For revenue executives concerned about hitting ever increasing targets, generating more qualified leads, increasing the return on their sales teams or creating world-class sales organizations, one of the most effective approaches is to focus on their B2B sales experience – but what does this really mean?
Sales is a process driven profession and there is no limit to the approaches, hacks and tactics utilized by sales teams in an attempt to consistently hit their targets. Some might say this is what sales leadership spends a large amount of time on – perfecting their process and leveraging data to make effective changes. But rarely are the processes employed by sales team driven by or focused on the experience they will create for the buyer.
Over the last few years the investments being made in Customer Experience (CX) have come into their own. At first we wondered what impact these investments would actually generate, but the debate is over – just ask Forrester or experts at Harvard Business Review. The revenue impacts have been huge.
What we found: not only is it possible to quantify the impact of customer experience – but the effects are huge.”
– “The Value of Customer Experience, Quantified,” Harvard Business Review
While the discipline of CX touches on customer acquisition, the majority of brands studied have been B2C – smaller transaction amounts and volume with rapid-cycling relationships where loyalty can be influenced. Yet what was discovered with brands like USAA, Apple and others can and should be applied to B2B sales.
Customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experiences”
– Peter Kriss, Harvard Business Review
According to the latest ‘State of Sales’ report from Salesforce.com, Customer Experience or Sales Experience has become the top KPI used to measure success for surveyed sales organizations – followed by enhancing their sales process and overall organizational performance. The challenge becomes enabling your sales teams – which are often the first touchpoint for future customers and set the tone of the experience – in a way that not only drives performance and dollars but also creates an unrivaled ‘Sales Experience’ focused on increasing Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
Many revenue executives find this new way of thinking challenging and who can blame them. The annual targets rarely decrease, team dynamics are often chaotic, and business priorities and market conditions can shift without warning. However, focusing on your sales experience is not a large departure from what you’re doing today, it’s just a subtle shift of focus.
For example, many sales organizations are using buyer personas to inform their sales process. Designed to provide sales teams with insight into how their target buyers make purchasing decisions and what motivates them from a business perspective, buyer personas are extremely effective tools for informing a sales process. However, from an experiential standpoint, they stop just short of being a perfect tool because they rarely identify or explore how a buyer wants to be interacted with and what motivates them personally.
Rather than focus just on how they buy, a sales experience approach requires focusing on WHY they buy (business value) and what motivates them (personal value). From there it is relatively easy to apply that insight and train your sales team to interact in a way that provides an optimized experience. This is just one example we’ll cover in more detail in another blog post, but for now, know there are relatively simple, easy and effective steps you can take to focus yourself and your sales leadership.
- Start with a ‘Sales Experience Vision’ that outlines the desired outcome and experience for the buyer. In most organizations, this will be an extension of the current sales process - defining what occurs at each interaction point.
- Ensure buyer personas and buyer journeys are mapped with a focus on experience, not just problem-solving. Understanding the most desired experience from the buyer’s perspective is key. Keep in mind - Customer Personas / Journeys and Buyer Personas / Journeys are different - and should be treated as such. In B2B sales, the person or people who buy, may not be the customer engaging with your solution.
- Ask if your personas are diverse enough and focused appropriately. With seven or more people involved in a decision-making process, the experiences each are looking for will be varied but should be understood.
- Help your teams understand the impact they have on the ‘Sales Experience’ - the role they play in creating an experience for the buyer. Your Buyer Journeys will be critical here and allow for focused coaching and direction.
- Train your teams in approaches designed to build trust, uncover the buyer’s perspective and see the experience through their eyes. Too many salespeople want to talk about themselves or their products which creates a less than optimal buying experience.
- Inform your sales strategies with a well-defined set of behaviors and expected results - start with the way you target potential prospects and evaluate your current prospecting or outbounding efforts to identify the gaps or those that are ineffective.
- Enable your teams to recognize and understand the organizational silos they will encounter, the personas of the people in each and equip them with the tools to break them down, aligning with your account strategy.
- Listen to your prospects and be prepared to respond - your ‘Sales Experience’ depends on understanding what the prospects want, how they view their problems and challenges. That information must be collected and acted upon.
- Enlist the support of your Executive Team. If there is already an investment in Customer Experience initiatives, it will be easier to align your Sales Experience to create a consistent, end-to-end solution and keep everyone on board. You will also need this Executive support to ensure you can invest in resources where needed (tools, people, training, etc.)
- Ensure you have the right people on your teams, people who are onboard with the vision, understand the impact and agree to the associated revenue goals. Assess their skills not only at sales but interpersonally as well.
- Outline your communication and training plans in conjunction with other Customer Experience initiatives. What sales says and does create expectations - ensuring your team is aligned with the rest of the organization is critical. Then communicate, communicate, communicate. If your team hasn’t been briefed on new initiatives, you can not expect them to execute on them.
- Define and communicate the steps of your Sales Experience vision in alignment with the sales process. You may need to make some adjustments, redefine stages but in each you should also note how your team should be interacting with prospects. Not just WHAT they should be doing, but HOW they should be doing it.
- Lastly, measure, refine, and measure again. Agile Sales is a topic for another post, but the sales organization must have the ability to make changes based on data-driven insights. Without some form of governance or feedback loop - there will be no way to determine what is working and what isn’t. And this measurement should not just be internal, it should incorporate prospects that became customers and those that did not.
As an example, Dave Kahl, Managing Director at Value Prime Solutions, has a client that tracks Net Promoter Score (NPS) and after focusing on their sales experience and enabling their teams correctly they achieved a 20% increase in their satisfaction scores to the question – ‘Does the supplier take a collaborative sales approach?’. This is only one metric, but an impressive change and excellent example of a measurement to determine if your ‘Sales Experience’ is actually delivering.
CX is no longer just a discipline; it is the basic ingredient for growth
– Winning on the Battleground of CX, Forrester
The pressures on revenue executives only seem to increase and with the emerging trends such as AI, deep learning and this concept of ‘Sales Experience’ – there is no shortage of things to focus on. However, finding the incremental, effective ways to drive growth and increase margins are why we have jobs. Focusing on your sales experience is one of the ways to ensure your team is future proofed and your revenue targets are surpassed today and in the future.