Today’s buyers have more information than ever at their fingertips, and this has dramatically changed the power balance between buyers and sellers. According to recent HubSpot research, three in four Australian sales decision-makers agree that customer expectations are higher now than they have been before.
Thirty years ago, sellers were in control of the entire sales process. Today, buyers already have a very clear idea of what they want to achieve and how they want to achieve it by the time they have their first conversation with your company. They typically seek validation rather than information from salespeople.
In an age of easily replicable products and empowered buyers, companies must ensure it is easy for their customers to engage with their business. This starts by resetting your company’s priorities and reviewing customer engagement throughout the entire funnel.
Delighting customers is more important than winning customers
The customer journey starts, not ends, with the sale. To retain customers, you need to consistently show value and help customers achieve their goals — that requires not just looking at the sales process but the entire customer journey. When salespeople put themselves in the customer’s shoes to offer a more tailored and personalised experience, it improves the likelihood of closing a deal.
Additionally, focusing on delighting your customers is good for growth. Customers today are more powerful than any salesperson; in fact, successful customers can become your best salespeople. Peer recommendations are outpacing business-produced content as a source of information during the buying process.
The risk of prioritising revenue over the customer experience
HubSpot recently asked Australian sales decision makers what they are ranking in terms of priority, and revenue generation came in at the top spot, with nearly 40 per cent ranking this as the number one priority. Falling behind in second place was measuring and improving CX at 15 per cent. Yet, nearly a quarter of Australian consumers report negative sales experiences due to a number of factors, including a lengthy sales process and delays in communication.
Many companies operate with a function-out mindset rather than a customer-in mindset. Function out strategies optimise for a specific purpose or function (for example, revenue), rather than optimising around the customer. Customer-in strategy starts with customer needs and builds your internal processes to match those needs. A function-out strategy creates misalignment. If you had asked a salesperson what their goal was in 2019, you would have gotten very different answers: “Generating more leads” or “generating annual recurring revenue.” A function-out strategy also creates silos, and silos create gaps in the customer experience that are painful for customers to navigate and expensive for businesses to resolve.
How to create a customer-centric business
Firstly, dedicate a clear focus and align your business (especially your customer-facing teams). Your customer experience is not going to change overnight, so it is important to demonstrate to your entire company a clear focus on your new initiatives. Dedicate someone to the execution of your customer experience plans, such as the Chief Customer Officer. It will be their job to communicate changes, facilitate operations, organise research analysis and perform any necessary actions to ensure that your new approach to CX is consistent across all departments of your company, including sales. To drive customer loyalty, your internal teams must be aligned with the same mission: to solve for the customer.
Secondly, ask your customers how you can be doing better and really listen. As you define and enhance your customer experience, you should set out to measure your success and your team’s efforts. The Voice of the Customer (VOC) concept encompasses capturing how customers feel about their experiences with a business, product and/or service. Whether using surveys and online review sites, a call centre and online chat platform, social media or other communication channels, the collective VOC holds the key to pushing forward informed and innovative business decisions.
The secret weapon to sales, and the overall success and longevity of business has and always will be, the customer experience. Creating an experience that impresses buyers will ensure that they continue to do business with you in the future and drive loyalty and retention. Successful sales professionals are skilled listeners, create personalised experiences and work in partnership with their customers to understand and help solve the customer’s problems.