Sales Performance and the Enhanced Buyer Experience
Boosting sales performance is a critical aspect of almost any operational management strategy. But for many companies, the goal of making sales personnel more productive, increasing their output and personal efficiency and evaluating performance through traditional metrics has become something of an elusive process.
The digital revolution has brought change to many aspects of business and how business is conducted. Many of these changes are found in the personalization, miniaturization and mobilization of the actual systems used and the processes supporting those systems.
Nowhere has this impact been greater than on the actual selling/buying transaction itself. The nature of this change is deceptively simple. The buyer is now in charge.
Sales Performance in the Buyer-Driven Market
It is a buyer’s world, and the first step in boosting sales performance in this world is making sure that marketing managers, sales managers and sales personnel understand this fact.
The buying process itself should be the foundation and center of the selling process.
You can hire the best sales superstars, reward performance with lavish incentives, and structure your pricing as aggressively as possible, but until you address an improved buying process, your impact on sales performance will be minimal.
The good news is, improving the buyer experience is not a black magical art or some mysterious techno-weenie science.
Boosting Sales Performance by Becoming Buyer-Centric
The buyer is in charge. Buyers know they have a specific issue, and they know when they can practically address the issue rather than live with it. They also know how to do their own research about possible mitigation strategies that will address the issue. When the need is there, the buyer will likely open up Google or some other search engine and start collecting information about their problem and solution alternatives for that problem.
Being buyer-centric simply means you accept that scenario and build your systems and processes to help prospects and customers with their informational quests.
More specifically, this is accomplished by:
- Making your content easy to find – Employ SEO
- Speaking in the buyer’s language – Utilize persona-based marketing that matches content with audience
- Providing a low-risk, friendly environment for your prospect and buyer – Develop portals that organize content by persona and nature of the prospect’s need
- Providing a range of content covering basic to advanced levels and early to late-phase engagements
- Striving to equip the buyer with everything needed to make a decision
- Providing a means and avenue for the buyer to act on decisions made
- Providing a platform for customer brand advocates that offer real-world experiential content
What Sales Performance? No, You Still Need Sales!
It may be tempting to assume that all of this means the sales rep is obsolete, but nothing could be further from the truth. Guided selling is one form of keeping sales activity relevant to your prospect.
What is obsolete are the selling behaviors that were encouraged in the old way of doing things. Things like volume-driven telemarketing, cold calling and product-centric sales campaigns are useless in this world.
Sales reps are still very necessary to make sure that the prospecting visitor is finding what they want. At some point, the prospect will have questions, and Sales should be ready to help get those questions answered. All along the way during the buyer’s journey, there are specific actions that Sales can engage in to ensure a positive and productive buyer experience.
Early Phase – Sales can monitor online behavior of visitors and prospects. Thank-you emails with additional content suggestions are useful at this point.
Mid Phase – Actual one-on-one contact can be established in a low-pressure way to ensure that the prospect is finding what they want. Subtle inquiries about the nature of the prospect’s needs can help identify possible alternatives that will drive additional content suggestions. Possibly offer credibility-enhancing reference content.
Later Phase – At this point, Sales and the buyer should be able to have an open conversation on a more-specific level. In person, sales calls or visits are likely to be far more productive during this phase. Product configuration, optional features and alternative pricing are all open for discussion now. This is the ideal time to furnish prospects with customer references and customer-generated experiential content.
CPQ and other technology will contribute to the positive buyer experience as well. Configuration pricing and quotation technology can facilitate a guided or self-directed exploration of product and needs alternatives. The timing and user accessibility of these technologies will vary by product complexity and sophistication of the prospect. But, in the vast majority of cases, this is not a replacement for one-on-one sales engagements.
All of this leads up to the closing phase, which is what sales performance is ultimately measured by. Meanwhile, sales performance is still measurable by the frequency and results of the activities identified in the three phases above.