The value of a great sales experience

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Challenging 5 myths about closing the deal


5 sales myths, busted

When you think about a traditional sales process, a lot of time and resources goes into finding and nurturing new prospects, and converting interest into a sale. But what happens once the deal is done?

Your customer's experience during that 'onboarding' process will have a major impact on their satisfaction and loyalty to your business, and the longevity of your relationship.

"Whether you sell products or services, what you're really selling is a customer experience," explains Brian Steele, Head of Partner Origination & Distribution, Macquarie Business Banking. "If you take the time to really understand their needs upfront, the onboarding process can sometimes be of more value than the product itself because you're not just selling a product, you're fulfilling a need or solving a problem."

It seems obvious that if you want to provide an exceptional customer experience, you do need to really understand your customers. – Yet research indicates this is not something companies do well. A global IBM study found only 35 per cent of CxOs (Customer Experience Officers) believe they understand their customers well.

Steele explains some best practice sales and conversion techniques that may seem counter-intuitive.

Myth 1. Let the customer dictate the process

People are busy. So customers may resist your request for a meeting to explore what's important to them. "They may say, 'No I just want a price or the product metrics, I don't have time to sit down with you'," says Steele. But it's important to explain that this is the process for your proposition. Your service starts with understanding the customer's business or needs better.

"Persevere, because when you take the time to get to know their business you'll find your customer has a stronger sense of satisfaction with your relationship."

Myth 2. Take the opportunity to close the deal, fast

Steele's team provides business banking products through brokers, creating an extra layer in the sales relationship and process.

"The best salespeople don't sell very hard, and the best brokers often turn back opportunities," he claims. "They'll actually do so much work in understanding and pre-qualifying the opportunity, they realise this is not the right solution for their customer and recommend not to proceed." It may seem illogical, but Steele sees this as a real positive. "It's a massive productivity improvement for us. It prevents so many issues down the track. And ultimately we will find the right solution."

Myth 3. Keep calling them

Many people assume closing the deal is all about the frequency of contact. In fact, that's the last thing most customers want. "We know that if you're an anesthetist, for example, you don't want your bank phoning you constantly while you're in surgery," says Steele. "Understand the little things like that and you'll go a long way to improving your advocacy rates."

Myth 4. Cross-sell and up-sell as much as possible

Cross-selling profitable products as part of the sales process may seem like a smart strategy. But don't rush into it during the onboarding process, says Steele, who believes this should come from the customer first. "If you take the time to really understand their challenges and drivers, and you've mapped out a strategy for them, you'll find a number of other needs will surface," he explains.

"You won't have to sell them at all. The customer will simply thank you for your help and ask you whether you can meet those other needs." This is an important distinction, as any time you're seen as 'selling products' it undermines loyalty. But if you're uncovering needs you can fulfill, you create stronger loyalty and advocacy.  

Myth 5. Customers will always switch for price

If you rely on new customers switching to you from another provider – as banks, telcos and energy companies do, for example – think twice before competing on price. "Any customer that has experienced that level of attentive sales service, where you take the time to understand exactly what they need, they won't move for anything less. If you want to win their business, you need to do that as the bare minimum."

If you get this part of the sales process right, the rewards are measurable. "You end up with a more engaged customer," Steele says. "Customer satisfaction becomes self-perpetuating, because they can see the value in the experience and the outcome."

They have a stronger personal loyalty because you took the time, but they may also be more dependent on you because you've met their needs with multiple products.

Ultimately, before you finalise any sale you need to make sure you understand the customer's needs, expectations and aspirations, concludes Steele. Then you'll know that what you're proposing is both an immediate solution and a long-term one which is the key to sustainable growth.

Flip your onboarding experience: 5 ways to make a difference

  1. Be attentive – deeply understand their needs before finalising any deal
  2. Don't sell hard – start over or walk away if it's not the right solution for their needs
  3. Don't call them every day – understand what they expect and need in terms of contact
  4. Let the customer identify needs for additional products during the process
  5. Compete on service and experience – not price.
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This material has been prepared by Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL & Australian Credit Licence 237502 ("Macquarie") for general discussion purposes only, without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this general information, you must consider its appropriateness having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. The information provided is not intended to replace or serve as a substitute for any accounting, tax or other professional advice, consultation or service.