I’m a great fan of Customer Experience Design. Unfortunately, most of the work in customer experience design tends to be focused on web design, user interfaces and product design. There is some interesting Design Thinking work being done in business process/strategy. I think as sales professionals we need to rethink the Customer Buying Experience.
Actually, it’s already being done, but, it’s being designed without us! Social media and networking create means by which customers are already redesigning their buying experiences. Axel Schultze wrote an outstanding article, Sales Process 2010, that outlined much of this. Social media isn’t the only place we are seeing customers redesign their buying experiences. There is some very interesting work being done by procurement thought leaders and in supply chain management. They are reassessing how they buy, how they work with suppliers, and how they (perish the thought) collaborate with vendors.
Change is happening all around us. It’s going to happen regardless of what position we take, the train has left the station, we need to find a way to jump on board.
The challenge, however, is we are all prisoners of our own experience. It is difficult for us to think about how to change radically, but we tend to evolve incrementally. If we changed our approach and our thinking, we might be able to drive some profound changes and contribute to what is already being done.
Customer Experience Design offers an interesting way for sales professionals to redesign how we work with customers. Imagine the insight that we might get if we applied these principles to the Customer Buying Experience? It does produce some interesting opportunities.
In some ways, things like this have been done before. We have seen profound changes in relationships in working with customers on their key/strategic account programs. In those instances, the conversation started with, “How would you like us to sell to you?” Recently, we brought some functional executives in front of sales people (in this case CIO’s), we posed the same question, how would you like to be sold to? The conversations all brought profound insights to the sales teams and changed the way these customers were approached. They built closer relationships, built greater value to the customers, produced greater revenue to my clients, and reduced their cost of selling.
Start your Customer Buying Experience Design in a small way. As outlined above, consider focusing on your key/strategic accounts. Engage the key people in those customers in a different conversation—not about buying your products, but ask “How would you like us to sell to you?” Focus on the process, the quality of interaction, the coverage model. Examine how they want to buy and what their ideal buying experience might be. Test some new ideas with them–let them help you design the process. Once you get their insights, look at what you can change and how closely you can achieve the design parameters.
Alternatively, leverage your Customer Advisory Board (surely you have a Customer Advisory Board). We usually talk to them about our products, sometimes about our policies, sometimes about our strategies. Reserve one meeting with them to talk about their Buying Experience. Talk to them about their buying experience, leverage them to help redesign it. Or get customers representing a key function together (for example CIO’s).
It’s in your customers’ interests to engage in these discussions. Afterall, aren’t all of them looking for a better buying experience?
These are just starting points. Customer Experience Design and Design Thinking is much more comprehensive. I think there are great applications to this for Sales. We have to look at things differently, these approaches provide tools that enable us to do this.
We’ve been spending a lot of time talking to people in this space. We’re still new, but we’ve gone a few steps down the road. If you need help or have questions, you know where to call.