The high-touch, enterprise sales process needs a lesson from design thinking: Align yourself around your customer’s journey, and develop tools and training that create a more consultative experience for your customer.
I work with numerous enterprise sales teams at large companies to help them design and deploy more customer-centric sales programs in industries ranging from healthcare to financial services. If you work in the world of enterprise sales — the high-touch, big-ticket, long sales-cycle process that encompasses many software, health care and other business-to-business transactions — you likely know that you have to become a strategic advisor and partner to your customer in order to build productive, long-term relationships. And yet, I've observed most enterprise sales processes are still structured as processes; a series of transactional steps organized around your sales flow as you move a customer through your funnel or pipeline from “lead” to “prospect” to “opportunity” and so on.
I believe this is broken thinking. From my perspective, we’ve forgotten that the customer’s journey through the process of finding a solution to their problem doesn’t necessarily follow your company's process. The customer's journey seeks a solution and an advisor who understands those needs and can help solve their problem collaboratively. I've found the customer is looking to establish a relationship with a trusted advisor and partner — a much more human need, requiring a human-centered approach.
This is where the lessons of design thinking, and specifically service design, can inform a better way. If you look at how customers find a solution to their problem, through their eyes, and align your sales processes, tools and training to their journey, I believe you can surpass your competitors that still force their customers into their process.
This is a method I often coach clients on. Here’s how you can do it in seven steps:
The teams we’ve worked with that have applied these techniques have reported increased sales conversion, improved customer satisfaction and business results, and longer customer retention. And in numerous examples, job-aids and interactive experiences brought into sales meetings have resulted in increased customer engagement, building rapport and accelerated solution alignment.
Because of this, I believe sales teams that align themselves with the customer journey and study customer empathy and consultative techniques will outperform their peers and succeed in building more durable customer relationships. Service design has transformed the world of user experience in consumer products and services – it’s time we apply the learnings to the sales process, tools and training we do to connect customers and their needs to the right business solutions.