Importance of sales experience
Competition is fierce, and you need to stay sharp. “The early bird catches the worm” has never been more resounding. Engaging customers early is no longer optional for those, who want to succeed in the seller’s game. This means that businesses need to find ways to involve customers long before the actual sale benefits the vendor and the customer alike. The most pivotal point to understand is what customers want from the sales experience. The challenge is that, if you ask them directly, they will most likely give you false data leading to false presumptions and misjudged use of marketing budget.
“What do my customers want from the sales experience?” Leading sales executives ask themselves this question almost daily. Too many companies throw their marketing budgets into researching what customers want from products. Too often they miss to realize that the sales experience can be just as important. This point is easy to miss, because when you ask the customer, price often comes first. What customers say does not always match what customers do. McKinsey & Company ran an experiment, where they interviewed 1,200 B2B purchasers, and asked what drove their purchasing decision. After receiving the answers, they asked the same purchasers to rate their supplier’s performance. They then went back and compared the data with actual purchases, and found out the following:
|Stated importance||Derived importance|
|Product / Service features||24 %||34 %|
|Price||21 %||10 %|
|Service / Support||19 %||12 %|
|Reliability||28 %||19 %|
|Overall sales experience||8 %||25 %|
What customers say equals not to what they do. In the first part of the interview, price was highly overvalued (21%) compared to what the actual results showed (10%). I found the same when I did a market research late last year. We asked 800 consumers face-to-face about a health product, and almost 80% of them up front told us that price was the single most driving factor. We then asked some more questions, and it turned out that in the end, only around 20% chose products based on price. People tend to overvalue price, because it is an easy option. McKinsey & Company’s results show that the overall sales experience is far more valuable (25%) than purchasers stated in the interview (8%). Do keep in mind, though, that no matter what happens with the sales experience, the product or service itself is still by far the most important part of the collaboration.
Based on statistics, we know of the importance of the sales experience. It is a fundamental part of customer satisfaction. One of the easiest ways to better customer satisfaction, is to add something extra to surprise them. This is called the wow factor. It doesn’t even have to be anything big. Some months ago, I heard a simple example from a tech partner of ours. One of their employees buys new PC every two years. He uses the same company every time, because they send him a lollipop with the parts. What’s better than a piece of candy while building the PC? If you can let the customer know, that you are willing to go for the extra mile for them, it is enough. These types of emotional ties can carry on for a long time.
There is danger to this, however. Customer satisfaction can be very fragile in today’s digital environment. One bad experience can spread all over the world through different platforms almost instantly. The challenge is to make it easy for customers to reach you before they go post on forums or social media platforms. If it’s hard contacting you or getting a human response, it is quite easy to go rant about it somewhere else. So, you must be well responsive and fast with it. React immediately, if possible. In fact, this is another opportunity to surprise and have a wow factor.
Engage customers early
Sales experience and customer satisfaction are crucial, but they are not enough to take you to the top. Engaging customers early is necessary. We want to apply this in our project, as we are developing gear for a new sport. We have identified the most important influencers in the scene, and will approach them with our prototype, and ask them to collaborate with us. We will give them the opportunity to make suggestions to the gear. We will then finish the product based on those suggestions. Our aim is to produce the best solution for the sport. We engage these influencers early on in a discussion of how to solve problems and adapt products. This leads to sales eventually, but the focus is on a collaborative problem-solving experience. “The notion shouldn’t be confused with the marketing activity of collecting insights in order to better understand customer needs or design better products. This is about sales: creatively extending the sales experience in a way that benefits the customer, drives revenue, and deepens loyalty.” (Sales Growth, Innovate Direct Sales) Any way you can build loyalty in your customers, you will have hit the gold mine.
Whatever your field of business, digital trends drive the seller’s market. Make sure you tinker with the possibilities and find solutions that best fit your needs. If you don’t know where to start, gaining understanding on what your customers want from the sales experience is a good starting point. Good luck!