How a High-Performing Revenue Enablement Strategy Can Boost Customer Retention

January 16, 2020

Preventing Customer Churn

Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by John Moore, Vice President, Bigtincan.

In a recent post the LinkedIn Sales Blog, "How a Revenue Aligned Organization Embraces Today's Complete Buyer Journey," I explored the journey from prospect to buyer to customer.

What happens, however, when customers appear to be signaling their disenchantment? Can a high-performing Revenue Enablement strategy and team make a difference and help you keep a customer? A well-tuned Revenue Enablement technology stack should provide early warning signs for your team. Some danger signs: product usage is down, customers have filed dozens of bug complaints, or they’re not returning your calls.

To help answer the question as to whether Revenue Enablement can aid in customer retention, I consulted with some experts in the field:

Nancy Nardin: Sales Tech is an Early Warning System

Nardin on how sales tech can provide an early warning system for customer churn:

Most of sales tech on our market landscape is aimed at helping to obtain the sale. However, as Customer Success is becoming more aligned with Sales, we see technology aligning as well. 
One good example is with sales enablement solutions where content and content usage is tracked. You get a feel for how engaged a customer is (and, by extension, see warning signs of possible churn) by understanding the type and frequency of content consumption. 
There are other solutions to consider as well, for instance, something like a Revegy where you can keep track of white-space. White-space and wallet-share analysis are where you identify all the opportunities for your product within an account — which products the account should be buying from you but isn't (either they aren't buying at all, or they're buying from a competitor). If you start to see a decrease of wallet share or an increase in white-space, those can be indicators you're losing your grip on the account. 
Finally, there are solutions like Strikedeck, which gives you real-time health scoring that helps identify critical customers and alert you to significant status changes. Selling is becoming more about a ‘buying experience,’ and that carries over into the customer experience. Sales and Customer Success will need to work more closely than ever to ensure consistent revenue growth with minimum churn.

Nardin points out a critical change taking place, which is the tightening alignment between members of the revenue team. This transformation is changing how customers are supported and how companies approach upselling and cross-selling. By better aligning to the customer's needs, stronger relationships are built, and these relationships are crucial to growth in 2020 and beyond.

Anita Nielsen: How to Remain Actively Engaged With Customers to Prevent Churn

Nielsen, author of Beat the Bots, shares how sellers can remain actively engaged with their customers to stay ahead of and, ideally, prevent churn:

One of the things I talk about in the book is that, sadly, there are sales professionals who all but vanish when the ink dries on a deal or once they have handed a client off to the operations organization. I believe that how the customer feels in the first 90 days after an agreement is signed is an indicator of future churn. In those crucial first few weeks after a customer makes the purchase, the risk of buyer's remorse is off the charts. So, sales professionals should keep this in mind and help ensure customers feel they have made the right decision, even if issues arise.
It's unrealistic to think that customers who are being on-boarded won't incur any issues along the way — no matter how hard sales and service professionals may try to prevent them. The reality is that how a company handles customer's challenges in those first 90 days is more important than how much they do to go above and beyond. For sales professionals, this means that not only should they ensure customer expectations are met or exceeded, but they also must be extremely vigilant about how easily customers can get past any issues and concerns. Another way to look at it is that in many cases, a customer that has had a problem in onboarding, which was resolved effectively, will become MORE loyal than a customer who had no challenges at all. It's how organizations handle challenges that cement customer loyalty. There's research on this from the Customer Contact Council. I believe there's an element of loss aversion at play here. 
The moral of the story is, a sales professional has to continue to consistently engage with a customer in those first 90 days and be ready to make the process — even the challenges — as painless as possible. That's the first part of the equation. After those 90 days, if reps successfully build a foundation of loyalty, they can decrease the frequency of communication with the customer. There should be a reasonable, mutually agreed upon cadence and customers should know they can easily reach the sales professional if needed. The most powerful way to get ahead of churn is to make sure that the customer doesn't have the slightest feeling of buyer's remorse in the first 90 days, that their expectations are met or exceeded and that any issues that arise are handled quickly and painlessly.

Nielsen is right. Customers make a buying decision, in part, based upon their relationship with a specific seller. The seller must remain close during onboarding to ensure all promises are kept, solutions are provided to their business challenges, and that a productive relationship is created between the customer and the customer success team supporting them.

The goal during this period is straightforward. Customers should have two critical relationships established and be clear about their communication channels with the seller and the customer success team. 

Bob Britton: How Sales Enablement Teams Can Learn from Churn

What happens if things do not work out, and the customer decides it's time to end the relationship? I asked Bob Britton for his insights on how the Sales Enablement team can help the broader selling team learn from customer departures.

A useful DSA (dead sales autopsy) will uncover some of the reasons the client left us. It could something internal to our company, such as a bad relationship between the seller/company and the decision-makers, poor delivery, unkept promises/improperly set expectations, the product is losing traction in the marketplace due to a competitor having a superior product.
These are all addressable, to one degree or another, by Sales Enablement. SE can and should be looking for friction anywhere in the company, which creates suboptimal revenue generation. It's our responsibility to ensure our voices are heard regardless if we can have any direct impact on the cause of the friction. 
If we're hearing from our sellers that a competitor has a new feature that the client likes, we need to let the product team know; we can and should provide guidance and shine a light on other peoples' blind spots. Enablement, like sales, is a team sport, after all.
The DSA is an agile process whereby you can learn from the past and implement changes to drive continuous improvement. Make the DSA a focus for customers who exit, just as you are hopefully using the QBR for constant development with existing customers.
When you lose a customer, it can be stressful personally and professionally. However, a lost customer is rarely a permanent loss. Former customers should always enter back into your nurture campaigns.

Bernie Borges: How to Build Trust

I asked Bernie for his insights on how to best market and sell to former customers versus brand new prospects.

Whether marketing to a brand new customer or a former customer, the common theme is the need to develop and reinforce trust in your brand. With a new customer, we're building trust, which can take time. With the former customer, often, we need to re-establish trust. Both scenarios require content. With the new customer, the content should tell a narrative about how we can help the customer achieve their desired state using our solution. The story to the former customer should remind them why the desired state is meaningful with calls-to-action to consume content that tells the narrative of the importance of the ‘why’ with options of ‘how’ our solution gets them to the desired state. Sometimes, the former customer loses sight of the why on a business topic, which is the reason to emphasize it in our messaging to previous customers. 
Both scenarios require a persistent approach that demonstrates a ‘we care’ attitude toward the customer.

None of us want to lose customers. The majority of the time, this loss indicates that we failed to meet their business needs fully or to adequately define the business value of our solutions. If we learn and improve, however, as we take this journey with our customers, then each of these losses will add tremendous value to our business.

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