I met with a sales executive at a national technology firm recently who reported that they achieved their sales quotas last year yet the business had zero growth. It was discovered that for every client they brought in, another client was cancelling their contract. Apparently, churn and managing the Customer Development process was a challenge for this business.
“Clearly, there is a disconnect between the confidence your customers had in choosing your business and the satisfaction (or lack thereof) they felt after that decision”, I quipped. I offered the following as possible reasons:
- The prospect was promised something different than what they actually needed.
- The customer’s needs or requirements changed post sale.
- There is a problem with your product or customer support/service.
The answer I received from this executive, which mimics the response from most B2B businesses in this situation, was: “I don’t know”. The disconnection between pre-sales campaigns and post-sale delivery is a growing problem for a number of reasons starting with the obvious: most don’t having a plan to manage the customer relationship AFTER the sale.
As I wrote in the opening article to this series, profitable customer relationships don’t stop at the sale, but build through the sale towards advocacy. The sale is not the end point of the relationship but another stage in the customer value chain.
Simply having a customer development strategy does not make a lifecycle marketing program successful however. Other obstacles to success include the increasing number of touch points between businesses and customers and the number of disruptive factors within the relationship (social media, evolving markets, etc.).
At the end of the day, the biggest obstacle that all these issues point to is the disconnection between Customer Acquisition strategies and personnel and Customer Development strategies and personnel – or the “handoff”. Successfully handing off a prospect into the Customer Development program (provided your business has such a strategy implemented) is the key to mitigating these risks.
A proper transition from prospect to customer must include a customer engagement data set, which is managed by a predefined process. It’s the responsibility of those involved in attracting and converting the prospects to collect and supply this information to those who are tasked with managing and growing the life-time value of the customer. No easy task given the lack of communication and coordination between sales, marketing and service teams.
Let’s look at a summary of the documentation required in that handoff first:
- What channel did the prospect first respond to during the “Awareness” stage
- What touch points did the prospect have with your business between “Awareness” and “Purchase” (listing all including duplicates and date/time of each)?
- What was the nature of the conversation, subject matter or community that first drove the prospect into the funnel?
- What were the final decision criteria or circumstances surrounding the decision that lead to the purchase?
- What was the client’s intended goal when purchasing this product from you (EG. larger market share, decreased costs, improved end-customer satisfaction, etc.)?
- How is the client going to be judging success in their decision to choose your product and service?
- Who are the stakeholders involved in day to day engagement post sale and who will determine the success of that decision?
There are two main purposes for the collection and transmission of this information during the handoff:
- To supply the customer development team (inside sales, customer support, delivery, etc.) with the required knowledge to successfully manage the customer’s expectations.
- To supply the customer lifecycle model the required touch-point data to properly track, measure and score the engagement that lead to the conversion, which is later combined with the “customer value” data collected in this next phase.
I’ll elaborate more on that and the processes required for the handoff in my next article here on Sensei Blogs.
The first stage in the Customer Development program is to support the customer’s transition into their consumer role and ensure they are satisfied with the service and value your business brings to them. With that in mind, I urge B2B businesses to understand that the customer is not satisfied if you simply deliver the product or service purchased. They’re only truly satisfied if the product or service you delivered meets their expectations. Thus, ensuring your service team has the required data to manage that expectation becomes priority number 1 in this handoff.
Previous Post: Bending the B2B Customer Lifecycle
Next Post: The Customer Handoff Process (coming soon)
What have your experiences been? How critical is this handoff in ensuring the growth of customers and increasing their value to your business? Join the discussion below.
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