Q: What are the top ways companies can transform sales to improve their prospects’ buying experience in the next 12-24 months?
David: The sheer number of MarTech stack providers is 10X what it was just 5-7 years ago and the Smart Selling Tools sales technology landscape grew 7X in the same period.
Buyers need a lot more than product demos to make a smart decision. In fact, insight from peers is consistently ranked as a key influence on purchase decision-making.
Companies must make it easy for sales (and marketing) to identify, document and share customer advocate perspectives with buyers to give them the confidence to make a purchase decision.
When budgets are tight this is even more critical. Discussions with happy customers make it easier for buyers to build confidence and take action.
Q: HOW SHOULD COMPANIES DECIDE WHICH BUYING EXPERIENCE IMPROVEMENT INITIATIVES TO START WITH - ASSUMING THEY CAN'T DO ALL AT ONCE?
David: This sounds ridiculously simply, but find out what activities have influenced sales most consistently and invest there. If win and loss surveys of customers aren’t being done today, they should be seriously considered.
Let’s face it, knowing what influenced buyers positively or negatively is just guess work unless you ask them directly.
Don’t make investments based on guesswork.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR ENSURING THAT TECHNOLOGIES CONTRIBUTE TO THE BUYING EXPERIENCE IN MEANINGFUL WAYS?
David: Here’s where data-driven decisions prove their worth. Look at opportunities that have been won, drill down to what elements of the tech stack influenced that decision, identify best practices and leverage those practices across a higher number of opportunities.
Some of this correlation and causation work is fairly easy because buyers are tracked through their journey beginning online and ending up as an opportunity managed by a seller.
Other technologies aren’t so cut and dry and require some inference. If a technology can’t prove it’s worth fairly clearly it probably doesn’t deserve your budget dollars.
Q: HOW DOES YOUR SOLUTION HELP SELLERS IMPROVE THE BUYING EXPERIENCE?
David: Point of Reference solves an age-old problem, which is the lack of a single source of customer reference or advocate information that’s easily searched and regularly updated through automation.
Spreadsheets may work initially, but before long they can’t keep up with the needs of a growing sales force that has little time to waste on administrivia.
Our solution, ReferenceEdge, lives in Salesforce and suggests customer reference resources right on the opportunity page.
The end result is an increase in the use of customer references across all opportunities, and ultimately, an increase in win rates.
For a technology provider’s customer reference team, the key metrics are outcome based: revenue influenced, win rates, and efficiency (sales productivity, shortened sales cycles).
Q: Why are customer reference programs an after-thought at many companies?
David: Executives often haven’t witnessed what a strategic customer reference program does, or looks like. They only know them as the person/people with the reference list spreadsheet. In reality, a professionally run program is fully aligned with CxO growth goals. Customer references are fuel for growth, but only helpful if the database supports goals in targeted industries, product lines, geographies, etc. To maintain such a database a program manager must be a consultant, meet with stakeholders and plan for future needs. Effective reference programs are disciplines just like demand gen, PR and social media. When executives see one run this way perceptions change.
Q: What are some good resources if someone wanted to learn what questions to ask, what others are doing, or factors related to sales transformation?
CEO, Point of Reference
David has been on all sides of the customer reference equation during his 20+ years in technology solutions such as marketing analytics, marketing fulfillment and automated customer care. Roles have included productivity training, sales & sales management, pre-sales consulting, and professional services management. Point of Reference was born of a classic “there’s got to be a better way” analysis of past experiences and a lifetime passion for continuous improvement.