A pivotal part of a customer’s journey with a company – particularly in the business-to-business (B2B) environment – is their buying process. Yet customer experience (CX) professionals often share that the toughest internal fortress to breach and form a collaborative working relationship with is the Sales team. Often a Sales team is driven by decidedly non-CX metrics revolving around a quarterly, if not monthly, reporting period. And the CX team wants to come in talking about annual survey results, transactional data farther down the customer journey than where Sales actively plays, or the importance of a customer-focused culture … and is ignored.
But with a little investment, it is possible to apply a CX lens to sales and engage members of that team around customer experience. That investment often starts by bringing to the sales team things that help them accomplish their primary objective – closing new business. That can then open the door to exploring additional ways to help them better measure and improve the customer’s buying experience, directly or through cross-functional efforts.
Drawing from my previous Temkin Group research, here are four ways CX teams can use experience data (X-data) with sales teams to enable a differentiated buying experience for customers:
- Use insights to adjust approaches to sales opportunities. Buyers’ needs and expectations aren’t static. Not only do features, benefits, and value needs shift, but how customers expect to engage with a company during their buying process can change as well. CX teams are in a position to provide their sales organization with insights into those changes and work with the team to how it needs to modify its current approach with buyers. Helping the sales team better understand what information buyers are looking for, how to make it easier for buyers to access the information they need, and how buyers see the organization (and its competitors) in terms of industry leadership and subject matter expertise can provide salespeople with stronger talking points to use with current clients and prospects. Tapping into X-data to illuminate the type of buying experience customers want compared to what happens today can identify adaptations to better manage interactions with prospective customers as they progress through the buying process.
- Support sales efforts by identifying new reference customers. It’s not uncommon in B2B buying journeys for a prospective customer to want to talk to someone who has already selected the organization to do business with. Yet sales leaders can struggle with keeping a sufficient pool of current customers to share experiences with others when needed. To assist with ensuring a reference program is supplied with fresh participants, CX teams can incorporate screening questions within an existing survey to identify potential references. When questions are answered positively, customers can be shown a brief description of the reference program and asked about his or her interest in talking to the team who manages the program. Alerting workflows in the experience insights platform can be used to notify the reference team who can continue the process to onboard the interested customer. This technique can also be used to identify customers willing to share their stories in other formats such as case studies, presentations, webinars, or advertising. A side benefit: by showcasing standout customers, the existing relationships with those customers are also strengthened.
- Share quantified CX performance for use as selling points. Sales teams are constantly asked by buyers for evidence and proof points about the benefits of becoming a customer. CX teams should engage with sales teams to keep them informed of customer feedback and offer strategies to effectively respond to opportunities and concerns using the company’s pool of experience data. One B2B financial services company’s CX team quantified the attributes that differentiated its customer experience from the competition and communicated those internally and externally through a specially branded campaign. The CX team worked with internal departments to identify any measures or metrics that demonstrated the company’s ability to better serve customers relative to the industry as a whole. This approach not only can arm a sales team with convincing selling points, it also motivates employees to live up to the promises being made to customers.
- Involve top executives throughout the sales process. Executive involvement in sales deals can sometimes be the difference between a smooth or challenging path to closing. The CX team can contribute insights that can help identify the most important deals for executives to get involved in amongst the many that might be competing for attention. One network infrastructure organization used X-data from existing customers currently in active buying motions, along with other operational data, to identify “hot accounts” where risk in pending sales deals could be exacerbated due to an open support case. Every week, regional leaders would review the report and work together to bring resolution to open cases. A weekly “war room” brought together the CEO and his direct reports to review escalated special requests for discounts, process exceptions, and other appeals related to sales deals – using experience data as one input into the decision-making process.
During B2B sales processes, companies can miss out on opportunities to differentiate themselves. Rather than helping prospects uncover their true needs and navigate the buying journeys, many B2B firms push prospective buyers through their sales funnels. B2B organizations that gather and use the right customer insights and X-data during this early stage in the overall customer journey can create a differentiated experience from the start of the relationship.