This Week’s Big Deal: Gaining an Edge with Customer Experience

May 27, 2019

Customer Experience

The journey is more important than the destination.

This classic adage speaks to one of the biggest shifts taking place in the world of commerce. For many companies, it’s no longer about simply selling a product or service; it’s about delivering a memorable experience along the way that delights customers.

The trend is unmistakable: customer experience is gaining a larger share of our collective consciousness. As Google Trends illustrates, this term has consistently risen in prominence over the past 15 years:

For the most part, customer experience has fallen under the purview of marketing. But if that’s your organization’s stance, it might be time to reconsider.

Why Sales Teams Should Be Focusing on Customer Experience

We define customer experience as “the combination of every interaction each customer has with your business – and how they perceive those interactions.” In many cases, sales has more direct interactions with customers on the path to purchase than any other department.

Data continues to make clear the sizable bottom-line impact of CX. An article last week from Airship’s Michael Stone offered up some eye-catching customer experience statistics:

  • Customers of brands that lead in CX have a seven times higher purchase intent than those of other companies.
  • 32% of consumers say they’ll walk away from a brand after just one bad experience.
  • A one-point increase in CX scores can translate into an increase of $10-$100m in annual revenue.

Not only do excellent customer experiences lead to more converted deals, but also greater brand loyalty, affinity, and advocacy.

So, how can the sales team play its part in this crucial initiative? Here are a few tips to guide reps and managers toward CX success.

4 Ways Salespeople Can Positively Impact the Customer Experience  

As we all know, today’s buyers are more self-driven than ever. They tend to research and analyze options on their own, meaning that touchpoints with sales are fleeting. Therefore, we need to take full advantage of every opportunity to impress. There are four key areas where sales can make a substantial impact:

Keep a Positive Attitude

Everyone falls into bad moods sometimes. But of course, a negative mindstate can easily manifest in customer interactions — often in ways we don’t intend or even notice. With this in mind, it’s best to minimize friction and discontent on the sales team as much as possible.

At CustomerThink last week, Colleen Stanley wrote that effective sales management is emotion management. She suggests that managers can lessen clashes and conflict by taking an empathetic, inquisitive approach; try to see through the other person’s eyes and understand their perspective. On a similar note, last week in this column we outlined ways to manage stress on the sales team.

When reps are happy and in sync with one another, it projects outwardly onto the customer experience.

Make Prospecting More Relevant

Here at LinkedIn, we often highlight the benefits of informed, insight-driven prospecting practices for sellers — this approach reduces time waste and helps us move deals along more quickly and effectively. But it’s also a major factor in the customer experience. When someone is approached by a rep that doesn’t know who they are or what they do, it makes a poor impression. When the offer is completely irrelevant to them, even worse.

Conversely, reps that reach out to prospects with customized messaging and immediate value are setting the stage for a great experience. LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator platform is built to enable this kind of intelligent outreach, and last week we unveiled some new enhancements to help teams get even more out of the tool.

Eliminate Gaps

Managing the customer experience needs to be holistic. In a world of heightened expectations, we can’t afford to overlook a single element of the customer’s interface with our brands. One missing link can break the CX chain.

Ryan Stoner writes at Forbes that ensuring we have zero gaps in understanding our audiences is a critical aspect of situating B2B sales and marketing strategies around customer value. “Make sure your business’s solutions and services match up to your audiences’ needs,” he urges. “If they don’t align, re-architect your solution offerings around your audience’s needs so that your solutions feel targeted and highly applicable to them. Remember, prospects want to feel involved in their individual buying experience.”

Work with marketing to develop a comprehensive, 360-degree view of your customers, and eliminate any problematic blind spots. This requires earnest effort and continual attention, because the buyer journey is no longer linear or predictable, but it’s worth it.

Steamline with Technology

The less time sales reps are spending on tasks that can be automated, the more time they can spend on the manual groundwork necessary for outstanding customer experiences. This is the most promising frontier for technologies like predictive analytics and artificial intelligence.

“By eliminating and streamlining tiresome tasks, AI gives time back to both marketing and sales, putting quality leads in the hands of reps far faster, while eliminating the finger-pointing between marketing and sales about lead qualification and handoff,” writes Brian Kardon at MarTech Advisor. “With that extra time, marketing can focus on strategies to support sales, and reps can focus on crafting engaging messages and preparing for calls and meetings backed by insights so they can fill the consultative role for buyers.”

Sales Experiences that Surpass Expectations

That final bit from Kardon — filling a consultative role for buyers — is such a vital imperative for salespeople. By providing real value, we can differentiate ourselves and leave a lasting impression.

Instead of focusing solely on the destination of a completed sale, think about ways you can enrich the customer’s journey and deliver an experience that speaks for itself.

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