(original content created in collaboration with Amanda Hughes BLUM.)
The way companies and individuals buy products and services today has changed dramatically. Today, customers no longer want to buy from salespeople they want to speak with experts who can add value and help them quickly achieve their objectives.
Today, instead of salespeople qualifying which customers they want to approach the reverse is more often the case. It’s the prospective customers that are pre-selecting, qualifying and identifying you or your company online before deciding to engage with you.
With this fundamental change in mind it makes sense to re-visit how you view ‘Customer Engagement’ or your ‘Customer’s Journey’.
For many businesses, their interaction with customers is a linear process, where a lead enters their sales system, is provided with a solution/quotation and then the opportunity is either won or lost depending on whether the customer accepts or declines the proposal. But today’s smart companies realise this approach is a wasted opportunity to add value to customers and create life-time clients and consistent revenue growth for themselves.
But to achieve this first, a mind-set shift is required. From one that views engagement with customers as a ‘transactional’ affair that happens on various occasions, to an ongoing continuous cycle. Where engagement can have a series of various points. Ones where the customer can be engaged not just in one area but potentially in several areas all at the same time.
Let’s look at some of these stages in more detail.
How are prospects attracted to you?
In a word, expertise. They are looking for people who are experts in their field to assist them achieve their goals. Publishing your expert knowledge across as many relevant platforms as possible is a vital step in creating awareness and attracting people to you. The possibilities are endless when it comes to writing articles on your website and posting content consistently on social media. Engaging in forums or social media groups where your prospective clients are active and offering to answer questions and give quality advice all help to raise interest in the value you provide.
Smart engagement starts with smart conversations.
When you do interact with your audience is there a strategy? What’s your goal and how is it measured?
Are there any guidelines in place for the team, a common language or a consistent approach?
Salespeople with a focus on differentiating themselves and adding value, start by understanding what exactly their customers want to achieve in their businesses in the next 12-18 months. With this kind of insight, they can then begin to create meaningful solutions and ideas that will support the achievement of the customer’s goals.
Don’t stop once you get the order!
Once your solution or proposal has been accepted the sale doesn’t stop there, it’s just the beginning. Now is the time to really build a quality relationship with your new customer, ensuring they are getting results and fully benefitting from your product or service.
Start developing and protecting.
Once your customer is happy and getting good results consistently, start looking for other opportunities to help them. Are there some additional features or services they could now implement to create additional value? Are there other internal departments or individuals that would see value in the work you have done, that you could extend your help to?
What additional services could you provide that would add value?
One client I know provides an audit service free of charge to their customers to help them optimise their manufacturing process. Another provides support by creating social media content that their customers can use to market their expertise effectively. None of these additional services are directly related to the customer buying more product. However, they are highly valuable to the customer and create brand loyalty anytime the competition come calling!
Leverage the experience.
If you have worked hard and invested time to ensure your customers have received real value and results from your work together, now is the time to leverage it.
So often we could leave a customer who has bought a product or service without asking them if we can create a case study to help other people in a similar situation. Nothing is more valuable to you than their personal testimonial and their referrals to other customers you may be able to help.
This last step of leverage joins the first step of creating interest and attraction, because as you use these valuable case studies and testimonials it drives the circular motion forward continually, generating sales growth consistently.
Avoid the Pitfalls.
However, creating this continuous client engagement is not without its pitfalls so let’s discuss a few to avoid:
Don’t assume you know what your customer’s want.
Ask them how they want to communicate with you. What works best for them?
Do they like it when you pick up the phone? Do they prefer an email?
Do they like autonomous interaction through your website?
How often would they like to see you in person?
This will be different for different customers so personalise it.
Survey your market, what are your competitors doing in the same sector? How are other sectors approaching communication and engagement?
Data is King.
When you communicate, is it tracked anywhere?
Have you educated your sales team on the information that is valuable and relevant to record in their Customer Visit Report and CRM data?
Do they know what a meaningful insight looks and sounds like when they hear one from their customer?
This is foundational to creating meaningful engagement but often it is overlooked. There is no process to follow everyone is left to decide how this should be done resulting in inconsistent information being captured across the team.
All departments and at all levels.
The engagement needs to be across all departments and at all levels.
You can’t look at communication and engagement in isolated cases, so it needs to be consistent, from David in Sales to Bob in accounts, to Jane in Customer Service. It also should include senior management interaction both with their peers but also with the customers to ensure they have their finger on the pulse!
Create customer teams with an individual from each department allocated to the customer’s account. This allows you to monitor and review success and then deal promptly with any issues on an ongoing basis with the customer across the whole company.
Also, take the time to ensure you have your CRM integrated into all departments so that it delivers ‘one customer view’ this is vital to join all the dots and make the customer feel your service is truly special.
Listening is crucial to understanding their needs, what challenges are they facing, which additional services could be offered to help overcome these.
Involve key partners in decision making, “We are thinking of doing this, how does that feel? Would you benefit?
Amazing Customer Engagement means that sometimes you are in danger of your customers assuming you are available any time any place anywhere. Be Clear and manage expectations.
How to plan effectively for maximum impact throughout the company.
Do your homework. What is your customer journey now, where are the weak areas, where have successes come from?
Look back at some case studies. Good and Bad examples.
Map out the process clearly so each department seeing where they fit in.
How to ensure it gets implemented correctly.
Set up a working group, all departments, and at all levels so this is not a top down initiative.
Be clear that if it means new policy’s or new procedure that people might not react in the way you intended, manage change effectively and plan for this.
Be clear about the reasoning behind it, what do you hope to achieve by this new way of working, communicate this with the team so they see the value to the customer.
Take a phased approach, don’t go Too big, Too soon. Don’t over promise and under deliver. Small steps consistently implemented will deliver better results.
How can you generate real internal team engagement?
Let them be part of the changing culture, allow them to create it themselves and have input.
Start work today on improving your customer engagement, publish and share your expertise everywhere you can. Focus your salespeople on discovering their customers key objectives and using this insight to create solutions that directly support their achievement. Support, implement and review continually to make sure customers are getting results.
Leverage your success with case studies, testimonials and referrals to drive momentum and see continual sales growth!