Developing New Sales Strategies in a Customer Driven World

We are in the middle of rapid change; accelerating business, ubiquitous information, digitalization of our tools, and evolving relationships both inside and out of our company. Sales cycles are dramatically shorter, competition greater, and unless we shift the way we market and sell, we are risking irrelevance.

Now as a very experienced marketer, I’ve read every article, book, e-book, whitepaper or presentation I could get my hands on, and usually the “do this or you are doomed” Old Testament-ish marketing prophesies do nothing more than illicit an eye roll. But I will say this, technology has made it a customer focused world.

Our customers are in the driver’s seat of every deal and every interaction. They command a certain amount of convenience, service, and simplicity. If we as the seller can’t provide that, then they will go elsewhere. I won’t say you are doomed, but you will probably become a Taxi, and nobody likes riding in a Taxi now that Uber is around.

Playing by the Customer’s Rules

A lot of this change can be traced back to rise in cloud-based SaaS models which have altered the way our businesses operate financially. The growing push for SaaS based business models means a majority of your revenue, as much as 80%, comes from renewals and existing customers, whether it be seat licenses, subscriptions, or even service packages. That means business revolves around our customer base, not sales.

It’s a customer-centric world. As CEO and Founder of Salesforce, Marc Benioff loves to say onstage during his keynotes, “Your success is always your customer’s success.” The reverse of that coin, your customer’s failures or dissatisfaction will ultimately be yours.

Even if you aren’t a SaaS-based model, your customers likely buy from companies that are, and your customers are quickly becoming acquainted with the customer-centric model. The ability to accommodate your buyer’s needs in today’s digital landscape requires two key shifts in philosophy:

  1. Omnichannel Sales and Marketing
  2. The End of Traditional Departments

Be Everywhere Your Customer Is

Multichannel and omnichannel sales have fallen in and out of business vernacular for many years now. The reason, people have yet to grasp the core concept and thus have failed to successfully execute it.

Visa is known by their successful ad slogan, “Everywhere you want to be,” which ran for 21 years between 1985 and 2006. Just last year they’ve decided to resurrect it. Why now, nearly a decade since they dropped it? To celebrate, and more importantly demonstrate the “multiplicity of options available under the Visa brand umbrella,” which enables transactions across the globe whether by card, online, via mobile, and most recently Apple Pay.

Digital technology and connected devices have changed the how and when of shopping. It’s important to make yourself available any time, any way for customers to do business with you. But omnichannel is less about the channels, and more about the omni. Be everywhere your customer is, make it easy for them to interact with your brand, and not just in regards to sales, but through marketing campaigns, customer service, web, content, conferences, over the phone, face-to-face, remote or person-to-person.  The more ways you can make yourself accessible and make your customer comfortable, the greater the experience.

Growing, forward-thinking businesses will invest in a productive omnichannel program to help connect the dots between online and in-person experiences, ensuring brand consistency across all channels, from mobile to e-commerce to partner sales and self-service portals.”

Greater Alignment Between Sales and Marketing

The second step forward is rethinking your internal organization. It’s 2016. The world is no longer cleanly segmented. Technologies are blurring together, B2B and B2C sales models are reflecting one another, the boundaries between you and your customers are quickly dissolving, yet internally companies still maintain rigid lines between departments and roles. The most obvious, (and easiest for me to discuss since I’m a marketer) is the relationship between sales and marketing.

Marketing is there to do two important things, create brand awareness and capture leads. Those leads are ideally nurtured and qualified and passed to sales to close deals. Friction occurs because sales doesn’t use the leads as well as marketing hoped, and sales isn’t receiving the quality of leads they had hoped. Complicating things even more is the exponential growth in sales and marketing automation tools, designed to make companies more efficient and effective at generating demand and closing deals. But it is also sending these two departments on a crash course.

If these teams can’t align, sales and marketing will soon find themselves competing, whether for budget, headcount or relevance and ultimately undermine the ultimate goal of driving revenue for the company.

Drop the department silos, and coordinate to create a seamless buying process for your customers from first impression through nurture, quote, and close, setting up a successful and enjoyable lifecycle with your brand.

 Maria Pergolino is Global Senior Vice President of Marketing for Apttus