When Customer Experience Counts, Can You Win?

September 19, 2017 Jennifer Wyne

Across all types of businesses, sales executives are making a difficult transition from driving an effective sales process to being effective within the customer’s buying process. SMAC, (social, mobile, analytics, cloud) has altered the traditional B2B sales engagement, empowering buyers with more information, more insights, and more options than ever before. The result is B2B buyers now expect an immediate, seamless, 24/7 customer experience tailored specifically to their needs.

To achieve their business objectives, sales and marketing leaders are developing strategies to compete more effectively by delivering a winning customer experience. According to research conducted by Gartner, 89% of companies planned to compete based on customer experience. Unfortunately, that same research showed that fewer than half of respondents felt that their current customer experience was superior to their competitors.

Sales organizations that are not focused on delivering a winning customer experience will find themselves doubly challenged. An often quoted study by Accenture revealed that business customers are 57% through their buying process before they engage with a sales person. Today’s B2B sales people have less time with the prospect, and they face ever increasing expectations. To give your sales team the best chance for success in today’s B2B arena, here are four questions you should be answering:

Have you walked a mile in their shoes?

A CSO Insights survey identified that sales organizations actively mapping sales processes and tools to the buyer journey realize up to 15% higher win rates. Although there are many approaches to mapping the buyer journey, whatever approach you take must start from the perspective of your customer. Understanding the totality of the information available to them from third parties and competitors, and the formats and ease of accessibility can help you to determine a baseline buyer experience. With that information, you are able to better target where and how your experience will be superior. High performing sales organizations then find ways to formally, and sometimes even dynamically, align sales process, resources, and tools to the buyer journey to drive wins.

Can you… wait for it?

Well before that first sales interaction, the buyer has rated your customer experience. Don’t start out at the back of the pack by tainting that impression with unnecessary “asks”. From the buyer perspective, it’s all about what they want, when they want it, and how much it helps them. Too many sales and marketing organizations are caught in a traditional quid pro quo mentality, focused on qualifying and extracting commitments too early.

Winning sales and marketing organizations build trust early in the buying journey by initially focusing on delivering value. One way to build this trust is through the amount, quality, and accessibility to helpful content. Marketing programs, sales development efforts, and initial sales engagement should all support the creation of a positive customer experience that will facilitate the “asks” when they most matter. Make sure to align metrics and incentives across organizations that focus on monitoring effectiveness and quickly adapting to create and sustain a winning customer experience.

Are you really fast enough?

Once engaged, the sales person has the opportunity to provide a differentiated experience in multiple ways. Many organizations have adopted sales methodologies that are designed to engage the buyer through more meaningful or provocative methods. However, the simple dynamic of responsiveness is a big plus for a winning customer experience. Organizations focused on enhancing the customer experience are investing in infrastructure to improve responsiveness to the customer during the buying process.

Sales Enablement Content Management systems make it easier and faster to deliver valuable content. A Docurated study showed that sales people spent 39% of their time finding and managing documents. Investments in Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) automation drive faster and more accurate proposal and quote generation, which, according to an Aberdeen study, can shorten sales cycles by 28%. Contract Lifecycle Management streamlines the contract approval and negotiations process, which another Aberdeen study indicated typically occupies 18% of sales time during a sales cycle.

Is your customer getting a clear message?

Organizations that are best in class at integrating sales and marketing messaging out-distance their competition in quota achievement by 25% according to a study by CSO Insights. With the massive amounts of information the customer may experience during their buying journey, driving a consistent message throughout is critical to a winning customer experience. Sales and marketing organizations need to strike a fine balance. Aberdeen research shows that keeping messaging in line with key customer needs doubles revenue driven from marketing activities.

At the same time, it is imperative that customers clearly understand the unique value and differentiation provided by your solutions. Keeping a consistent message framework across all touch points, regardless of sales channel, throughout the buyer’s journey not only helps customers better understand your value proposition, but also builds a better customer experience. Best in class companies reinforce this consistency both through the creation of sales enablement and customer content, and through the delivery of content. Many companies are now starting to use technology to map specified content to phases in the buyer journey and implement tools that automate proposal generation and contracts from standardized templates help to drive consistent messaging.

Increasing your odds of winning

Customer experience is not just an issue of sales and marketing engagement. The customer experience spans the lifecycle of customer engagement and becomes key to sustaining a relationship with the customer that is also profitable for the company. Nevertheless, sales and marketing teams can make immediate and dramatic improvements in the customer experience that can help them drive growth. Recent CSO Insights research highlighted that only 53% of B2B sales reps are attaining quota – down 10 points in just 4 years. What would the impact to your revenue growth be if 10% more of your sales reps were hitting quota?

While these recommendations may seem fundamental, many companies today are struggling with the transition to a more customer experience driven approach. Those that take the basic initial steps will be ahead of the pack.

This week’s post is by guest author, Jess Tan, VP of Commercial and Partner Sales for Model N’s Revenue Cloud, a suite of Revenue Management applications, including CPQ, CLM, Rebates, MDF, and Channel Data Management, that deliver an enterprise grade quote-to-cash solution.

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