Before they call or have a face-to-face meeting with a prospect, smart salespeople check the CRM system to see what the customer record says about that person or that business. That’s what CRM is there for, from a sales perspective: to give sales the background information it needs to have the best chance at closing a sale.
However, the picture of the prospect painted by CRM data isn’t perfect — it’s a reflection of the data collected from various sources. CRM data is to the prospect what a painting is to a photograph. It’s not a perfect reflection of the prospect — it’s an impression based on aspects those collecting the data chose to emphasize.
That’s why it’s important to keep updating that customer record as you build the relationship — and that means as the sales team has contact with the prospect. That sounds like an obvious idea, but too often, when sales sets about to selling, the profile of the customer they start with is the one they sell to — even when the prospect is standing before them telling them otherwise.
Learn More, Sell More
A great example of this is illustrated in a presentation highlighted on the BetterSell Solutions Blog. The example, explained by Bob Hatcher, is that of a technology reseller looking to buy a CRM application.
The reseller’s team is smart enough to realize that this process offers them a window into their own selling processes, and the result is a presentation critiquing the selling approaches of three major CRM vendors.
One thing that stands out is that all three vendors fail to ask questions about the needs of the prospects, or how those needs may change. The sales teams’ views of the prospect are fixed in place and determined by the limited information they have about that prospect. The opportunity is there to learn more, adjust their understanding of the customer, and more effectively sell to the customer — but all of them whiff, to one degree or another.
In the end, the customer makes a decision, but it’s not because its team finds a special affinity with one company or another, or because one team stands out by becoming helpful peers teaming with a customer for success. It’s because they need a CRM solution and are willing to put up with less-than-stellar sales processes. In fact, two of the deciding factors in the decision come from a consultant, not from the winning vendor.
Change Your Data, Keep Your Customer
This always makes me scratch my head. The prospects are sitting right there. They are ready to talk about themselves and to learn about the business selling to them. Why is it so hard to engage in a conversation that reveals what they need to know — or just ask the proper questions directly?
The buyer-seller relationship is changing. Buyers need a trusted advisor, not a carnival barker who will hard-sell them until they cave in. Part of being a trusted advisor is having the ability to listen to what the buyers say about themselves and their problems and to respond in a helpful way.
Sellers are having a hard time understanding that they are no longer in control of this conversation. Sales requires a bit of arrogance, but when arrogance causes sales not to listen to the customer, you have a real problem.
If sales isn’t listening when it should be, how can it update the customer record to reflect what it’s hearing and to refine the understanding of customers and prospects?
Any customer profile drawn exclusively from CRM data should not survive the first contact with the customer unchanged. In fact, sales pros should be eager to change that profile to reflect what they’re learning, because the accuracy of the profile will directly impact the efforts of sales, marketing and support — not just in closing the sale, but in keeping the customer over the long term.