There are very few things that all businesses have to do in order to be successful. One of those is to sell products or services. No matter how good you or your product is, if you can’t convince the customer to buy it, your business won’t last long.
There are plenty of reasons why selling is hard. It generally requires asking someone to change something about how they work. It’s generally very competitive. It requires follow-through, a willingness to face rejection and an always-on problem solving mentality.
Among the most difficult challenges for making sales work is that it requires a strong process. Buyers follow a buying process, the logic goes, so your company must follow that process as well, injecting the right information at exactly the right time. Companies with a process that meets potential customers’ needs in each step of their journey will be rewarded with great sales. Yet despite all the time companies take to understand their customers, most can’t quite align the sales process with the buyer’s journey.
That might be because the journey doesn’t exist.
In the past week, articles in two different B2B publications have suggested that the obsession with mapping the customer journey may be misplaced. One article argues that business buyers are looking for specific pieces of information. The other argues that there’s no coherent set of steps at all, in large part because most types of purchases are made very infrequently and therefore companies don’t have a good product or service evaluation process in place.
Of course, this doesn’t make selling any easier; in fact, it makes it harder. Because you can’t rely on customers thinking about specific considerations as they move through the evaluation process, you have to have all of the information available at any point in the conversation. This includes:
- – What needs has the customer already relayed to your company in past conversations?
- – What have they been promised in earlier conversations? Was it delivered?
- – Have they purchased before? How was their experience? How about yours?
- – Do you have any clients who can serve as references that are similar to the prospect’s company?
- – What parts of your product or service can be configured to meet customer requests, and which parts are inflexible?
If there’s no defined customer journey, then any or all of these points could come up in the first call. Being able to answer these on the spot requires more than preparation – it requires a salesperson to have immediate access to the information, and to know where to find it. In short, it requires either that information is always stored in a single place, or that prospect and customer data is linked across your data platforms.
This fact gets missed when technical users talk about data management. Of course, there’s plenty of discussion about security. Processing power will likely get discussed, along with bandwidth considerations in the case of audio- or video-based information. There might even be a discussion of productivity – the time saved by deploying a faster, easier-to-use piece of software. But one of the most important things any data management system should accomplish is allowing your customer service representatives and sales people to answer customers’ questions on the fly – in other words, to respond to needs even if they fall outside what you’d expect given a typical “buyer’s journey.”
Of course, it also helps if your salespeople are quick on their feet. But in a world with variable customer needs, you can’t rely on either preparation or a great memory to meet all of them – you can only rely on organized information.
If you’re trying to grow your revenue but your IT company can’t see past the wires, call WingSwept at 919-779-0954 or email us at Team_WingSwept@WingSwept.com.