To create a positive customer experience, all points of contact with an organization should match the customer’s expectation. A well-planned customer experience results in a delighted customer and also influences them to do more business with your organization.
Customer experience is composed of many touchpoints during the entire customer journey – before, during and after purchase. Prior to purchase, your marketing efforts – including your website, advertising, PR, social media, conferences, and testimonials – all work together to deliver a consistent and authentic brand. In addition to these marketing touchpoints are the face-to-face and virtual interactions with your sales force.
A lot of hard work and planning go into a successful customer experience. But, what if your sales reps aren’t aligned with marketing? How can sales reps successfully engage buyers throughout the sales process and deliver a consistent customer experience consistent with your company’s brand?
The Buyer’s Perspective on Sales
ValueSelling Associates, Inc. and Training Industry, Inc. surveyed over 200 U.S. managers and executives in a wide variety of industries to examine business-to-business (B2B) sales transactions from buyers’ perspectives. The research report, “Sales from the Buyer’s Perspective” sheds insight on how buyers really feel about their vendor sales relationships.
According to the research findings, 60% of B2B buyers distrust the integrity of salespeople and only 34% of buyers strongly agree that their point-of-contact sales rep is helpful throughout the buying process. As you strive for a positive customer experience from all touchpoints, your sales reps may be inadvertently sabotaging that experience. A lack of business acumen may be part of the problem.
Understand your Buyer and Speak their Language
A pressing question for your organization to consider is whether your buyers feel understood. When buyers are interacting with your sales reps, do the reps seem to know what they’re talking about and deliver a message that is consistent with your marketing efforts?
Our research study shows that on average, buyers are giving sales reps a “C” grade. I don’t know about you, but C grades aren’t where I want to be. There’s clearly room for most sales reps to shore up their ability to engage the buyer.
How? Preparation and proper research prior to each sales call allows sales reps to set themselves apart by providing unique industry insights. As sales forces become younger and younger, many reps would benefit by developing their business acumen. That means if you’re selling to a business executive, you must think like an executive and speak their language – the language of finance.
How can we Fix the Problems?
Now that we know what some of the issues are, how can they be remedied? For instance, how can sales reps upgrade their skills to demonstrate better business acumen?
At ValueSelling Associates, we’ve found that our clients gain the most benefit when they provide training on business and financial acumen to ALL customer-facing professionals. Business and financial literacy increases the ability for any professional to conduct business conversations, understand the world that business executives live in, and gain insight into what matters to businesses. Sales reps don’t need an MBA and don’t need to become a financial analyst to understand the essentials of how businesses operate. ValueSelling Associates offers an Executive Speak™ solution that can help sales reps engage confidently with executives and add value.
We teach people how to conduct quick, effective research and tailor messages that link a buyer’s business issues with the solution being offered. This helps a sales rep establish credibility and gain access to decision makers.
Say, for example, a rep for a 3D printing company is calling on companies in the manufacturing industry. They have done their research and discovered the prospect’s three closest competitors are talking about consolidating to better maintain expensive inventories. To engage a prospect for an initial meeting, the rep can prepare a customized message that hooks a prospect in relation to this key issue, such as:
“We have helped shorten the design process for other manufacturing companies, such as Acme Manufacturing. I’ve successfully helped them decrease their cost of goods sold by 15% in the last fiscal year. I’ll be in your area next month. May I schedule an appointment with you or someone else at your company?”
This takes a bit more preparation and research than your standard opening line, but it effectively talks to the prospect about issues of concern in their business.
One of our clients has invested in Executive Speak for all their inside sales professionals as well as their summer interns. This foundation of business acumen enables the entry-level sales professionals to craft tailored messages — both for email and voicemail — that are about the prospect, their business and the potential value of a partnership.They’ve let us know that this training has improved the efficacy of the prospecting efforts and created more qualified sales opportunities.
The Relationship between Sales Activity and Customer Experience
According to Peter Ostrow, Research Director in SiriusDecisions’ Sales Enablement Strategies Service, “When we examined the relationship between sales activity and customer experience in the SiriusDecisions 2017 Buyer’s Study, we found a strong correlation.”
SiriusDecisions asked B2B buyers about the most significant drivers that influenced their decision to purchase from a particular rep and provider.
- 81% of their drivers center on direct or indirect customer experience with elements such as previous experience with the company, customer references, and relationship with the salesperson high on the list.
- In contrast, only 19% of their motivation focuses on the specific offering or pricing.
Ostrow concludes, “this confirms how important it is for sales enablement to interlock with every buyer-facing organization – marketing, customer care, etc. – in order to help set reps up for success and ensure their competencies include customer care.”
Tight alignment between sales, marketing, and product organizations is critical to a sales team’s success. SiriusDecisions reports that organizations with tight cross-functional alignment have 19% faster growth and 15% higher profitability. Proof that when sales and marketing leaders aren’t well aligned, companies are missing major opportunities to achieve revenue targets.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Taken as a whole, the results of this research suggest a buyer landscape where they are doing more of their own homework, partially because some interactions with vendor organizations are not the best use of time.
Why? We believe this mismatch is due to a combination of two things: 1. a lack of insight into a prospective buyers’ business realities and 2. a lack of skills to communicate effectively in an increasingly technologically-mediated sales environment. Buyers are looking to source for the long-term, uncover comprehensive solutions, and forge relationships with their vendors. In turn, the vendors must meet them with the right knowledge and skills to foster these connections.
Based on these results, we have four recommendations to vendor companies for their sales process:
- Grow the business acumen of the sales function to include a deeper understanding of financial insights.
- Grow the virtual communication touch points of the sales function.
- Foster the skills to better diagnose where a buyer may be in the buying cycle and resynchronize.
- Ensure that point-of-contact representatives are managing both their actual ethics and their perceived ethics in the view of buyer companies.
Sales is at the forefront of establishing and maintaining the customer experience. To be successful with B2B buyers, sales reps need to engage, have multiple touchpoints, communicate successfully, and add value with their business acumen. By beginning with a positive sales relationship, all the other customer experience touchpoints can build on a solid foundation.
To download a complete copy of the research report from ValueSelling Associates and Training Industry, visit: https://www.valueselling.com/sales-from-the-buyers-perspective