Group Vice President, Custom Solutions, IDC
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Recognizing the role of customer experience in a company’s capacity to generate revenue has become a mainstream part of the customer creation process. Many enterprises now employ “Chief Experience Officers” as an explicit recognition of its importance. As such, aligning your sales enablement strategy and activities with the customer experience is not only a great way to maximize sales effectiveness, it’s also a way of helping to deliver on top-level corporate objectives. In this post, I’ll look at three steps you can take to align your sales enablement efforts with your customer experience.
1. Look at the customer experience loop from your buyers’ perspective first, not from your selling process perspective.
The IDC Customer Experience Loop is a graphical depiction of the customer-decision journey, which you must acknowledge to ensure the buyer’s process is as fast and efficient as possible. The model contains six stages. The first three of these—Explore, Evaluate, and Purchase—represent the cognitive steps a buyer takes to acquire a product or service. IDC collectively calls these stages the “creation loop.” The latter three represent the post-sale cognitive stages that a buyer goes through to deepen their relationship with you as a supplier of products and services. IDC collectively calls these the “loyalty loop.”
As you consider how sales—and other parts of your organization—will interact with your buyers and customers through the selling, on-boarding, and services relationship, ask yourself, “What do my customers need from me?”
The exploration phase of the customer lifecycle will most likely take place 100% online. Buyers are looking for information about types of solutions that meet their business goals or challenges. They start with search and look for places where they can educate themselves via potential supplier, analysts, journalist, and peers. The self-educated, informed buyer of today has shifted the engagement point for the seller into the latter part of the evaluate stage, or even to the purchase stage. This delayed sales engagement has implications for sales enablement strategy, as Thomas Barrieau discussed in the “What is Sales Enablement – Part I” post.
2. Assure that your sellers—direct sales, inside sales, channel partners—are prepared to carry on the “digital” conversation you have started with your buyers.
Through your marketing and messaging efforts, your buyers know all about your company and solutions by the time they are willing to engage with and enter the vendor selection and purchase process. If your sellers come to a buyer meeting or conversation armed with the 40-slide company and solutions overview, they will be “laughed out of the room.” So, what should the sellers bring to the table?
Sellers need to be prepared to have a relevant conversation with the buyer that aligns to that buyer’s needs, challenges, and questions. A successful seller will be able to discuss—with authority and knowledge—market and technology trends as well as buyer needs and challenges relevant to the role of the buyer and the industry in which they work. This type of seller will demonstrate they understand the business drivers underlying the need to purchase a technology solution. In turn, they become a trusted advisor to their buyer.
Once this rapport and relationship is established, the seller can then map the solutions from their organization to the needs and challenges of the buyer.
3. Extend sales’ involvement with customers beyond the point of “sign on the dotted line.”
You may think of sales enablement as only supporting the customer creation loop. Sales brings on a client, then moves on to the next deal. I suggest you also consider how you can enable sales to expand, renew, and create loyalty with your customers beyond the initial point of sale. From my own experience, expanding a customer relationship, renewing business, and building loyal customers who become your advocates is much easier if all account management stakeholders—customer service, support, fulfillment, sales, etc.—stay connected to the customer over time.
Provide sales with ongoing materials about market and technology trends they can share with their customers. This enables sales to stay engaged and top of mind. Customers now view their seller and your organization as a partner. A sales or account manager is not only someone who shows up to sell and take their money, but they also provide support to implement solutions, understand ongoing market dynamics, and support the customer as their goals and needs evolve over time. Given the extent to which referral selling and customer advocacy is an important part of many customer journeys, this investment can pay dividends not just by helping to renew existing customers, but also by facilitating sales to new buyers.