The digital landscape has profoundly changed the buyer journey. Today, customers go online to find answers. But does this mean that the salesperson is no longer necessary? Not at all. The magic word here is relevance. In addition, sales reps need to find the right balance between digital and personal touch points throughout the customer journey.
We’ve all read it before. According to one study, customers have already completed 57% of their customer journey before the first appointment with a salesperson. According to another study, even 70% of that customer journey has already been completed. No wonder it’s so hard to get an appointment, you might think.
Relevant touch points
And yet, many of those so-called studies on the customer journey draw the wrong conclusion. Not surprisingly so, if you look at who publishes or sponsors the research. Very often they are providers of marketing automation solutions who would love to have all those salespeople replaced by their content marketing platform. If only it were that simple.
What those studies do expose are symptoms of another phenomenon, namely that customers no longer accept being bombarded with irrelevant company presentations or product pitches. What customers do expect however, are relevant touch points tailored to the buying phase the customer is in. This applies to both digital and physical interactions.
An earlier study by SiriusDecisions, now part of Forrester, proves this statement. Their figures show that prospects are willing to interact with salespeople at any stage of the customer journey, regardless of the complexity of the product. The prerequisite is that the salesperson can detect the right buying stage and align the conversation accordingly.
This obviously requires a different approach. Now, the focus is increasingly shifting from push to pull communication. In other words, sales reps will need to put less effort into arguing and persuading, but focus more on dialogue and bringing new insights.
In addition, as a sales professional, you are expected to know your customer’s background. Asking about your customer’s challenges is therefore pointless. After all, the customer doesn’t have time to train salespeople on the challenges of their job and their industry.
A relevant contact does not necessarily imply knowing the customer’s exact priorities. What is important here is to deliver a message that is recognizable to the customer’s industry. That is enough to start a dialogue. Once your client feels that there is value in it for him, those priorities will come forward naturally.
Tools that help you stay in touch
Based on dialogue, the customer and salesperson can decide together whether a follow-up action or further contact is needed. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical appointment. As a salesperson, you can also keep the relationship warm by offering valuable, relevant content. That’s why a good collaboration with the marketing team is recommended. They can offer you the tools you need to keep the contact with the customer going.
Some examples where the marketing team can help you:
- Background information and descriptions that help you empathize with the different roles and markets where you want to build and maintain relationships
- Clear value propositions that demonstrate the link between customer challenges and aspirations and the products and services you offer
- Relevant content, such as case studies, ebooks or research results, which allows you to communicate digitally in a relevant way in between your face-to-face contacts with customers
- A digital preference center, where you can link content to customer profiles and topics, and which is customizable by the customer
- A CRM where you can easily start linking relevant content to a contact that has not been added to the system
Don’t believe the hype
No appointment? No panic. There are ways other than physical contact to keep the relationship with the customer warm. Despite what many ominous studies tell you, the salesperson remains relevant, and at every stage of the buying cycle. So, don’t believe the hype. Do try to stay relevant and engage with the customer. With the right marketing tools, that task will become much easier. Good luck!