Beyond Selling: How Sales Organizations Create Exceptional Customer Experiences

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In an effort to understand how events impact the process of selling, as well as the skills and behaviors required to succeed in a new age, AchieveGlobal invested in extensive primary and secondary research on the selling environment.

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Beyond Selling: How Sales Organizations Create Exceptional Customer Experiences

  1. 1. Beyond Selling:How Sales Organizations CreateExceptional Customer ExperiencesIt’s a pervasive reality: The sales profession then must develop and train employees A Business Issue Quick Readhas fundamentally changed throughout the to deliver positive defining moments atyears. Consider these dynamics: each customer touch point. This series of defining moments—or interactions• Competitive pressures have increased. with the customer—creates a long-term About the Authors• Customers are smarter and more experience that delivers value. Our demanding. research uncovered critical sales skills Mark Marone, Ph.D., Research that are required for owning the customer Consultant, AchieveGlobal• The exponential expansion of internet experience, as well as the key roles Mark is an author and profes- commerce across the globe has made played by organizational support and sor with more than 15 years of product and pricing information more leadership commitment. research experience with many transparent. companies across all industries.• Alternative solutions that did not Strategic Value: Mark earned a Ph.D. from exist a decade ago are now available to Indiana University and has customers around the world. The Be-all and End-all served as an adjunct professor of Delivering real value to today’s demanding, management at the University ofIn an effort to understand how these events savvy, and frankly fickle customer requires South Florida.impact the process of selling, as well as the a corporate-wide redefinition of sales,skills and behaviors required to succeed service, and leadership. The core strategicin a new age, AchieveGlobal invested in goal is not just meeting obvious customer Chris Blauth, Director of Productextensive primary and secondary research on needs, but digging to discover and meet Strategy, AchieveGlobalthe selling environment.1 Our findings point unknown needs. Once a customer’s needs As Director of Product Strategy,straight to a new strategic focus for sales are identified, the next logical questions Chris spearheads AchieveGlobal’sprofessionals: creating—and even owning— are “What sales behaviors will meet or efforts to develop and maintainan exceptional customer experience. exceed these needs?” and “Are there products that will prepare leaders additional hidden needs I can uncover?” at all levels of an organization.Owning the customer experience is a We uncovered the sales activities that are Chris holds a B.S. in Accountingunique sales strategy, the purpose of whichis to create a consistent, comprehensive most critical to sales success in each of six and Finance from the University sales phases, from prospecting to post-sale at Buffalo, and an MBA inexperience for customers that exceeds follow-up. We analyzed these responses by Marketing from Canisius College.their expectations. The sales organization sales performance, company size, deal size,must first design a strategy to uncover and and position in the organization, amongunderstand the needs of customers. It other variables. The high-level findings are recapped here to demonstrate the link1 ur research efforts included in-depth literature reviews, O focus groups, nearly three dozen interviews with sales between the key sales activities in each organizations on four continents, and an online survey of phase and success with creating exceptional more than 1000 sales professionals from 17+ countries. customer experiences. Developing the 21st century workforce TM
  2. 2. Successful salespeople, when compared with lower- • Be direct and honest in all communications.performing salespeople, are more likely to demonstrate • Treat prospects, customers, and partners with respect.the following top-rated sales behaviors: • Maintain high ethical standards.• Have a complete understanding of products/services The bottom-line is this: Having the right skills to being sold (70 percent of high-performers) uncover and meet needs, being prepared, and building• Configure solutions to meet unique customer trust ultimately leads to credibility. We believe that needs (64 percent) engendering credibility at every defining moment is key• Clearly explain the links between solutions, benefits, to owning the customer experience. and customer needs (63 percent)• Ensure that the organization delivers what was Beyond Front-Line Sales: promised to the customer (62 percent) The Magic of Organizational Support• Offer ideas and insights that prospects have not Organizational support is critical in being able to truly considered before (59 percent) own the customer experience. Training and coaching, effective technology platforms, support fromThese behaviors, displayed by successful sales non-sales roles, and effective compensation plans andprofessionals, are strategic in nature—as opposed to reward systems are all part of ensuring sales effortsmore tactical approaches—and focus on uncovering are supported.needs and delivering value. Interviews with focusgroups and AchieveGlobal clients confirmed this In order of the most agreed upon, the following wereconcept: salespeople who consistently deliver value to cited by salespeople as key organizational supportthe customer are: factors in realizing sales success:• Prepared and do their homework 1. Clear company objectives• Knowledgeable about their products and their 2. Sales leaders that treat salespeople fairly client’s business and equitably• Always working hard for customers 3. Salespeople that meet operational requirements (completing necessary paperwork, attendingBeing prepared appears especially important for meetings, etc.)larger deals. Our research found that, compared tosalespeople closing smaller deals, salespeople closing People in non-sales roles that provide expertise 4. larger deals were more likely to say that “conducting and supportin-depth research of the prospect organization” was 5. Resources to help salespeople research andcritical to their success.2 understand customers and their marketsBeyond the skills and behaviors required to uncover and 6. Salespeople are appropriately recognized andmeet customer needs, sales professionals revealed an rewarded for sellingadditional critical success factor: trust. Creating trustinstills the confidence in customers that salespeople 7. Training needed to do the jobwill look out for their best interest, do what they say 8. Valuable coaching from sales managersthey are going to do, and work hard on their behalf.These personal traits are a critical factor in delivering 9. A formal sales process to followvalue. When we asked respondents to tell us what 10. ffective use of metrics or dashboards to manage Epersonal selling attributes were most important, the sales performancemore successful sales professionals said the following3: 11. ales force automation system that makes S selling easier2 1 0.7 percent versus 42 percent The research confirmed the value of reliable support3 66 percent Be direct and honest in all communications; 58 percent Treat provided by nearly everyone in the organization. A prospects, customers and partners with respect; 55 percent Maintain high ethical standards. number of survey findings highlight the core value
