New technologies, same customers

Since the turn of the century, business technology has advanced exponentially. The rise of mobile and digital platforms has rendered purchasing habits nearly unrecognisable compared with even five years ago. These changes have been compounded further by the more recent rise of self-service customers, who have blurred the lines between B2B and B2C sales.

Despite these changes and the ability of analytical tools to help us better profile customers, sales remains a people business.

Adapting to change

For sales and marketing teams, adapting to this seismic shift in customer shopping habits is only half the battle. They must also ensure they are capitalizing on new digital forms of customer interaction.

The wider industry is still playing catch-up in many respects. A recent Harvard Business Review study reveals that only one of third of businesses are confident in their ability to keep up with the changing demands of their customers and prospects.

Turning to the data

The answer to the problem is clear: better understand your customers so you can better serve them.

This requires paying closer attention. While the face-to-face conversations that previously occurred at the beginning of a purchasing journey are largely a thing of the past, consumer’s preference for a personalized service is not. 

The data necessary for sales and marketing teams to deliver in this regard is locked in the information they collect during the digital discovery phase of purchase. This data allows them to develop a comprehensive picture of each customer and their interactions with the business so they can provide a more relevant and targeted experience.

Keep digital at the forefront

Customers and prospects now expect vendors to do this. They understand that data from their digital interactions should provide all the background a business requires to understand their needs and come back with the best possible solution.

This is why sales and marketing teams are now taking a more strategic approach using technology that allows them to monitor and react to digital signals from customers. These companies are gaining a significant advantage. According to HBR, the 15% of organisations that are ahead in their use of technology and data intelligence have grown more quickly than their competition in the past year, and are better positioned for future growth.

Tying the pieces together

This begs the question as whether these indicators are enough to get to know customers and prospects.

While they certainly allow companies to match a customer to a product or service based on the data they’ve provided, this is only a one-off victory. True sales success depends on repeat business, and this is only achievable if companies build long term relationships and, ideally, advocates for life.

Looking outside the box

To create long-term customer relationships, sales and marketing teams need to look beyond what they are trying to sell. They need a fully-formed understanding of who they are selling to at the other end.

In HBR’s report, those sales organizations viewed as ‘best-in-class’ have clearly understood this. The research highlights that top performers differentiate themselves by working with data streams rather than intuition to help with forecasting, generating leads and protecting margins, among other tasks.

Build a data-centric business

To build a deeper level of customer understanding, businesses must encourage the flow of information between each of the departments that interact with customers, from sales through to service. According to HBR, more than half of “best-in-class” organisations say they foster strong collaboration between their sales, marketing, IT, and service teams so they can create a single and comprehensive view of their customers.

Ultimately, a person’s first purchase will hopefully mark the beginning of a long term relationship with your brand, and the most meaningful connections only happen when both sides truly understand one another.

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