Sales 2.0: Customer Expectations Have Changed - Customer Relationship Management

If there’s anything I hope I’ve gotten across so far in this work, it is that the expectations of customers have dramatically changed over the past several years. That is not only in regard to whom they trust and what kind of experience they are expecting from a company. They are also no longer expecting to be sold to. They are expecting to be partnered with. They want to be involved in the decisions the company makes that affect them, and consequently they need the information to make an informed decision about their interactions and transactions with the company.

Sales processes were and are the traditional method a salesperson uses to interact with the customer. But they tend to be product driven, which objectifies the way the customer is going to be approached. They are organized around the concepts of finding and qualifying a lead, identifying that lead as a prospect, creating an opportunity with that prospect, proposing a sale, and negotiating a deal with that prospect and closing the deal.

There is nothing inherently wrong with using sales processes, because they are best practices that have been validated over time.

Sold to: Sales Process Driven by Product
A sales process map looks like what you see in below Figure.
Note all the elements present in the sales lead qualification steps:

  1. Initial contact (receive application)
  2. Application of initial fit criteria (info sufficient?)
  3. Sales lead (qualified?)
  4. Need identification (ask for permission to contact decision maker)
  5. Qualified prospect (permission granted?)
  6. Proposal
  7. Negotiation
  8. Closing
  9. Deal transaction

This map doesn’t go beyond step 5 because this is a process that stops at the qualified lead, but the fundamental elements are there as they need to be.

These elements are typically present in any sales process, though sales processes can vary from company to company and from industry to industry. Sales processes are traditionally created from the most successful practices of salespeople over a long period of time. Those practices have been organized and hardened into a methodology. The rigor with which sales processes are applied is often as much a
Sales Process Driven by Product
An example of a sales process
product of the operational requirements of the company using the sales process as it is an approach designed to increase the chances of success in the sale. This means, of course, at times it can conflict with an actual relationship with the customer.

These kinds of sales processes are commonly available with sales force automation tools with the more standardized and popular selling methodologies like Miller-Heiman or Solution Selling often template parts of the vendor’s SFA software. Total Account Selling is embedded into Siebel Sales. Miller-Heiman is embedded into SalesLogix. The ability to tweak those processes or create your own set of sales processes is also a common part of the traditional CRM offerings. That functionality is one of the characteristic differences between sales force automation and contact management.

But is it enough to have an established sales methodology to sell to the social customer? These are best practices. They are useful to some.They are helpful to companies that have never had any sales processes before or to new salespeople who are just learning how to sell. But again, that is supporting the operational side of a business, which doesn’t automatically make it the most effective way to sell to a newly empowered, peer-trusting, myth-busting, never-rusting social customer.

Selling with: Sales Driven by Experience and Relationship
Of course the problem that salespeople will have in spades with the social customer is that the social customer might not really give a youknowwhat about the sales processes that the salesperson is required to comply with so they can enter transactional data and customer information into “the system” and qualify for their commissions and bonuses. What the social customer is expecting is a human being who is not selling products at them or just following a particular path, but is providing them with a relationship that will be mutually beneficial to both.

For the salesperson, it will be the purchase of something by the customer. For the customer, it will be an experience that provides them with what they need to solve a part of their personal agenda—be it in a B2B environment (such as meeting an equipment need for the department the customer runs) or in a B2C environment (purchasing a vacation package that handles the needs of a father, mother, and two young children). That can and now does typically have to include much more than just the hotel, airfare, and trip to Disneyworld (I’m writing this part of the book on an airplane coming back from Orlando). But the expectation goes beyond that. The customer is looking to have a relationship with the company that the salesperson represents if a relationship with the salesperson isn’t going to be possible.

This isn’t unique or anything new either. A salesperson’s selfproclaimed greatest asset isn’t their looks or product catalog. Ask any salesperson the question and you’ll get back something like “my contacts” or, more accurately,“ my relationship to my accounts.” One of the reasons that salespeople have had such a hard time (though less so now than a few years ago) adopting sales force automation, but loved contact management applications like ACT!, was that with ACT! They were able to sequester their contact files to their own desktop with no meddlesome interference from their managers who had no visibility into the flat file database that ACT! provided. With SFA, their contact file and accounts were no longer just their private fiefdom. Managers had complete access to the files, taking away what salespeople saw as their leverage should the need arise. It’s no great secret, at least to me, that many salespeople keep a sequestered copy of their contact files offline or away from the office environment in the event they are let go or quit—even with a contractual obligation to “leave the file behind.” Be real. They would be silly to do that.

But why so protective and secretive? Because they have actual relationships with their customers. It’s not the company they work for taking the customers out to ballgames or drinking or dinner. It’s the salesperson.

Companies that have half a brain recognize this and embrace it by having internal customer advocates tied to business development and sales. For example, SAP has what they call the Customer Value Network for some of their most strategic customers. One of the senior directors, Jim Goldfinger, is without question the best person I have ever seen in the role of interfacing with customers at any company—not just SAP, not just the software industry. He not only represents SAP well, he represents the interests of the customer within SAP.

But he takes it well beyond that. I attended a CVN cocktail party at an SAP conference in 2009 that had about 60 people, probably representing 40 enterprises there. Jim at one point went around the room and had people introduce themselves. In an incredible number of the intros to the intro, he mentioned some highly specific personal fact about almost all of the individuals who were there, which showed his deep and remarkable capacity to know them as people—and remember them as people. He even knows their skills in karaoke! This went on for one after another. He is legendary for throwing a party at his own house on his own nickel for roughly 200 customers. I can’t vouch for the number, but I can vouch for the commitment he has to all these people. As a result, they and the companies they represent are committed to him and, by straight-line extension, to SAP.

Salespersons’ relationships with customers are nothing new. But what is new is that the digital world has had an impact on how those relationships are ascertained and what it takes to have the relationship. Especially when it comes to how leads are generated and how opportunities are managed.

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