Guest Blogger Audrey Spangenberg: Encouraging Best Practices Throughout the Sales Cycle

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Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
"I want to buy from you, but you don't make it very easy." What would your reaction be if a potential customer said that to you? Most of us would probably be in shock--and wonder if our sales process is as effective as it could be--or as it should be.

"I want to buy from you, but you don't make it very easy."

What would your reaction be if a potential customer said that to you? Most of us would probably be in shock--and wonder if our sales process is as effective as it could be--or as it should be.
The fact is that many companies overlook the importance of implementing best practices in the sales process, so their product offerings aren't well represented. The result is lost sales--and prospects who leaves with a negative impression of your company.

Make sure that your products stand out, are easy to order, have intelligent pricing parameters and, more important, that it's clear your focus is on meeting customer needs. These are all critical best practices that should be consistently encouraged and addressed throughout the sales cycle.

High Tech Strategies conducted a research study on the reasons companies fail. One of the top indicators was "incomplete products"--and they weren't referring to products with missing parts.

Rather, it was about the idea that customers see products differently than those who supply or create them. Many companies--especially large companies with complex products--tend to sell products on the basis of price, unique features, and technical specifications.

While that might be a good strategy for, say, the engineers in the company, it doesn't work when you're selling to customers whose primary motivation is to fix a problem that your product can solve. In fact, the study found that "most customers consider factors such as product support and company reputation to be more important." If those factors are missing, any given product is an incomplete product. Because, really, a widget is a widget is a widget--but it's the intangible factors like service and support that are most critical.

The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to positively influence the customer--not only at the point of sale, but also throughout the entire sales cycle. For example, consider what makes up an "intangible" for your customers. What facet of your sales process can you retool so that it's seamless and makes the kind of impact that results in revenue?

Is it the process of configuring your products that's the main source of customers' frustration? Put yourself in their shoes and try it out--then look internally for answers. Is it easy for your sales force to configure the products or product combinations that your customers want and need? Or are they zipping from one database to the next in the hopes of dredging up the most accurate internal data? If that's the case, the key is to integrate disparate systems and multiple data streams into one channel so that everyone is literally and figuratively on the same page.

Perhaps it's the quote process that's the inefficient cog in an otherwise efficient sales machine. Is your sales staff able to accurately match the right quotes to meet a particular prospect's needs, or are their quotes all over the place? The key lies in limiting overall choices; pricing competitively and consistently; making sure that order entry is easy and seamless for your sales team; and eliminating disparate data.

All of these are simple, yet necessary, steps that will ensure that staff at every level is communicating and sharing information. Streamline your sales process internally--and the external buying process that your prospective customers experience will be equally easy and seamless.

Every company needs best practices in place at every stop along the sales channel train. Because no matter what your product or service is, or how simple or complex, it's about ensuring a great customer experience that results in a sale and in ongoing, repeat business.

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About the Author: Audrey Spangenberg is CEO of FPX, LLC.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION