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Connections have always been important in business. Long before the days of LinkedIn and social selling, those salespeople that took time to get to know their customers would invariably be an organisation’s top performers.
Technology has since come a long way. Mobile and digital platforms have rendered our purchasing habits almost unrecognisable compared with even five years ago. More recently, the rise of self-service customers has blurred the lines between B2B and B2C sales.
Despite these changes, however, sales remains a people business.
The challenge facing sales and marketing teams is to not just respond to seismic shifts in the way people shop, but to also capitalize on this digital form of customer interaction.
The industry is still catching up in this respect. A recent Harvard Business Review study reveals that only one third of companies are confident in their ability to keep up with the changing demands of their customers and prospects.
The solution is simple: learn more about your customers to better serve them.
While the face-to-face conversations that traditionally took place at the beginning of a purchasing decision have been replaced, customers’ expectations for a personalized experience have not.
And while the face-to-face conversations that traditionally took place at the beginning of a purchasing decision have been replaced, customers’ expectations for a personalized experience have not.
The information that sales and marketing teams need to deliver on this demand is locked in the data they collect during the digital discovery phase of a purchase. With this information they can develop a detailed picture of each person that interacts with the organization and provide them with a more tailored experience.
Customers and prospects now expect vendors to do this for them as well. They understand that their digital interactions should provide all the background a business needs to understand their requirements and deliver the best possible solution.
The 15% of companies that are ahead in their use of technology and data intelligence have grown more quickly in the past year than their competition.
That is why leading sales and marketing teams are now using technologies which enable them to pinpoint and respond to digital signals from buyers. It is also why their organizations are gaining a significant strategic advantage. According to HBR, the 15% of companies that are ahead in their use of technology and data intelligence have grown more quickly in the past year than their competition and are also better positioned for future growth.
This begs one final question: are these indicators enough to get to know the people you’re selling to?
They certainly allow businesses to match a customer to a product based on the information they’ve provided so far, but this is only a one-off victory. Success in sales hinges on repeat business. It is about making someone a customer for life, and, just as importantly, an advocate for your organization.
Success in sales hinges on repeat business. It is about making someone a customer for life, and, just as importantly, an advocate for your organization.
Sales and marketing teams need a fully-formed picture of the person at the other end of an internet connection to achieve this, not just a view of the products they might be interested in buying.
HBR’s report found the same when identifying the characteristics of ‘best-in-class’ sales organizations. The research showed that top performers differentiate themselves by working with data streams rather than intuition to help with forecasting, generating leads and protecting margins, among other tasks.
The key is to create a culture that encourages the flow of information between every department that interacts with customers, from sales and marketing through to service. According to HBR, more than half of “best-in-class” organisations say there is a strong collaboration between their sales, marketing, IT, and service teams so they can create a single and comprehensive view of their customers.
After all, a person’s first purchase marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a long and fruitful relationship and the best relationships are those where both sides truly understand one another.
You can download the full Harvard Business Review study: Outperforming the Market With Data Intelligence and Sales Technology, read more of Daryn’s blogs on customer experience on his LinkedIn page here or follow him on Twitter.