“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” – Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, one of America’s most successful organizations, sums up the attitude of companies that rise to the top. It’s all about the customer. Whether B2B or B2C, we need to put them front and center in our sales and marketing processes. According to the research report Customers 2020, B2B companies that strive to provide exceptional customer experience and value will win.
Here are a couple of ways that sales reps and marketers can improve how their prospects and clients feel about their organization.
1. Make It Priority One to Build Customer Relationships
Top salespeople are achievement oriented. They endeavor to attain their goals and quotas. But B2B representatives would be wise not to let a single-minded emphasis on their objective lead them to push for the sale too early. By doing so, they risk sacrificing a larger long-term opportunity.
Today, customers complete much of the buying process for complex B2B products before they talk with a vendor, conducting online research and consulting with their peers. When they finally make contact, they already have answers to many of their questions. Now, they are at a point where they want to assess whether they can form a partnership with the vendor. It’s not about features and benefits. It’s about the relationship — the human touch.
So, for best results, put your priority on developing a relationship with the customer. If you do and there’s a good match, you may find the sale takes care of itself. That’s because you’ll build trust. Once the customer knows, likes, and trusts you, they’ll seek your advice on how to solve a problem. In this way, you naturally slip into the role of advisor. The customer no longer has their guard up. Not only can your relationship pave the way for long-term sales, but it can also serve as a differentiator for your company and keep your competition at bay.
2. Align Sales and Marketing to Customer Needs
“Highly aligned b-to-b organizations achieve 19 percent faster revenue growth and 15 percent higher profitability.” (SiriusDecisions)
The lack of sales and marketing alignment is an age-old problem. When salespeople miss their quotas, they blame marketing for giving them unqualified leads. When marketing fails to achieve their goals, they complain that the sales team did not follow up on hard-won leads. Lost in this squabble is the customer. In all likelihood, their experience suffers, and the door opens to the competition.
The customer needs to be the magnet that draws sales and marketing into alignment. But how do you do this?
Start by gaining a full understanding of who your buyer is. You can do this by profiling your accounts. This process helps to unearth your best opportunities and to develop buyer profiles that both sales and marketing associates agree on, ensuring your company reaches out to the right people at the right companies.
The next steps are to concur on marketing and sales strategies, messaging, the critical metrics and sales stage definitions. For example, what are the criteria for a marketing qualified lead (MQL)? An MQL is a lead that may not be ready to buy today, but if properly nurtured with emails and other marketing follow up, has the potential to become a customer in the future. Equally important is determining which leads will be disqualified right off the bat. Also, it’s essential to decide on the characteristics of a sales qualified lead (SQL) — one that is ready for a sales person to follow up.
Define your leads based on where customers are in the buying cycle and what is best for them. If they are in the early phases of research, for example, they likely would prefer to be working with marketing, consuming content, and educating themselves. Once they are ready to make a buying decision, however, they probably want to talk with a salesperson, gain some more in-depth insights, and start building that relationship.
Even though some leads move from MQLs to SQLs, that does not mean there should be a complete handoff from marketing to sales. It’s simply a point at which associates from both departments start to work in concert to address the prospect’s needs with sales people taking the lead. As they learn more about prospects through their one-on-one interactions, they can pass intelligence to marketing.
This in-depth prospect knowledge enables marketing to provide customized content that will help a salesperson turn a prospect into a customer. And that’s more important than you may think. Sixty-five percent of reps say they can’t find the right content to send to prospects. According to Kapost, it’s the most common complaint from sales teams. And sales people should be building relationships, not rummaging around for content.
Enable Exceptional Customer Experience with Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is an enabler. It can only help to provide powerful customer experiences if marketing and sales are aligned and there is an established process to automate. Once you’ve done the hard work of profiling your customers, creating lead definitions and a lead management process, you can use marketing automation to keep everything on track and optimize it.