It's a metric that merits more attention. What do your customers and prospects think about their interactions with you and your company? Is the buyer experience one they'd recommend and eagerly repeat?
Unfortunately, in chasing metrics that are focused on sales activities and results, we're neglecting to measure what matters most. Long term success depends on how buyers feel about working with you. To build for the future, you need to lay a strong foundation with buyers.A positive buyer experience is proven to advance the sale from open to close more often and more quickly.
The Buyer Experience is more than good customer service
Service used to give you a competitive differentiation. But today, in the age of the empowered buyer, service is merely a commodity. Everyone provides equivalent service and, without it, you're not even in the game.
Now you need to take it to the next level. In order to stay competitive, you have to offer more. Wharton marketing profession Barbara Khan says what you offer beyond service must be based on "recognizing the importance of providing an emotionally positive experience to customers."
This experience must be positive. More noteworthy is that it must include an emotional component. That's why sellers should focus first on building trust and truly connecting wtih buyers.
The Buyer Experience can't be delivered by sales alone
But sellers can't do it alone. The customer experience, whether B2C or B2B, is "the cumulative impact of multiple touchpoints" over the entire duration of a customer's interaction with an organization (Martin Zwilling, Forbes, 3/9/14).
It used to work for a single seller to meet with a single buyer in an organization. Not any more. Now, more decision-makers are involved on the buyer side, and that means there is more varied functional expertise required to understand the needs and interests of each decision maker or influencer.
Further, the buyer experience will be unsatisfactory for the decision makers the seller is unable to emotionally connect with (due to barriers when the seller lacks functional-area expertise).
A better solution is to make a shift and involve more people in both the seller and the buyer organizations. This creates stronger bonds and increases the likelihood of a positive experience for the buyer at multiple touchpoints.
The illustration above represents what this shift would look like. Rather than a fragile "butterfly" relationship where everything hinges on the buyer/seller connection, you'd aim for a stronger "diamond" relationship that connects functional units. The buyer and seller facilitate these relationships and work together to get more needs met in both organizations. It becomes a partnership.
The Buyer Experience is where value is created
When you focus on the experience, you create value for your buyer. Beyond the inherent value of your product and in addition to the added value offered by your company, created value comes from the experience. Only sellers and others who interact directly with buyers can respond instantly and uniquely to make each experience meaningful.
“Value creation is defined by the experience of a specific consumer, at a specific point in time at a specific location, in the context of a specific event… The experience space is conceptually distinct from that of the product space. In the experience space, the individual consumer is central, and an event triggers a co-creation experience… The involvement of the individual influences that experience. The personal meaning derived from the co-creation experience is what determines the value to the individual.”
- MIT Sloan Management Review
Creating value by focusing on the buyer experience is not optional if you want to win the sale and earn customer loyalty. This is one of the reasons why sellers must change their behaviors. Buyers expect and respond more favorably when sellers behave the way leaders do. Traditionally, sellers have not been expected to assemble teams and facilitate collaborative relationships. Sellers haven't engaged with buyers to co-create somethng special. Sellers haven't had to focus on emotional connections that give each buyer something more than the product and its benefits.
The Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement provides insights into precisely what buyers would like their sellers to do. We're covering it all, step by step, here in the CONNECT2Sell Blog. The research with 530 B2B buyers makes it crystal clear that buyers expect an individualized experience.
The award-winning CONNECT2Sell Blog is for professional sellers who believe, as we do, that Every Sale Starts with a Connection. Our 2017 emphasis will be on reporting buyer-side research and how sellers can connect with buyers and sell more effectively by adopting the behaviors of leaders. The Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement is all about the future state of sales and your success as a Sales Professional.
Deb Calvert, “DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected”author and Top 50 Sales Influencer, is President of People First Productivity Solutions, a UC Berkeley instructor, and a former Sales/Training Director of a Fortune 500 media company. She speaks and writes about the Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement and offers sales training, coaching and consulting as well as leadership development programs. She is certified as an executive and sales coach by the ICF and is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®. Deb has worked in every sector and in 14 countries to build leadership capacity, team effectiveness and sales productivity with a “people first” approach.
Editor's note: This post was originally published January 2017 and has been recently updated.