Why customer experiences fail if sales teams don’t play their role

Customer experience is a big deal for companies the world over. CEOs are talking about it. CCOs are talking about it. CMOs are talking about it. Yet companies still face a major obstacle to getting it right in their own siloed behaviours and processes. Sales teams have a critical influence on the customer experience. But they are not playing a big enough role. If you are sitting in a sales team and want to break out of the silo, here’s some inspiration.

The Sales team needs to understand the end-customer experience each brand wants to create. They also need to ensure that the customer/retailer they work with is executing activities that positively reinforce the customer experience. However, each retailer will almost certainly have defined their customer experience and will be focused on ensuring that they deliver that consistently on & off line and from store to store or format to format. It is complex and requires sensitive handling to ensure the two come together in a motivating way for all the stakeholders: end-consumer, purchaser, distributor, brand owner and so on.

It is clear that Sales teams can play a key role; however, it will mean refreshing their approach and the way that they engage with partners. Their focus needs to be on the customer, which is obvious right?  But of course there is no single customer to focus on. For sales teams, the definition of customer they have to consider is the end-consumer and also intermediaries or influencers such as retailers, distributors, and shoppers. 

If we all adopt this wider definition it will have a unifying power and can integrate Sales (or Customer Development) & Marketing functions by embracing what all can do better to serve ‘our customer.’

This leads us to four areas for the sales team to focus on:

1. Develop a deep understanding of their customers’ needs (and their customers’ customers).

The sales team must build a granular understanding of their customer’s profile, journey & needs, and they need to develop an understanding of their customer’s customers to the same level. Developing this deep understanding is something we see is all too frequently missing in organisations. Find ways to get ‘back to the floor’ and re-engage with your customer at multiple levels and especially at the frontline. This will help grow your understanding of the operations & the people that deliver the customer experience, and bring great insight back to their cross-functional teams into the micro-moments of the customer experience. For example, what really happens when a shopper is at the point of purchase in store in FMCG or what really happens when the product line gets consumed in the operations of a B2B customer partner?

2. Identify the commonalities between the two customer profiles, journeys & experience.

There are of course differences and complexities, but instead of getting bogged down in these, find the commonalities in what matters most to the Sales’ customer and the end-consumer. Use this to find ways to integrate both what you do and how you work together.

3. Get involved early in the design of the desired customer experience.

The sales team has a responsibility to ensure the ‘voice of the customer (their partner)’ is regularly fed into the business. This is done most effectively through the integrated strategy & planning process, which can bring together multiple brand, product, or service customer experiences. However, our customer experience study uncovered that over 40% of companies don’t involve sales teams in developing CX strategies.

PepsiCo did this well when they brought complementary brands together, such as Lay’s/Walkers, Gatorade & Pepsi MAX in a ‘friends having fun together’ space. They developed an end-to-end experience for consumers, shoppers & customers across hundreds of markets.

4. Ensure everyone, including the Sales team, knows the role that it plays in delivery of the customer experience

Too often the Sales teams themselves aren’t clear that they have a critical role to play in the customer experience, and they haven’t got a team purpose that is centred on the vision of the customer experience. Alternatively, Sales teams want to play that role, but the rest of the organisation isn’t on board, so they don’t get invited to the right forums or at the right time. The best companies harness the ingenuity & invention of everyone to enhance the experience. Sales teams have a unique front line position. They need to take responsibility for offering up their ideas and their insights, to enhance each brand’s customer experience, and make it a success.

At Brand Learning our capability experts work extensively with companies to equip sales teams, and indeed the whole organisation, to deliver a better customer experience. If you want to know more, here’s what we do.

Read about the widening skills gap among Key Customer Managers and how this can be addressed.

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