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How to increase long-term sales by focusing on the customer's buying journey.




Sales are all about the customer.


It's not about us. It's not about our company, and it's not about our product. It's not about the excellent marketing campaign that we ran on Facebook or Google. It truly is all about the customer - the hero of our business.


With the advance of the internet and AI drive processes, the buyer has completely evolved. We cannot sell with that mass produce, mass offload mindset, which is 'stack them high, sell them low'. No longer is the driver purely pricing. Customers are looking for more of a partnership. The customer is focused on an outcome. Suppose the salesperson can also focus on this outcome? No longer is the focus purely on the lowest price. Both parties can see a continued value of association. The salesperson has gained a customer for life, a customer who is devoted to the brand. The customer has someone they can trust who is looking out for them.


Customers are ultimately the ones who will influence, through their purchases, whether an organisation succeeds or fails. How does a customer perceive your organisation? What is the level of value and delight they encounter from interacting with your brand? Competitive advantage and success are realised when you can delight your customers, time and time again, earning their devotion.


Providing ongoing value to your customers requires continually improving processes to sustain a unique point of difference. The logical way to build procedures and run improvements is to base them upon the journey a customer would like to experience rather than organisational preferences and opinions.




 

Article Flow

  1. Change in sales culture - to become a partner for the long term.

  2. Customer Journey Mapping

    1. Connect with your customers early, in the discovery phase.

    2. Take a scientific approach to discovery.

    3. Devotion - the cyclical sales journey

    4. Root cause: Why does a customer purchase a loan?

  3. Leader Standard Work


 


Change in sales culture - to become a partner for the long term.


No longer can we interrupt our customers. Tactical training, making a great cold call, a great sales script, or robocalls may provide short-term gains but no longer provide long-term success. Traditionally many salespeople have pushed themselves on decision-makers with a sales spiel, pitching at how amazing their products and services are and why they should meet. This approach builds a perception of desperation in the minds of the targeted customer. It is not a pleasurable experience for the persona, and how many salespeople enjoy it either? Desperation and annoyance costs sales. In this mind, a salesperson is a vendor with no awareness of themselves or their organisation, let alone any understanding of their customers.



The next level of sales is the problem solver. This salesperson has done some initial research and demonstrated an understanding of a common problem for the persona. They would have made initial contact with an introduction and provided some essential data on the identified problem. They may then call the persona and discuss the issue and how they may be able to help.


The top-level salesperson is a partner. Customers want salespeople to act as value-add partners and ask permission rather than going through a sales spiel. This salesperson has comprehensively researched the persona and their organisation. They have insights into the personal and organisational background, direction, and challenges. They have identified unique opportunities to connect with this persona, such as an industry event or through a mutual colleague. They have found a high level of relatedness with the persona as well as with fellow associates.



Understanding who your potential customers could be and how they behave is key to understanding their voice. When was the last time that you talked to your customers about what they value?



 

Customer Journey Mapping


Going to the customer and understanding their voice and what is most important to them is essential. Often, this will be a fundamental shift in the thought processes of an organisation. The customer journey mapping system shifts an organisation's thinking to improve and operate from the customer's perspective.

A customer's buying journey usually progresses through the following phases, with multiple touchpoints along the way:

  1. Discovery

  2. Research

  3. Purchase

  4. Delivery

  5. Devotion



Connect with your customers early, in the discovery phase.


Discovery is the initial phase in a customer buying journey where a customer does not realise that they have a problem to resolve or an opportunity to improve. They are unaware that you and your organisation exist and could help them in achieving their goals. All of your existing customers at some stage did not know of you or your organisation. Something triggered them to look, and somehow, they discovered you. Do you know how they found you?


Start connecting with your customers in the discovery phase. Early! And that's sometimes daunting because you may not know what to do. And that's okay because the buyer possibly at that point doesn't know that you exist and could help them. But suppose you are acting as a partner of that journey, from discovery to researching the outcome, sharing your knowledge and making sense of situations for your customer. In that case, you will have permission to sit at the purchase and delivery table.


