How to Make Today’s Savvy Customers Loyal for Life

Tony Rodoni

If you feel like it’s tougher to make a sale these days, it’s not your imagination. There’s a new breed of customer out there and they’ve made life more complicated for growing businesses.

What makes these modern customers different? For starters, they don’t want to talk to your sales reps – at least not right away. First, they want to educate themselves about you and your competitors by doing extensive online research and consulting like-minded consumers via social media.

As a result, they’re highly informed when they finally reach your salespeople – and that changes everything. They expect smarter answers, more personalized experiences, and thoughtful solutions rather than sales pitches. To succeed in this new era of selling, here are the four things your business has to understand and embrace in order to grow:

Sales Reps Need to Think Like Marketers

Today’s customers don’t want a pitch on a product or service – they want help solving a problem. They expect an honest and informed answer to the question, “What would you do if you were me?”

For sales reps, this requires a change in mindset – and your company must champion that change from the top down. Empower your reps with the understanding that they no longer need to obsess about closing a deal or meeting a quota. Instead they should focus on adding value for customers at every step in the sales cycle. The goal is not to make a sale right now, but to create a loyal customer for life.

Rest assured sales leaders, quota does matter. However, if your sales team takes care of your customers, the quotas will take care of themselves. The extra effort it takes to create loyal customers in the beginning will pay for itself for years to come. Study after study shows that it costs anywhere from five to 25 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Better yet, a five percent increase in customer retention can produce more than a 25 percent increase in profit.

Sales Reps Need to Own the Entire Customer Experience

The key to the marketing mindset is owning the customer experience end to end. If a customer only hears from sales at the end of the month or quarter, they know the rep considers them as nothing more than a quota filler.

From the customer perspective, those last-ditch phone calls are more than just an annoyance. In a recent Salesforce study, 80 percent of business buyers said it’s absolutely critical or very important that a salesperson doesn’t try to sell them products they don’t need. And 79 percent said it was equally important that their salesperson is a trusted advisor who adds value to their business.

Consider the above in light of a recent Gartner study that found 89 percent of companies now expect to compete mostly on the basis of the customer experience. Suddenly, it becomes crystal clear why your sales reps need to reach out early and often with thoughtful and personalized advice.

Sales Reps Need to Be Data Scientists

To provide an experience that will set your company apart, your sales reps need to answer a lot of complex questions about a lot of customers: Who should I call next? What resources should I recommend? Which products offers the best solution to their problems? How can I address issues before they even become problems?

A few years ago, pulling the data together to answer those questions would have been an impossible task – especially for SMBs, which have limited time and resources. Today, sales reps can use artificial intelligence (AI) to do the work for them. In fact, AI is now the top growth area for sales teams, with 139 percent increase in usage expected over the next three years.

By analyzing sales data and using predictive analytics, AI generates actionable insights that help sales reps make smarter decisions and serve customers better. AI can also help sales teams save time and be more productive by revealing things like a customer’s readiness to close, a particular segment’s buying behaviors, a sales team’s top performers or the prospects most likely to generate profits.

Sales Reps Need Connected Data to Create Seamless Experiences

If you’re thinking, “this all sounds great, but our customer data is buried in emails, calendars and different sales, service and marketing databases,” then you’ve hit on the final piece of the puzzle. For your sales team to provide the cohesive, personalized experiences customers demand, all their information needs to be easily accessible in one place.

Customer relationship management (CRM) solutions combine sales, service and marketing tools in one platform so everyone – including your sales reps – can access the same complete customer information from a single source. A good CRM should also have AI built right in and be integrated with your email and calendar systems so it has all the data it needs to provide a complete picture of every customer at all times. By having the right system in place, SMBs will be able to continue providing personalized 1-to-1 customer experiences – even through periods of rapid growth.

Today’s customers definitely demand more from sales reps, but this challenge gives growing companies an exciting opportunity to create strong and lasting relationships. The key to success – make sure your sales team has the right mindset and the right technology to create smart, seamless and personalized customer experiences that keep people coming back for more.

Tony Rodoni is an executive vice president for small- and medium-sized business sales at Salesforce. He plays a significant role in the company’s overall vision, direction, and go-to-market strategy in the small and medium business market.