A major new challenge for sales leaders

It’s probably not too surprising that Customer Experience (CX) has risen to be a top priority for many leaders in 2020. Typically, CX refers to the end-to-end customer experience and usually includes measures of customer satisfaction (CSAT) and net promoter score (NPS) . This article specifically looks at the challenges relating to the Customer Purchase Experience (maybe we can call it CPX), the critical part of the journey where the sales team has most influence over customer revenue potential.

A new level of sales complexity

Buying and selling has become a lot more complex in recent years. Customers are overwhelmed with information and options. Purchasing increasingly involves multiple stakeholders from across the organisation which can often make decision-making a real challenge. Studies have shown that the more people involved in the purchasing decision, the less likely they are to reach a consensus to buy. Getting stakeholders to align on next steps is a real challenge. Often purchasing stagnates as customers go around in a constant loop of indecision- which of course is bad news for the sales team. Nobody is winning in this scenario.

Similarly, on the sales side, products and solutions have become more technical and complex to sell. Making a sale now typically involves the coordination of people from multiple teams: sales, marketing and product specialists. Most modern sales organizations also have a Customer Success function which are increasingly responsible for growing revenue after the initial sale.

Increase all these interactions by a factor of three (which is the likely number of competitors your customer is talking to), and you can see the new levels of complexity that customers are facing.

We hear customers say they are increasingly frustrated with the purchase experience. They are inundated with large amounts of information, technical specifications and solution options. They complain that much of this information is difficult to decipher and can often be contradictory, when comparing one vendor to another. Filtering through this information to arrive at what hopefully is the right solution for their business, can be extremely challenging.

B2B selling is broken

Aside from these increasing levels of complexity, there is some clear evidence that B2B selling is broken. Did you know that more than half of sales reps miss quota and that 80% of sales revenues come from just 20% of top performers? All this, while only 8% of customers agree with suppliers, when they say their companies deliver a good customer experience! Something is clearly not working.

To understand what’s going on we need to look a little closer at the B2B sales practices. In many organisations, selling is divided across a number of different teams including- Business Development (customer qualification), Account Sales (new acquisition) and Customer Success (account growth). Along that customer journey, product and technical specialists will also be pulled into the sale as needed. This fragmented approach causes a number of challenges for the customer and the sales team alike.

Challenges facing the modern sales organisation

  • Fragmented Customer Purchase Experience:- The Customer Purchase Experience can often be fragmented and disjointed. Handovers between different parts of the organisation can become break points for the customer purchase experience. The context and value of previous engagements can be lost. We hear customers talk about “not being heard” and the feeling of being “rushed through a sales process”. Many talk about having “repeated conversations”. This, of course, is not a great way to build confidence in your company and its services. It definitely doesn’t create the kind of long-term relationships that secure future renewals and revenue growth.
  • Tensions between different parts of the sales organisation:- When teams operate in silos with different goals and measures of success, tension can arise. For example, business development teams are often measured on lead volume, rather than lead quality, to the endless frustration of account teams. As customer success teams take more responsibility for revenue growth, a negative customer purchase experience may greatly affect their ability to deliver results. Too often this can result in finger-point and blame across teams.
  • Building consensus among the customer stakeholders:- With more people involved in purchasing than ever before, customers are often paralyzed from moving forward. Sales need to find ways to bring stakeholders together and find the common ground. Consensus-building is key to moving the purchase process forward. Building customer confidence to make the right purchase decisions is key to winning high quality opportunities. Confidence is developed by helping stakeholders make sense of all the information they encounter- Gartner called this Sensemaking.
  • Measuring real impact:- Most sales organisations manage performance by focusing primarily on the quantitative KPIs such as revenue, margin and close rates. While these are important indicators of success, they really don’t provide a true picture of the quality of the work the team is doing and its impact on the customer experience. Sales leaders need to put a stronger emphasis on measuring qualitative indicators as a measure of sales team effectiveness. For example, rather than just looking at deal revenue, measure the effectiveness of the team at building stakeholder advocacy and consensus for high quality solutions.

Symptoms of a poor Customer Purchase Experience

  • Customer experience is poor. Perhaps reflected in low NPS or the customer “going dark”
  • Low quality opportunities & commoditized deals
  • Poor win rates & revenue predictability
  • Limited expansion revenues / high churn rates
  • Low levels of cross-team collaboration. Activities are transactional, rather than strategic and are not aligned to the customers purchase process
  • Trust between teams is broken, when success is reliant on the work done by other teams. Objectives and measures of success are misaligned. Lack of transparency creates friction and mistrust.

 A new blueprint for success

At Animis Labs, we believe there is a better way to do sales in today’s complex world. Every customer interaction must be seen as an opportunity to add value and differentiate your offering from the competitors. Differentiation is no longer delivered through products and services alone, but by the quality of team engagement at every customer interaction.

Check out my next article where we delve more into how you can create a great Customer Purchase Experience in your organisation.

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