June 03 2014

Customer Service Secrets For Startups From Scott Britton

10369444_1396628090625700_360493488_nSo, you founded a startup. You’ve got a great product, some programers diligently coding away at expansions for it, and you might even have a few interesting investors popping up in your email box as you go back and forth about meetings and numbers and how much you’re going to crush it. But in order to crush it, you need customers. And in a sea of apps and websites and bootstrapped concepts and fully developed competition, you need sales to get the customers.

Sales is integral to any startup’s growth from concept to competitor to industry leader. It’s up to your team to convince customers to try your product so it can speak for itself. But how does your sales team get heard over the din of other sales professionals cold calling, cold emailing, e-blasting, and social media posting out there in the marketplace?

Few people know the answer to that question better than Scott Britton. 

Scott  worked as the business development executive for SinglePlatform, which was acquired by Constant Contact for $100 million. He’s since gone on to write a bestselling ebook on amazon.com and hosts the iTunes podcast “The Competitive Edge.” This is a man who knows sales inside and out.

Dirk Unckle is the Director of Retail Partnerships for PriceWaiter, an online tool that lets customers set their own price on e-commerce sites. He emailed Scott one day after watching some of his videos and reading his blog posts and they struck up an online friendship. Dirk and Ted Alling convinced Scott to visit Chattanooga and offer up some of his sales expertise. Our startups’ sales teams and a few special guests made for a packed house at Society of Work, and we found out why Scott’s brand of salesmanship goes perfectly with startups.

10413947_481446625321455_343221485_nIt’s all about being informal.

When you think startups, you don’t think suits and cubicles and old school board meetings. You think Steve Jobs. You think jeans and t-shirts. You think fooseball in the community room. You think comfort. You think flexible hours. As it turns out, the same attitude that makes startups such a fun place to work can be applied to sales for killer results.

For the same reason that people like getting to be themselves at the office and have some say in their day to day routine, customers love friendly, un-intimidating sales talk. Over an over in different ways, Scott emphasized how important it is to be friendly, colloquial, informal. Think of how you talk to your friends. Keep it business appropriate, of course, but without all the little cues that instantly cause people to tense up and tune out.

You know, like, “Dear so and so.”

Who says that? Do you text your best girlfriends and say “Dear Jennifer, I saw this cat video and I couldn’t help but think of you. Sincerely, Meredith.” No. You say, “Hey girl. I saw this hilarious video and I thought of you!!!! 😀 -M” That’s right, you put in a smily face. Who says you can’t do that in a business email? Who says you can’t have fun with some business emojis? People love emojis. Even when they’re at work.

Maybe especially when they’re at work.

Scott also explained that, of course, you might not want to start off in full emoji mode right away. Just like you don’t go talking to strangers on the street like they’re your best friends, you shouldn’t do it to your customers either. But find a way to build that familiarity. Just like you would with a friend, listen to what the customer needs and wants.

Find a way to tell an interesting story, or reference things you have in common, even if it isn’t related to the business at hand. Build trust and a sense of connection. Then you can start to feel out how familiar, friendly, and informal you can be. Tailor your sales talk to the customer. Follow their conversational lead. You can only automate sales to a point without losing that human element.

Be real and authentic. 

Scott’s advice was the best kind— the kind of advice that, once spoken, seemed so common sense and obvious, you wonder why it hasn’t always been done that way. It’s the same with great startups. Facebook, Uber, AirBnB, Instagram, Twitter, they are so much a natural part of our lives, and fill such an obvious need, whether it’s for social connection, a ride, or a place to stay, that we wonder what we did before they were there. So as you build the next great startup and work to make your company the best it can be, don’t forget that the secret to good sales. The world could always use more friendly conversations, whether the end result is a sale or a new fan or just making someone’s day better.

If you like Scott’s sales advice, check out his book, his website, and his Twitter!