Dig Deeper For Customer Insight To Win Deals

Hank Barnes

Today’s sellers are deluged with ideas to help them be more successful.  Whether it is social selling, big data, Challenger selling, or some other topic, everyone seems to have an answer for how to win more deals faster.    And here is mine….focus deeply on your customers.

For example, big data is meaningless unless you are mining it for insights that help you understand how your customers make decisions, buy, or run their operations.  So any big data effort should not start with the data, it should start with what you want to learn or understand, then work backwards to identify the data that you need (and can get access to) to gain those insights.

Challenger selling is all about understanding your customer’s business and helping them uncover ways to improve—ways that are supported by whatever you  are selling.

Social selling may help you make connections to customers and prospects more easily, but if you don’t have anything to offer that is meaningful to them, those social channels may shut down for you in the future.

But, if you dig deeply to determine what you really need to understand about your customer and their business, you can find ways to leverage deep insight (I prefer that to big data), Challenger, and social selling effectively.

Here is a great example.  An SAP customer that uses our Sales OnDemand product is in the textbook market—a market that has been impacted hugely by Amazon, eBay, and other internet options to buy, rent, sell textbooks.  This new competition forced them to take a hard look at their business and their customers (bookstores on and around campuses).

They developed a system that lets them categorize accounts based on a wide variety of factors (purchase history, returns, etc.).  The categorization does two things.  First, it helps them group accounts based on the level of support and interaction they need.  And second, and probably more importantly, it helps their sales teams understand how to help make those customers more successful.

Using the information, a sales rep can help the bookstore owners make better purchase decisions (buying less of books they return frequently and more of other books), introduce other programs (like textbook rentals—a program that they  put in place in response to the Internet competition), and help with marketing campaigns to encourage students to buy and sell text books from the stores.

It is not the data that matters–its the insight they glean from that data that helps the sales reps and company be more effective in serving their customers.    This deep focus on customers has been incredibly successful, with more and more sales reps surpassing their targets.  More importantly, many of their customers talk about how their partnership with the company has “saved their business.”

When they were making the shift, the textbook company did not talk about Big Data, Social Selling, or any other buzzword.  They said “What do our customers need to be successful and what do we need to understand about them to make that happen?”  They dug deeply into their various information sources and came up with simple ways to help their sales team prioritize sales activities and offer added value to customers.  Sales OnDemand is part of the story in that it enables them to push this information to sales reps mobile devices (everyone has an iPad) and also makes it easy for the sales team to collaborate and share stories and ideas to help each other and their customers.

But the real story is how a deep customer focus and commitment enables more effective selling.  Start with your customers and work backwards to determine which “sales imperative” really matters for you and your business.   If you need to know more about your customers, look not just at what data you need (or that might be available to you), but also at how to turn that into simple insights that make things easier for your sales teams and customers.

In general, it is likely that big data or many of the other hot trends can help you succeed, but look before you leap to make sure that you are doing it for the benefit of your customers and organization–not just because its cool.