Your customers are asking three questions: Why you? Why now? What makes your product relevant?
Do you point to the features or quality of your product or service? How about price, distribution channels, or payment options?
The chances are good that the pain points you emphasize in your marketing materials and include in your sales presentations are becoming less important. They may even be wrong. Products and services are often viewed as interchangeable. Your legitimate competitors, after all, are about as good as you. In that environment, purchase decisions often come down to the buying experience.
A Walker study suggests that the customer experience will overtake price and product as the crucial point of difference for your business by 2020. This requires you to move from “being customer focused to being customer committed.”
According to PJ Bouten, CEO of the sales enablement platform Showpad, “Success today requires new levels of collaboration. Customers expect powerful, immersive, and customized buying experiences.”
Those experiences can’t be accomplished by simply using new language to describe the same old actions and approaches.
It Starts with Sales and Marketing
The sales and marketing functions in many organizations are like dysfunctional siblings at a holiday meal. They are relatively nice to each other at the dinner table. Secretly, however, they harbor envy and resentment that causes them to barely communicate in private.
The reluctance to collaborate in pursuit of the customer is evident in phrases such as this:
- Marketing is out of touch with what’s happening in the field. The material they give us is worthless.
- Sales people withhold the information we need to design great marketing materials. We want to help them, but they won’t give the materials a chance.
- I don’t have time to worry about long-term brand building. I have to sell today to meet my numbers.
- Sales people are short-sighted and selfish. They will sacrifice our long-term goals to make a sale today.
- Marketing gets all the money so that can “create conversations” with the customer.
- Sales get all the money so that they can take prospects on outings.
While your sales and marketing teams are blaming each other and battling for their share of the budget, your customers are looking for other places to take their business. Who can blame them? If your sales and marketing teams can’t get on the same page, what are the chances that the other parts of your company will deliver a stellar experience?
Louis Jonckheere, Showpad’s Chief Product Officer, believes that marketing cannot improve without sales. “Great feedback on what is and isn’t working is essential. The marketing team must receive real-time information on what materials are being used and how they are being received.”
Likewise, according to Showpad’s Bouten, “Sales is the forgotten marketing channel. Customers are more informed than ever. You have to provide sales people with the access to content that the customer doesn’t have and the flexibility they need to create customized experiences.”
Here are three actions you can take today to reinvent your customer’s buying experience for the future:
- Create a customer-committed culture. The Walker study that recommends moving from customer-focused to customer-committed isn’t marketing hyperbole. Everything you do to transform your customer experience must compete with the realities of your culture. It’s time to re-examine every organizational process and structure to ensure that they sustains a culture that is all-in on delivering an amazing experience. Remember, the culture always wins. Every other effort to distinguish yourself will deliver less than optimal results if you don’t get this right.
- Align and communicate the metrics. One reason sales and marketing appear to work toward different goals is because they are, in fact, working toward different goals. A successful marketing campaign is determined by impressions, awareness, and lead responses. The sales team is evaluated on their results in a given time period. Look for opportunities to align the metrics so that marketing campaigns and materials can be adjusted in real time based on results in the field. The days of being stuck with marketing materials that don’t contribute to sales are gone.
- Invest in a single, consistent technology platform to facilitate collaboration and customize the experience. According to Bouten, people powered by technology create connections. That was the case in the 1870’s when the telephone revolutionized communication, and remains true today. The problem is that too many companies use tools designed for the past to solve the challenges of tomorrow. New technologies, such as Showpad, are emerging every day. To ignore them is the equivalent of playing tennis with a 1990’s wooden racket while everyone else is playing with the latest composite version that weighs about four ounces and has a face the size of a trash can lid. You can do it, but you must work much harder.
Products and services are becoming increasingly commoditized. The battle for sales will be fought with the customer experience. Isn’t it time that you fostered the collaboration to make that possible?
Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change. To bring Randy to your organization or event, visit www.penningtongroup.com , email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 972.980.9857.
Randy Pennington has no financial interests in the companies mentioned in this article.