Understand How Your Customer Makes Money
By Lindsey Nelson, VP-Sales Productivity, CareerBuilder
It is also important to understand your customer’s customer and their competitors. Why do customers buy when they buy and what problem is being solved by your customer’s product? Who are your customer’s key competitors? When and why do they lose to them? When and why do they win business?
Modern sales organizations understand how their customers drive revenue and maximize their market opportunity. They tend to think on an entirely different level because they have a deep understanding of their customer’s business. In doing so, the customers’ business becomes your business. By helping the customer achieve their goals, your business inevitably achieves its goals.
1. Become a student of your customer’s business.
It’s important to understand not just how a customer makes money, but how they operate internally and externally. Internally, how are decisions made, by whom and why? When a decision-making process resulted in a “no go” decision, what caused the outcome? A great salesperson will use this information to manage the buying process more effectively in the future. In a modern sales program, you want to capture this information for transparency and scalable learning across your organization.
When the customer is considering a purchase of your product, what is the cost of no change and sticking with the status quo for the organization? There is an age old saying that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. This message absolutely rings true in today’s sales environment. With the ever increasing access to information available to buyers today, “over informed” does not always equal “educationally informed” when it comes to the best solution for the customers’ problem. The sales rep, who becomes the best student, is best positioned to educationally inform the customer on how to achieve the customer’s goals.
Today’s statistics say most buyers are 58 percent through the buying cycle before they ever engage with a sales associate. And in most cases, the sales associate has no idea as to where the customer is in the buying journey! This means the customer has already defined their need, identified the perceived best solution options, clarified their budgets and determined what is important to their stakeholders.
The three most important things I would focus on in developing a new sales program is, Standardize, Systemize, and Scale the following three areas of a Successful Sales Process.
In most cases, they are just looking for a sales person to fill the “solution” gap and it is too late in the sale process for the sales person to be effective. A sales technology leader can systemize a process that captures these critical decision making requirements and enables your sales person to “catch up” or “slow down” by aligning with their customers buying process. If done correctly, your sales person may get the chance to redefine the buying process as a trusted partner.
The problem when a company thinks they have it all figured out is they don’t realize “the devil is in the details”. This happens a lot with technology sales. Many corporate buyers ‘don’t know what they don’t know’. They have shopped solutions without the benefit of an un-biased external partner who can consult as to the value of the solution and the overall impact to the larger strategy. With technology purchases, made by technology buyers, it is usually ‘find me the tool to fit the need’. However, with every strategic decision there are advantages and tradeoffs to that decision. The technical buyer should be evaluating opportunities for automation, integration and convergence across systems to improve the operational efficiency of the organization.
When a sales person is a student of their customer’s business, they are able to present solutions that elevate their customer’s business to operate at a higher level. The customer trusts their knowledge of what the organization needs and the sales associate increases the probably they will win because the customer wins. This is a large mind shift in today’s modern sales programs and must be empowered. The competitive landscape and abundant access to information makes the “ability to connect with customers” more critical than ever. Long gone are the days of simple rapport building by finding a personal level to connect upon (kids, Alma Mater, etc.). A successful, modern sales program enables the sales associate to become a student of their customer’s business. Industry intelligence, customer insight and impactful performance stats can help a sales person better understand their customer’s organization and challenges long before they “call on their buyer”. If they cannot talk the (customer’s) talk, understand the (customer’s) organizational dynamics and grow the customer’s customer base…they are just another sales person pitching products.
2. Automate (all the time) to enable speed, transparency & collaborative learning.
A sales technology decision maker’s sole focus should be on simplifying the sales cycle to provide the sales person with more time to connect with more customers. This in turn will increase sales performance efficiency and drive more sales growth. Backend office “admin-is-triva”, reporting and forecasting can slow a sales person down, not to mention they fundamentally hate it.
3. Automate as much as possible and where ever possible.
Push and position real time intelligence and information to your sales people in their sales process & their natural workflow. These are automated insights and content relative to the customer, industry and buyers. The current concepts of customer relationship management, salesforce automation and customer success offer an abundance of technologies from which to choose. When technology is integrated correctly into a company’s sales process it truly enables the speed of sale by providing transparency and driving internal collaborative learning. This collaboration of sales strategy and technological possibilities can scale learning from all areas of the organization, raising the company’s overall performance and revenue.
For example when automation and technology can provide companywide transparency, a fellow sales person who has experienced the same challenges can offer advice to a newer sales person given the details and dynamics of the situation. A leader can step in to remove obstacles or provide resources. An executive can ‘level up’ by offering to connect ‘title to title’ on brain sharing or best practices to move a customer’s decision forward. All this is possible when companies harness the power of automation and technology to improve the sales process by capturing the “sales story, the customer’s needs and the competitive landscape.” Recognizing that technology can turn your “sales process” into a true “team playing field”, this will deliver a team WIN for your company.