  3. 3. of organizational commitment in meeting customer needs and delivering value. Two of the five top-rated supportactivities overall focus on service:• Support people help secure the sale and provide service after the sale (3.8 on a 5-point scale).• The organization helps salespeople understand customers and markets (3.75).In addition, the three top-rated post-sale activities are also customer focused: “regular contact with customers”(selected by 66 percent of respondents), “deliver what was promised” (62 percent), and “quickly resolve service issuesand requests” (55 percent).To create a positive customer experience, we learned that everyone who works with customers, or supports thosewho do, needs a set of core service skills, like rapport building, active listening, and defusing emotional reactions.Support staff, like salespeople, also need a clear line of sight to key customer expectations and needs, made possibleonly by a shared focus on the customer.Sales professionals reiterated that to ensure a positivecustomer experience, they need reliable support Interview quotes reinforce the value of salesfrom nearly everyone in the organization. As one topsalesperson told us, “You either need to be selling or you support in shaping the customer’s experience:need to be supporting someone who is!” • The successful sales support person “ understands what our customers want, andThe Leader’s Edge they understand what they have to do for theIf sales and support staff all have vital roles, who has sales reps.”overall ownership of the customer’s experience? Clearly, • Support is having a true understanding of “leaders, by definition, drive and sustain this effort. In fact,our research uncovered the central role of leadership in a the process and realities of the marketplacenumber of ways. to help guide our work. It’s understanding the customer and the prospects as opposed toFurther analysis of the survey data found several influential understanding the salesperson.”variables in sales performance, some more dominant thanothers. The two most important—both under the umbrella • If everyone was in the mindset that we need “of leadership—are coaching and training. to do what’s best for the customer, then we definitely would be much more successful.”A few highlights:• The most successful salespeople receive coaching and training, which they rate as the most important support activity (3.7 on a 5 pt. scale).• 28 percent of respondents receiving “high” or “moderate” coaching and training had at least a 10 percent increase in performance to quota, compared to only 18 percent of respondents who received “low” coaching.4• The higher the amount of training and coaching received, the higher the average deal size, the larger the increases in personal sales revenue.5Coaching and training are core leadership responsibilities and are the strongest influencer on a salesperson’s success.There are, however, other key leadership influences that contribute to effective customer experience management.The most successful salespeople in our study tended to work for leaders who also:• Establish clear objectives• Manage team selling• Effectively use metrics or dashboards• Set clear operational and reporting requirements• Make high-tech tools easily accessible through salesforce.com or a similar CRM platform4 Less than 18 percent of respondents who received low coaching reported any increase in performance to quota.512 percent of the respondents who received high coaching and training reported an increase of more than 20 percent in the size of their deals. This iscompared to only 6.6 percent of those receiving low coaching and training. More than 28 percent of those respondents receiving a high amount of coachingand training reported an increase in performance to quota. This is compared to only 19.6 percent of those who received low coaching and training.
  4. 4. To manage all who own the customer experience, sales About AchieveGloballeaders also need the skills to guide, expand, reward, and, In the 21st century, the level of human skills willwhen necessary, recalibrate performance. But leadership determine organization success. AchieveGlobal providesgoes beyond simply being supportive. Indeed, leaders— exceptional development in interpersonal business skills,from front-line sales managers to organizational leaders— giving companies the workforce they need for businessmust be committed to reinforcing the messages and results. Located in over 40 countries, we offer multi-behaviors necessary to continually meet and exceed their language, learning-based solutions—globally, regionally,customers’ expectations. and locally. We understand the competition you face. Your successEnabling the Organization to Own the depends on people who have the skills to handle theCustomer Experience challenges beyond the reach of technology. We’re expertsOwning the customer experience is more than simple in developing these skills, and it’s these skills that turn“customer service”—a typically limited initiative that is your strategies into business success in the 21st century.often compartmentalized in the organization and maylack sufficient leadership commitment and organizational These are things technology can’t do. Think. Learn.support. To shape a positive customer experience, Solve problems. Listen. Motivate. Explain. People withorganizations must take an outside-in approach by these skills have a bright future in the 21st century.looking at their customer’s business through their AchieveGlobal prepares you for that world.eyes, and then working to reshape and re-skill theirown organization from that point of view. This freshperspective can drive enormous value for customersand differentiate customer-focused organizations fromcompetitors stuck in the old mindset of “sell, sell, sell.”Our research confirms that owning the customerexperience is impossible without the right skills,organizational support, and strong leaders who setexpectations and align all systems to the overall strategy.A truly exceptional experience—presented as a seriesof positive defining moments that delight customers—requires both strategic and tactical skills at all levels ofthe company. World Headquarters 8875 Hidden River Parkway, Suite 400 Tampa, Florida 33637 USA Toll Free: 800.456.9390 www.achieveglobal.com© 2011 AchieveGlobal, Inc. No. M01380 v. 1.0 (05/2011)

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