The problem is the good old whip and trident management style, which works fine in a seller’s market – and costs a small fortune most of the time. The trouble is that you can’t see the cost from a simple item on the P & L most of it is hidden in the cost of losing business and winning new business. Existing customers cost much less to keep than new customers cost to win – but you knew that already.
Excellent customer experience demands the creation of a strong symbiotic partnerships “to create and sustain a mutually productive relationship, which serves the needs of both parties, now and in the future.” The key word here is symbiotic. Partnership does not mean eliminating the tension between buyer and seller – it means that top-performing organizations know how to strike a balance between achieving immediate results and developing the relationship fully.
Between 68% and 80% of your orders will come from existing customers this year – unless, of course, you are selling commodities. If you fail to look after them, nurture them, respect them and constantly work to earn the right to their business, whilst pursuing a life of commercial promiscuity, they will respond appropriately. “Commercial promiscuity?” Our almost indecent obsession with spending most (probably 80%) of our available selling time hunting down new, more exciting opportunities at the expense of our very loyal existing customers. These are the same customers who were themselves once new and “sexy” prospects, enticing us to invest considerable time and money at the wooing stage, only to discover fading interest once the conquest had been made.
This is a burning topic for me and has been for many years. I write about the huge gap between intention and reality when it comes to customer experience. I crusade on the need for much greater focus on customer retention. I speak about the millions of lost dollars in revenue when a customer or client finally becomes disillusioned with the lack of interest from the selling company and succumbs to the charms of a competitor, who convinces them they are “sexy” again. This crazy merry go round of commercial illogicality, insanity and ineptitude is never far from my thinking – it is short-termism. “Short-termism refers to an excessive focus on short-term results at the expense of long-term interests.” The London Financial Times
There is always a penalty for poor customer relations. It plays its way out over the weeks and months ahead when people – and those they influence – simply avoid your firm and vote with their feet. Which gets us back to relations with customers. So long as the environment in your organization is tolerant of taking a patronizing, competing or negative attitude to customers, some people will do just that.
And you, can you truthfully say in your heart of hearts that you believe in the value and need for everyone in the business to help to build good customer experiences? If not, then watch out for the competitor who will figure that out first, or the person competing for your job who knows that is how it’s done.
So, do believe it, every customer really is a consultant and if you do believe it, please share this, because we all have to get better at looking after the customers and clients that we have.
Customers are not like tissues, to be used and then discarded. Any company that thinks like that will soon find that the box is empty!
Returning to my thinking about the future of professional selling, we have no reason to suspect that the rate of change will lose any of its momentum. We have witnessed more advances in the past ten years than in the previous fifty.
Sales 2.0 introduced us to, among other things, improved technology via sophisticated sales and marketing tools. It has brought us control – the process element in my formula. Did it improve our ability to sell? Increase the likelihood of making our numbers? We will never know – and I suspect that our clients and customers remain blissfully unaware that it ever existed – but it woke us up to the new world!
For me, using technology to find the markers that indicate that a customer is interested in changing the status quo or is ready to buy, so that sellers can intervene, provides considerable advantages. Clearly, the goal is to figure out where customers are in the buying process and, in doing so, get them to reveal how to sell to them.
Improved technology also accelerated the rate at which more and more sales teams went inside. The image that we had of an inside sales professional performing routine tasks, cold- calling, dealing with account administration issues, and all the time looking enviously out of the window as their external sales colleagues drove away in the expensive company cars to wine and dine clients, has now been replaced. Today’s insider is a career professional who is able to manage the entire sales/buying process from open to close, utilising video technology when required – they are no longer simply on the first step of the sales career ladder.
Obviously, economics has played a big part in this lemming-like rush for companies to convert their sales teams – it is not all technology influenced. Typically, an outside sales team costs twice as much to run as an inside one, which makes it a no-brainer in most scenarios.
And then came “Social Selling” with all the hype that has surrounded it. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. have flourished, and anyone not demonstrating intense excitement by all of this has been called a Luddite or much worse! But is it all hype? Short answer? No – not all. It is yet another hugely valuable weapon to have in our armoury, but it is not – and never will be – a panacea.
We hear so much about aligning the sales process with the customer’s buying journey, yet how to do this eludes many salespeople and sales organizations. Salespeople are often described as being either ‘hunters’ or ‘farmers’. Allow me to introduce you to a new metaphor – the fisher – which better describes how successful salespeople are selling today. The goal is to put the bait out there and be ready to engage as soon as the prospect grabs it. I see technology as the game changer for adapting old sales models – selling differently in the marketplace by enticing, rather than pushing.