Whether it’s an economic dip, public health outbreak, a data breach, or other uncontrollable conditions that deplete and fundamentally alter the sales pipeline, it is incredibly important for sales professionals to understand the significance of customer relationships as the foundation of success.
Every sales deal has a Point A (where it begins) and a Point B (the moment when the deal closes, concluding the sales funnel), says Roy Chao, VP of sales, enterprise sales and marketing cloud at Upland Software. The process from A to B is rarely linear, and can be full of unexpected roadblocks crises among them so following a clear selling process that’s based upon the customer relationship is essential to weathering and succeeding in challenging scenarios.
Many people look at selling as an art form, but this is a simplification. Relying on a scientific sales process that places customers at the centre is the key to a smooth and successful sales process, and one which creates great customer experiences.
Trust matters more than ever
In today’s environment, customers live in a world of constant updates, targeted content, and influential information which is often of unclear origin. This environment allows for entirely new kinds of relationships and communities, ones in which trust can easily fall by the wayside. Building trustworthy relationships with people and understanding their problems is at the heart of great selling and these relationships are the key for companies to survive unforeseeable events that change the fabric of selling.
Last year’s LinkedIn State of Sales report named trust as the primary factor for closing deals. In fact, 40% of sales professional respondents ranked trust above Return on Investment (ROI) and price in importance for the sales process. Trust does not form overnight, which is why sales professionals need to cultivate it in their sales practice over time. Building long standing, trust-based relationships with valued customers provides the foundation sales professionals need to maintain customer confidence during more difficult times when the sales funnel may evaporate.
Managing a sales relationship
Data, lots of data, is what salespeople need to define relationship intelligence, which is more critical than ever when facing a crisis. It may sound counter-intuitive to name data first when talking about relationships, but it is capturing the story of a customer, such as what attributes they have, how they buy, and what they are influenced by, that enables trust-based selling to take place.
One of the keys to being successful in any sale, and especially in the software world, is qualification in order to win the deals that truly matter. Knowing a customer’s profile and persona is an essential part of qualifying leads and lays the foundation for trust in the relationship. In fact, the need for greater attention on customer success led Upland Altify last year to launch the Customer Revenue Optimisation (CRO) category, for which it was named a “Hot Vendor in Customer Revenue Optimisation for 2019” by Aragon Research.
For sellers, relationships need to remain just as important as revenue, and, when facing times of crisis, more so. When you build meaningful customer relationships, customers tend to be more satisfied, and satisfied customers are the ones who will come back again. Improving the customer experience starts with improving the connections between a company’s siloed teams.
Salespeople need to work alongside the entire extended revenue team, from customer success to product specialists, to offer a fully tailored customer experience from opening sales call to close. By connecting the different departments that compose the extended revenue team, leaders become able to share and reuse account and opportunity insights across the entire application.
How sales can inspire customer confidence
During moments of crisis, in order to inspire confidence during the sales process, it is important to understand the customer’s main challenge or goal as well as who is influencing them or their role within their organisation. Relationship maps empower sellers to build their understanding of key players and personas, who influence the organisation while capturing details of the customers’ desires to ideate solutions that offer unique value.
Every customer interaction generates value, and even though data analytics are artificial intelligence (AI)-driven today, the human element is a crucial one to the customer interaction. CRM (customer relationship management) systems are becoming even more powerful, leveraging AI to develop into the hub for the right customer data, augmented at each customer interaction.
CRO is transforming enterprise sales strategy by putting the customer at the centre of every interaction. However, in times of crisis, consumers don’t want to be sold to, so salespeople should look to offer interactions and experiences that provide value for the long-term.
Understanding the problems a customer is facing and acknowledging the whole picture will not only strengthen the relationship but also build comfort and confidence for the future.
The author is Roy Chao, VP of Sales, Enterprise Sales and Marketing Cloud at Upland Software.
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