Take a scientific approach to discovery.



Customers will tell you what they need from a salesperson and process if you take the time to talk to them. Operating from the base of customer understanding will bring better relationships and benefits long term. How will you chat with your customers to find their voice?


You could use tools such as:

  • The Pareto Principle - understanding who your top customers are.

  • The Persona Map – deeply understanding key decision-makers.

  • Contextual Interview – gaining direct insights.

  • Empathy Map – living in their shoes.


When you understand your customers and what they are doing daily, you can build approaches to help them discover you with value and delight.


Customer Journey Mapping is a great technique to help a team start to think this way. Go to enterpriseexcellencepodcast.com/downloads to find customer journey mapping templates and resources.




Devotion - the cyclical sales journey



Devotion is an awesome place to be, where your customers are devoted to your brand. It is a place of customer satisfaction and delight so supreme that customers will continue to move through their buying journeys with you and your organisation evermore.


How can you build devotion with a customer so that they never consider another provider? Think of your long term relationship as more of a cycle than a linear start to end model. The cyclical process is a loop, repeating opportunities to interact with your customer throughout their lifetime. When an organisation thinks in cyclical systems rather than linear, they open up the chance to innovate continuously for customers, providing a delightful buying journey.


Example: A Home Loan.


Consider a customer looking to obtain a loan from a financial institution. They are going to enter a buying journey, which will result in them choosing a loan provider. Is this sale a once-off event? Or could we consider the more profound reason a customer requires a loan and the financial journey they embark upon throughout their life? As trust builds over time, a longer-term relationship can develop. The customer is happy to give something back to the helpful sales partner, and both parties benefit.


You can use root cause thinking to delve deeply into a topic. Let's use root cause in the home loan example:


Root cause: Why does a customer purchase a loan?


They need money.

Why do they need money?

They wish to make a purchase.

Why do they want to make a purchase?

They want to progress in life.

Why do they want to progress in life?

They want to provide for their family.

Why do they want to provide for their family?

They care for, love, and want the best for their family.


I would imagine that this is quite a familiar story. If a salesperson considers this deeper purpose for the home loan, a whole new perspective on the true meaning of providing finance is revealed. It is easy to think of the many cycles a financial institution could use to help their customers during their whole life.




 

Leader Standard Work


Senior leadership need to make a significant culture shift from valuing short term commodity-based sales to building longer-term trusting relationships and adding value to have any chance of achieving long-term success.


Many senior leaders train a new skill, assuming they will implement it once training is complete. Their attitude is, "We have taught them. Now they know what they need to do, and they need to do it". This leadership attitude disappoints and is not a way to develop people for the greatest influence. Most humans can't change that quickly. We need constant energy over a long period to pick up new skills and form new habits. It is challenging for leaders operating in today's fast-paced world to support the change long enough to sustain it.


Leading a change campaign requires leaders to provide constant energy, communication, and support to all team members with the new behaviour. How can this be achieved?

  • Ask team members to put more time into understanding their customers.

  • Involve everyone in strategic planning and deployment.

  • Run rapid visual meetings focussing on culture and performance.

  • Run sales opportunities and improvement ideas through a project Kanban, and

  • Use the sprint iterative approach to achieve these improvements.


A partner-based sales process will take time to put into place, but it is worth the longer-term gains for the customer, the salesperson and the organisation. Start early, be there for what they need. Connect them, search for them, aid them, and you will have a seat at the purchasing table.



 


What next?

  1. Download customer journey mapping templates and resources. enterpriseexcellencepodcast.com/downloads.

  2. Buy Agile Sales: Amazon.

  3. Listen to Podcast #50 How to understand and align with your customer's buying journey with Subhanjan Sarkar.

  4. Engage Brad to help you map out your customer's journey. Call 0402448445, or contact us via our website.



Written by Emily Jeavons

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