Many B2B organizations narrow their customer experience strategy to all the various customer interactions that occur post purchase. And while the majority of customer lifetime value (CLV) is realized after the initial purchase, it is vital to understand that the customer experience begins long before any purchase.
This fact is why sales is so crucial to the delivery of CX within any B2B organization. Whether tending to a current install base of customers or looking to acquire new business, sales people are vital to the customer experience and can be the difference that experience being a good or bad one.
With that in mind, here are five things sales organizations should do to ensure they are delivering on the promise of customer experience.
Become Subject Matter Experts in Their Industry
“I wish our team would be able to do more than just give a product pitch.” This is what I heard from a Director of Sales Operations recently as he was telling me about his sales teams struggles.
In a 2018 Study conducted by DemandGen Report, 64% of B2B buyers stated that it was “very important” that sales reps “demonstrated a knowledge of their company and insights into their problems.” Another 62% noted their desire to work with a sales rep who could “demonstrate experience or knowledge of their industry.” This is far beyond being able to simply speak to products features and functions.
B2B buyers are looking to solve problems, looking to improve their business and looking to those who can make them better at their profession. This is hardly ever accomplished by a single product or service. However, it can be accomplished by a sales rep who has done the work to know industry trends, apply their experience to solving problems and be a “go-to” for relevant information that will help their customers.
If sales wants to help deliver exceptional experiences, they must put in the extra time to know their industry and help their buyers which goes beyond simply speaking about what they sell.
Sell on Value Not on Price
Most B2B buyers I have engaged with over the past two decades are clear that they are willing to pay more for value. However, when reps lead with a product first message, they unwittingly turn the discussion away from value and it simply becomes a discussion of cost.
While cost will always be a factor in a B2B purchase, it should never be the ONLY factor and too many times it is. Sales reps should be able to speak to the value of what they sell and make that value relevant to the customer and the problems they are trying to solve. Without speaking to the value of the purchase, the likelihood of being viewed as a commodity increases significantly and rarely has a commodity been a part of delivering an overwhelming experience
Listen & Empathize
It seems so simple, but yet is so hard for many to do. A client of ours is in the process of buying software to add to their martech stack. During the course of one of the conversations with a potential vendor she texted me with the following, “I hate speaking to these sales reps, they are so junior! It is like he is asking me his list of set questions and if I derail him with one of mine, he just starts over. It is so frustrating.”
This is a common refrain I hear from clients. They do not want a sales rep who is going through the “sales playbook” step by step with no regard for the customer. They want a rep who can listen, who can empathize with their position and offer solutions to their issues that do not always include a sales pitch.
Sometimes the best thing a sales rep can do to deliver the desired experience is listen and in so doing they will, in time, earn the right to demonstrate their product or services.
Do Your Homework
I remember the first sales call I ever went on in my mid-20s. I was excited and felt prepared as I knew the pitch cold and believed in my companies services. I walked into the CEO’s office and after a few pleasantries, began my pitch. Not long into my pitch, the CEO politely interrupted and asked, “Carlos, what do you know about our company, what we sell, our customers, etc. I am sure you know your company and products, but do you know ours?” I was stumped! I knew his name, his company name and could tell what products they sold, but beyond that, I had no clue. I had not done my research. Needless to say, I lost the deal and rightfully so as I was not customer centric in my approach.
While I learning that lesson was not fun, it is something I have incorporated into my sales approach ever since then . . . researching my customers and buyers. How do I do this? I use the same tools they use, LinkedIn, Twitter, their corporate website, etc. There is a wealth of information that we as sales people can tap into to help us learn, build a relationship and provide a better experience to those that we are selling to.
I have had many B2B sales reps tell me they do not have the time to go to an individuals LinkedIn profile before they engage. Honestly, that is an excuse to be lazy. You can’t afford not to as it can and will help shape the experience of the conversation from the customer's perspective.
More and more B2B customers are demanding a good experience with the brands they buy from and sales people have a large role in delivering that experience.
Organizations need to take the time to ensure their sales reps are enabled, equipped and empowered to deliver such an experience as by next year it will replace price and product as the key differentiator in B2B purchases.
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