The Sales Challenge

Going beyond customer satisfaction

Customer-Pleasing Marketing and Sales Ideas

by John Graham

Mr. Graham is a principal with GrahamComm, a marketing and sales strategist-consultant and business writer. He publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales.” Connect with him at 617-774-9759 or

There’s an over supply of useless, whacky, and just plain dumb marketing and sales ideas. For example, if someone says the best time to email customers is 10 am on Thursdays forget it. What if you’re aiming at teachers, lawyers, nurses, boomers or just about anyone else? One solution never fits everyone, even if they’re in the same market segment. So, forget about simple solutions to issues that require serious thought.

Right at the top, an idea that makes sense must pass the useful test; it’s only good if its works — if it gets the desired results. Here are seven useful marketing and sales ideas that will please your customers.

  • Make them happy
    Satisfied customers aren’t necessarily happy customers. Happiness doesn’t come from being satisfied; it comes from the unexpected. The customer told the self-storage manager his lock didn’t fit on the locker and he needed to buy a new one. The manager grabbed one from the wall display and handed it to the customer. “Take this. We’re glad to have you here,” he said. That’s happy.

    And so is getting a free container of paint mixed to the right shade to take home to see if it works. Or receiving a follow up email or phone call to see if all is well and to ask if they could do anything better. Happy is free shipping, easy returns, or a chat line.

  • Dispel their doubts
    Today’s customers are skeptical. Just because we say it’s so doesn’t mean they believe it. In fact, they probably don’t. Even so, businesses and salespeople say that “customers come first,” and that they’re trustworthy, reputable, and reliable. And no one believes them. No one.

    What can you do to become credible? A recent Nielsen study commissioned by inPowered points the way. According to Research Brief, the study indicates that expert content, or what they call “credible, third-party articles and reviews” is the “most effective source of information in impacting consumers along all stages of the purchase process, across all product categories.”

  • Spot their problems
    More often than not customers may not even know they have a problem and even if they’ve figured it out, they may not want to talk about it. Your value to customers rests in your ability to spot problems, many times those that others either ignore or fail to see.

    You’re the “primary care physician” that customers want. Anyone can sell “stuff”, but only an expert salesperson can identify and come up with the right diagnose for a troublesome issue. Now, here’s the kicker: the problems you spot don’t need to be related to what you’re selling, and neither do they need to be something huge. It makes no difference because pointing them out shows you care about the customer, not just about the sale.

  • Create their interest
    After speaking with the new sales director for an insurance product, the consultant recognized why he seemed to be floundering. He was clearly competent, knowledgeable, and came with a good track record, but wasn’t fully engaged.

    it’s only good if its works — if it gets the desired results

    Candidly, he didn’t know what to do to get moving quickly. He made phone calls when he had time, but the results were zilch. He was busy, but not productive. It was clear he didn’t have any understanding of why anyone should do business with him, which sent the message that he was just another salesperson to be ignored.

    How could he succeed without creating interest? His database was non-existent and he had no way to communicate with prospects (other to ask for business on the phone), no way to share helpful solutions, new information, and success stories that would attract their interest and help develop a reputation as the go-to person in his field.

  • Engage them their way
    Apps in themselves aren’t the key to getting close to customers. There are good ones, but most fail to deliver the right results because they’re designed to serve senders, not users, which is the problem with just about all types of communication.

    To prove the point, close to 90% of apps are disregarded shortly after downloading. However, some companies are offering apps that are simple, user friendly, and provide customers with what they need. By understanding why, how, and when customers use the app, companies boost their relevancy ad retention. All this sends the positive message that the customer is in charge.

    If you want to engage customers, start by asking what customers want and then follow through.

  • Do it for them
    What’s easier than making a purchase on Amazon? The answer may be surprising: returning it. If you want UPS to pick it up, the instructions are emailed instantly, including when UPS will arrive with the return label in hand. No stress. No what ifs. It’s taken care of. Oh, yes, there’s a confirmation as to when the replacement will arrive.

    That’s not all. “Amazon Local Services” is on the way. If you make an Amazon purchase, they can arrange installation. If you need local professionals for home repair, automotive, lawn and garden, computer and electronics services, they’ll find and vet them. And the work is guaranteed.

    What customers want is to know that someone will “take care of it” and they can go about their business.

  • Keep them believing
    Of all business dangers, losing your edge towers above all others. Joseph Jaffe points out in his onlineSPIN column that startups care more about customers than long-established companies and brands. “Here’s the thing,” he says. “There are no more ‘best practices’ without the ability to innovate, evolve and adapt.” He suggests ‘different practices’ or ‘new practices’ that lead both customers and competitors.

Whether you’re large or small, the key to keep customers believing is the same curiosity that drives startups and gives them their edge. It’s what customers are looking for.

While we revel in the inspiration of what we think of as “great ideas,” it’s useful ideas that are powerful and make a difference to our customers.