Customer experience is an incredibly hot topic now, driven largely by companies like Amazon who are relentlessly focused on providing customers with a great experience throughout the buyer’s journey. For companies with a sales team, this growing emphasis should be considered in the context of your sales interactions.
Is Sales Serving the Customer?
Much of what has been written about sales effectiveness is focused on meeting the needs of the seller: helping them to convince more people to buy their solutions. There are a great many sales training programs that stress the importance of understanding the customers and meeting their needs, but close examination finds that these approaches remain more focused on the seller winning a deal rather than the buyer making a great decision.
So, let’s step back from our desired outcome – getting a sale – for a moment. What does a great experience really look like from the buyer’s perspective? When we consider our sales interactions in this light, we get a clear picture of what we must do to create an exceptional customer experience.
Here are the three things our model must deliver all prospects and customers in order to provide an exceptional customer experience:
Solve Their First Problem First
Too often salespeople focus on trying to figure out how their products and services will solve a customer’s problems and/or help them achieve objectives. On the surface, this seems totally appropriate, and it may become the right approach at some point in the process. However, it is critical that every seller on your team understand that any prospect or customer who is meeting with them has a problem that takes precedence over your products and services.
As discussed in our blog “Solving The One Problem All Buyers Have,” these buyers are struggling to figure out what really is best for them. Therefore, the primary service your salespeople can and should provide is to provide meaningful, expert decision-making assistance. This means your salespeople must actually become experts at evaluating solutions and making informed business decisions, not just at presentations skills, negotiating tactics or closing techniques.
Teach Them Something They Don’t Already Know
Another part of providing buyers with an exceptional experience is providing them with meaningful insights. Unfortunately, this is sometimes interpreted to mean that salespeople should try to tell buyers things about the buyer’s business they don’t already know.
Now perhaps you are one of the very few companies that have the research staff and intelligence needed to make your sellers more expert at other people’s businesses that the people who work in these companies every day. However, more often than not, this attempt to educate buyers about their business cannot be properly supported and falls flat. This doesn’t mean we cannot provide meaningful insights; it means we must shift our focus from general insights about their business to insights about how other companies are solving similar problems or evaluating similar alternatives.
For example, suppose your buyer has a defined project to evaluate how to best leverage new IoT technology in her trucking company. You are a provider of this technology, but you may not ever know as much as she does about trucking. She will likely evaluate this technology once every several years, or perhaps once in a career. However, you talk with people about this technology, and the associated business issues, and the criteria for evaluating solutions every day. She may only build one business case for this decision, ever.
Alternatively, you may see three in a given week, you may even have helped each on developing clear, differentiating decision criteria tied to their specific business objectives. Because of this, you have tremendous insights about how the technology can impact her business and the types of things other companies, possibly even other trucking companies, consider when evaluating this technology. These insights can help her make the most informed decision possible and provide her with an exceptional customer experience … provided you present them not as a salesperson wanting her to follow your path, but as a BUYING ASSISTANT, fully committed and exceptionally skilled at helping her figure this out.
Remain Passionately Dispassionate About Your Solution
Even if it makes sense to use the discovery or qualifying steps in your process to focus on helping the buyer define clear, differentiating decision criteria, what you must do when presenting your solution and addressing concerns may throw you for a loop. Even now, many experienced salespeople believe that their passionate belief in their own solution will somehow infect the buyer and convince him that it must be right for his business. Not only is this simply not the case, salespeople who passionately explain why THEY believe they have the right solution for the buyer’s business may actually reduce their chances of winning and detract from the customer experience.
Think about it, people don’t generally want to be convinced or sold, they simply want to know they are making the right decision. It isn’t the right decision to buy from a particular salesperson because that person is enthusiastic, every buyer would expect that. A given decision is right because it is clearly the best alternative based on the unique criteria of this particular buyer.
Therefore, our objective when presenting our solutions cannot be to convince them that we have the best alternative. Rather it is to figure out, now that it is time to make a decision, whether or not we have the best alternative for their business. Far too often great work during discovery/qualifying is overshadowed later in the process because an overzealous seller believes she can will the buyer to buy from her and overcome any objection she faces with a forceful and confident presentation.
Please don’t misunderstand, I am not advocating for weakness or insecurity; I am suggesting that confidence in the superiority of your solution must be based on how well aligned it is with the buyer’s criteria. In which case your enthusiasm is based on what you believe about how great your solution is, rather what you know about how well it is aligned to their business objectives.
When we focus our energy on understanding our buyer’s business, using insights to help them to create clear differentiating criteria and presenting our solutions based on this information instead of our unwavering belief that we should win every deal, we create an exceptional customer experience throughout the sales interaction. As one client recently told me, “Selling this way transforms our relationships. Buyers actually ask us why other salespeople don’t treat them the same way.”
Want to talk more about how your sales interactions can provide an exceptional customer experience? Visit us at www.axiomsfd.com or call 800.933.8503, we’re happy to help in any way we can.
For 24 years, Andy Smith has been helping some of the world’s leading sales organizations, including Honeywell, MasterCard, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, and others increase their effectiveness through improved sales process execution, better sales coaching, consultative sales skill development, and higher CRM adoption. Andy holds a degree from Baylor University and prior to joining AXIOM he served in senior sales leadership roles for Sales Performance International, AchieveGlobal, and Acclivus Corporation. He started his career in sales with Xerox before joining ExxonMobil where he discovered his passion for the sales performance improvement profession. Andy lives in Denton, Texas. Ask Andy about his very average golf game, radio broadcasting of high school sports, or his three adorable grand babies.