTalk by chance. “That forum is usually for moms,” he admitted. “For some reason, that day I decided to take a look.” Out of all the resumes Meghan received, John’s stood out.

What made it work — to bring John into ReadyTalk?

John: Having an established program where I could network and meet people gave me a lot of confidence about returning.

Meghan: John had energy. He had great skills despite a gap in his resume, and not only was he eager to learn, but he was able to pick up where he left off. From start to finish, we had an outline of how we were going to run the program, and that step by step process allowed everyone to succeed.

What were the specifics?

Meghan: We started small and moved slowly — intending only a few people to join us as we piloted what we now call the “Ready to Return” program. We surveyed people at regular intervals and ensured they had the tools needed. We were also careful not to promise employment. And we ensured the departments’ managers were onboard. It wouldn’t have been successful without them.

What advice do you have?

John: Network. Don’t sweat the small things about your resume. Trust yourself. You’ll get back in the swing of things faster than you think.

Meghan: For people interested in getting back into the workforce, cut down on your resume to what you know. Many times, people assume they need to fill in everything from after they graduated from college. That’s not true! Companies are looking for skills that match what they need, not necessarily your entire working life.

In the end, the project proved a success — so successful ReadyTalk is interested in bringing in more caregiving interns. John proved a great hire, and HR kept a valued member. The next Ready to Return program has started. Go to our careers page for more info.