Customer experience has long been a priority for B2C companies, but it hasn’t been a focus for B2B organizations until more recently. The B2B selling space is evolving, funnel dynamics are shifting, and buyers are becoming better informed. Perhaps the most significant changes are the shift in the balance of power in the B2B purchase process, from the vendor to the buyer, and the changing expectations that prospects have of sales reps and the sales experience.
These changes are evident throughout the sales funnel, from awareness to post-purchase. And it’s important for companies to understand these changes, why they are happening, what customers expect, and how to adapt and keep up with the pace of change.
The focus on B2B customer experience
We have been hearing a lot about customer experience (CX) lately, but is it just a fad, or is it truly driving change and growth within B2B organizations? There are a few trends in play that explain the rise of CX and are likely to factor into its enduring success.
- The disruption of data and technology. With easy digital access to information and products, the traditional buying process is no longer viable. As Forbes says, “Collecting, correlating, and analyzing data from customer interactions across channels is the key to transforming the customer experience from nightmare to nirvana.” Using technology, data, and predictive analytics will guide informed and efficient interactions that are mutually beneficial to prospects and vendors. While there may be some uncertainty, CX leaders don’t avoid this disruption — they welcome it.
- The prioritization of customer retention. Customer retention is a growing concern, and one that many B2B companies are struggling to address. With the increasing number of touch points and customers’ changing expectations, it is more difficult for firms to meet prospect needs. In fact, “customer satisfaction and loyalty” is one of the top three challenges for B2B organizations in 2016. As retention moves up the agenda, customer experience is beginning to take on a more central role in B2B organizations.
- The realization that CX can be a competitive difference. Using an en masse strategy and generic content poses the risk of losing potential sales opportunities. According to Accenture, B2B companies that recognize CX is critical to growth and competitive differentiation are seeing higher-than-average revenue growth. Organizations must get the customer experience right before somebody else does. With this awareness, 90% of B2B executives intend to maintain or increase spending on customer experience. And Gartner data says 89% of executives believe that CX will be their primary mode of competition by the end of 2016.
Improving the customer experience with data, technology
When B2B companies become more data-driven and leverage new technologies in the sales process, they will begin to see changes in how they engage with prospects and will be able to make greater impacts on the bottom line. But many organizations still have gaps in their customer-experience strategy or are slow to adapt to the rapidly evolving sales environment.
Read ahead to learn five ways B2B sales teams can use a sales-enablement platform such as Seismic to leverage data and technology and execute a winning customer service strategy.
1. Customize the sales process
As Aberdeen says, “Personalization is a necessity to survive and thrive in the era of the empowered customer.” A one-size-fits-all approach to content and strategy is no longer an appropriate tactic. Sales reps must know whom they are talking to, where the prospect is in the sales cycle, and how a buyer progresses through the journey. Identify the prospect’s persona (i.e., demographics, psychographics, geographics, firmographics, etc.), the context of the prospect’s pain points, and how this information can help to tailor the purchase process.
With sales asset management, a sales-enablement tool makes this type of customization scalable. The technology recommends content based on a prospect’s stage in the sales process, helping to provide that personalized experience that buyers demand. Dashboards offer insight into real-time behaviors and into what prospects are looking for so that sales can engage each individual with relevant information.
2. Adopt customer-centric initiatives
A customer-centric strategy represents a shift from focusing on the sales reps’ needs to focusing on the customers’ needs. This shift fundamentally changes the game for sales reps who can no longer just use a generic pitch to promote the product. Top salespeople are shifting to becoming trusted advisors. With a customer-centric mindset, sales reps are looking to identify the prospect’s pain point or challenge and then determine how their product is the solution; i.e., selling on value rather than on price. This type of “outcome model” drives results for the prospect (by solving a problem) and for the sales rep (by generating revenue).
To execute a customer-centric strategy, sales reps must proactively build trusting customer relationships. But customers are increasingly demonstrating their willingness to engage in a relationship that’s more than transactional. Add value to every engagement so that you can effectively advance the customer to the next phase in the purchase process. Depending on the customer’s stage, this value could be in the form of content such as research reports, product information and data sheets, case studies, or even ROI calculators. A sales-enablement tool can help to automate this workflow, increasing both productivity and efficiency.
3. Accelerate the sales cycle
Data from Marketing Insider Group shows that the average B2B sales cycle lasts about 10 months, but customers report that they would prefer a buying cycle of six months. If vendors can identify and then meet their prospects’ needs, they can help to bridge this gap.
Sales acceleration is about working smarter, faster, and more efficiently. And with predictive technologies this is possible — sales reps know whom to call, when to call, and what content to provide in order to achieve optimal sales results. Features such as playbooks can also be used to equip the team with internal sales content, call scripts, and just-in-time coaching.
4. Anticipate customer behavior
In a Customer Think survey, 83% of B2B leaders indicated that they wanted more information and data that describes customer intentions and helps to create a holistic view of the customers. This is where data really comes into play. Use predictive analytics to anticipate, understand, and influence the future directions of customer needs and behaviors. This enables sales reps to be more proactive and sell smarter.
B2B organizations must have the tooling in place to collect trusted, accurate, and meaningful information. A sales-enablement tool can anticipate the outcome of a particular sales situation and proactively recommend content and selling strategies based on real-time data, best practices, and similar sales scenarios.
5. Enable your sale and success teams
According to a survey by Avanade, B2B customers are willing to pay up to 30% more for a product or service that offers improved customer experience. Sales and service can no longer be two separate entities — they are interrelated functions that must work together to drive the customer experience.
A sales-enablement tool can empower sales reps making new sales, as well as renewals, cross-sells, and upsells. In any of these sales scenarios, the rep must understand the product or service and have a level of knowledge deep enough to make a sale. Reps need to be able to find and access content easily and know what to share and when.