There is now one overriding priority that drives sales and customer service: Experience. Not experience as in “expertise,” though that is more important than ever in sales. We’re talking about customer experience – the tangible details and intangible impressions that determine prospects’ desire to do business with you. And existing customers’ desire to keep doing business with you.
That said, trends in sales and service also acknowledge the need to boost the sales experience from within. Sales organizations cannot deliver a great experience unless they have tools that improve insight and streamline daily functions.
Data-driven like never before
Companies that still view sales and marketing as separate entities are doomed to failure in today’s customer-centric marketplace. The winning trend is a holistic approach that treats these efforts as a single, consistent response to a prospect’s journey.
Effective collaboration depends on CRM platforms that fuel both marketing and sales, with data and analytics that can help identify customer preferences and behaviors, even secondary targets such as their influencers. One trend we’ve seen in the past year is technology that ties together all aspects of sales and service more efficiently.
You no longer have to rely on one product to handle support tickets, another to manage the sales contacts, another to provide online chat, yet another to manage marketing automation tasks, etc. Nor do you want to, because by now we all know that siloed technology is as much a barrier to success as siloed departments. Top software developers from Zendesk to HubSpot are expanding their products to provide the whole enchilada — one-source targeting, content delivery, lead engagement, post-sale service, and data visibility.
Technology goes beyond CRM
Artificial intelligence (AI) is automation at its finest. No robotics here. At its most basic, AI facilitates conversational marketing, a hot trend that customers and sales teams love, love, love. Companies can easily integrate products such as Drift or Intercom, enabling website visitors to get real-time responses, whether they have questions or need more information. Chatbots field these inquiries to immediately resolve simple requests or direct the visitor to the information they need.
Bots can set appointments with a live sales person if the inquiry comes in after hours. Or they can trigger a message to the sales person to call the prospect, if desired, to eliminate any time lag. More advanced AIs can learn as they go, using their own experience to predict customer needs or preferences.
In other words, AI is both a customer experience booster and a sales enabler. According to CSO Insights , sales enablement remains a fundamental for sales success. However, they caution that companies that take a timid approach to sales enhancement risk worse results than companies that ignore sales enhancement altogether. You have to go all-in, they say. What does that entail?
- A formalized strategy that defines business goals, outlines objectives and action items, and gets official executive endorsement. Companies that have overt support from the top and a clear execution plan have seen a 22% increase in quota attainment and a 14% boost in securing forecasted deals.
- Training programs that focus on the sales process and selling skills – both fundamental for reaching quotas – and also on improved onboarding, which can increase sales and retention.
- Consistent content strategy that serves internal sales and marketing teams as well as customers.
Artificial intelligence serves as a sales enabler by performing simple, repetitive tasks on behalf of live sales folks. That saves time, and because AI interactions are captured within CRM software, sales people can be more effective when it’s their turn to speak with prospects. AI also assists with post-sale support, again saving time for both customers and sales or technical staff. But AI’s ability to instantly analyze complex data also allows managers to more accurately forecast future sales, revenue, and related needs.
Technology is transforming sales and service in ways beyond data mining and chat. Some sales teams are using video to augment customer contacts as well as generalized content delivery. Like AI, video serves as a virtual sales person. For example, your sales people could send a short informational video or a product demonstration to a specific prospect. They could also add a personal touch by email a quick thank-you video to a newly-signed customer.
It’s personal – or it should be
Meeting the challenge of personalization is crucial to delivering the sales and service experience customers now demand. Prospects are doing more and more self-service research before they even want to speak to a real person. Nonetheless, they expect their own efforts to be met with responses individually tailored for them.
Companies that can personalize every touch right from the start of a customer’s journey will be able to establish positive relationships earlier. This becomes pivotal at the point where prospects convert from DIY to live contact. Prospects will balk if they have to backtrack by repeating information previously provided. And they’ll be put off by a sales person who cannot speak relevantly to their needs. In order to hit the ground running, as they say, sales professionals must have tech tools that give them instant access to detailed information about the customer’s journey thus far.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years as we look at sales and service is the fact that people prefer to do business with people they know. As much as customers expect you to know them, they still want to know you. Things such as video chat or sending a short one-to-one video message give your sales team that all-important face time with prospects and customers.
“Call centers” have morphed into “contact centers” because companies realize fewer and fewer prospects and customers are actually calling to connect with them. It is now essential for companies to identify which channels their targets are using, to ensure prospects can connect however and whenever they want to. Even more important, customers must receive a seamless, consistent experience across all channels.
And, finally, there is an internal version of “omni-channel” communication that will be essential if your sales team expects to wow both customers and the C-suite. We noted up front that it’s time to do away with thinking that separates sales and marketing. It’s become more and more obvious in recent years that these two functions are inextricably intertwined. It now takes a truly combined effort to successfully reach out to desirable new accounts and grow those accounts once you land them.
Consistency builds trust in your brand and makes it easier for prospects to convert into customers, even when their purchasing environment involves multiple decision-makers, which is the norm in B2B circles. Trust and ease are basic building blocks of customer experience. As we head into a new year, is your sales team prepared to impress prospects and give them the kind of ongoing service that adds up to a must-have experience?