In physics, friction between two items creates resistance, impeding maximum velocity. The same holds true in business: any friction created between you and your customers will limit your full sales potential. This lesson will help you identify what types of things create sales friction for businesses and how best to “lubricate” those issues for maximum sales performance.
To me, sales friction is typically bundled into the following categories:
RESISTANCE TO COMPANY OR BRAND
If a customer does not trust a company, it will not do business with that company. You want to do everything you can to increase trust around your brand. This includes: (i) having a professional looking website; (ii) visible customer reviews from happy past customers; (iii) featured mentions in brand name media outlets; and (iv) icons and high scores from reputable credibility checkers (e.g., Better Business Bureau, TRUSTe privacy), to name a few. Put on the hat of your customers and ask if you would make a first purchase from your company if you knew nothing about it. Startups have the biggest hurdles here, so do whatever you can to alleviate any fears customers may have about buying from your business. And, keep religious focus on your company reputation, especially in social conversations, to learn what people are saying about your business, and to address such items.
RESISTANCE TO PRODUCT OR SERVICE
If a customer does not like the product or service offered compared to other competitive products or services in the market, it will not do business with that company. Take a critical look at all the competitive products or services that are available in your market and compare to your own business to see how you stack up. Does your product or service have better functionality and features? Do you have better customer service? If not, go back to the drawing board and figure out how you can gain a competitive advantage. Clearly communicate such competitive advantage in your marketing materials.
RESISTANCE TO PRICING
If your prices are too high or do not bring a high enough value to your customers, they will never buy from you. My rule of thumb is to price your product or service at a discount to your competitors on things that are largely similar. Or, price your product at the same level as your competitors, but add in additional features and functionalities that make the consumer feel they are getting a “bigger bang for their buck” and more value when buying from you. In Lesson #143, we talked about “freemium” pricing techniques, which I think work great for removing any price related friction from the sales process, as who isn’t going to be willing to try out a product for free? When comparing prices, be sure to fully load your prices for things like taxes, fees and shipping, as your customers will be doing the same.
RESISTANCE TO POLICIES
If there are any surprises in the purchase process or the consumer has any sense of fear related to the purchase or the company’s policies, they will abandon their cart and not purchase from you. This includes things like: (i) do you offer free shipping; (ii) can customers return products to you with free shipping; (iii) can customers return the products to your stores, as well as your online fulfillment center; (iv) do you offer an unconditional customer satisfaction guarantee; (v) do you provide cash refunds, or only store credit; (vi) did you include any unexpected service charges on top of the product price; (vii) did you give customers the option to locate inventory in your closest store in case they are nervous about buying online; and (viii) did you give the customer the option to book over the phone in addition to the web? Make sure you are 100% customer-friendly in all of your policy making.
RESISTANCE IN USER EXPERIENCE
If buying from you is not easy, customers will shop elsewhere. Therefore it is critical you optimize your user experience. This includes: (i) keeping your site speed fast; (ii) making it easy to find items with site search and navigation; (iii) having a clean site page design that is not cluttered or confusing; (iv) using quality photos or videos to help sell the products or services; (v) offering a live chat option for answering questions while people are shopping on the site; (vi) showing sample reports or screenshots of what customers can expect from your service; (vii) making sure inventory is in stock; (viii) making sure it is clear what date the product will be shipped to and received by the customer; and (ix) keeping any order forms as short as possible without too many fields to fill in.
As you can see, there are lots of potential friction points between you and your customers. Make sure you are doing your best to have as few friction points as possible and optimize your business for maximum sales performance of each over time.
This article was originally published on RedRocket VC, a consulting and financial advisory firm with expertise in serving the start-up, digital and venture community.
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