David Cancel, CEO & Founder of Drift, asked a poignant question in a recent Inc. article: B2B customer expectations are changing—so why hasn’t your sales process?
The point that David drives here is one that many customer experience (CX) influencers have recently raised: B2B companies that continue to rely on draconian methods of interacting, selling and managing the customer journey are doomed to fail. Or, at the very least, they’re doomed to fall behind the competition.
B2C game-changers like Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Uber, and a host of others are responsible for dramatically reshaping customer expectations. That’s why we’re seeing customers demand more out of their B2B brand experiences.
But this shift in expectations isn’t just happening in the acquisition process. B2B clients are looking for personalized experiences, ease of access, and on-demand support in every aspect of their lifecycle with a company.
As a result, companies like Drift have introduced new categories around how B2B companies communicate with prospective clients and customers via conversational marketing. Additionally, a growing community of Customer Experience Management technologies, like CustomerGauge, have put a renewed focus on modernizing B2B CX with Account ExperienceTM.
Why It’s Time to Rethink Your B2B Sales Strategy
David Cancel isn’t alone in his evaluation of the current state of B2B sales and CX. In fact, according to Gartner, despite a 2.3X increase in the size of the average sales teams’ B2B portfolios, only 28% of sales leaders believe existing account management channels meet cross-selling targets.
CustomerGauge’s own research into the state of B2B customer experience found that those companies who do embrace a customer-centric sales process experience a 20% increase in up- and cross-sales and 2x the referral sales volume.
But what is a modern “customer-centric” sale approach – and how can you translate this type of sale into a pre- and post-acquisition lifecycle? In this article, we’ll look at what B2B companies can do to innovate their experiences across the customer lifecycle – from acquisition to renewal – to grow their bottom line and deliver exceptional customer experiences.
Omnichannel CX: Reach Your Accounts (And Potential Customers) Where It Matters Most
B2B companies have to compete across complex ecosystems and channels when communicating with their customers and prospective customers. So for old school industries like manufacturing and logistics, gaining visibility into these channels can be…difficult. Many leaders in these spaces, at least 50% according to Accenture, acknowledged that providing an omnichannel customer experience is vital to their strategy towards personalization and convenience.
Luckily, greater reliance on channel technologies like email and chatbots have actually become an advantage for B2B companies. According to Drift’s 2019 State of Conversational Marketing report, online chat has taken top honors in the convenience category for B2B clients during the initial sales process:
“These include ease of communication (45%), a good customer experience (43%), ability to easily register a complaint (39%), having a complaint resolved quickly (36%), quick answers to complex questions (34%), getting detailed/expert answers (35%), and friendliness and approachability (31%).”
And that’s just the beginning. A well-defined communication channel for post-sales processes plays a big role in long-term retention and churn mitigation. We found that combining an omnichannel approach to surveying and closing the loop with customers increases overall retention. Website-based survey channels, similar to the chatbot experience, had the biggest impact on account retention according to our research: Companies that utilize web-based surveys experience a 5.5% increase in retention/per year.
In similar studies, almost 40% of B2B leaders said that a lack of visibility into their B2B customer experience was a primary factor in shrinking sales. Those companies that invest in monitoring and managing experiences across multiple channels are, therefore, leading the pack in modernizing their CX.
Real-Time CX: 24/7 Conversations Need 24/7 Insights
Being channel-agnostic is one thing. But connecting with your customers 24/7? That’s the real game-changer. Many of the most successful B2B companies in the world are global – meaning they can’t limit themselves to servicing one particular time zone.
From an acquisition and customer-communication perspective, companies that want to implement tools that enable 24/7 interaction and task execution must do so without sacrificing the human touch. In fact, Accenture found that more than 33% of B2B clients cited a lack of personalization as a direct reason for switching to a competitor.
Chatbot companies like Drift enable 24/7, personalized communication – at scale – via tools such as auto-scheduling and account-based CX:
But real-time must go both ways. If you’re interacting with customers and prospects in real-time, insights from those interactions need to also be delivered in real-time.
Within B2B CX programs, real-time is vital for mitigating account churn. According to CustomerGauge’s NPS & CX Benchmarks report, we found that companies that don’t close the loop increase their churn by a minimum of 2.1% per year. For B2B companies with high-value accounts, this could mean the loss of anywhere from 5-25% of their revenue.
Having real-time insights into the health of accounts, alongside revenue, is important for ensuring these accounts don’t slip through the cracks. In our publication, Account Experience: How to Monetize Accounts, Grow Revenue and Deliver Exceptional Experiences in the B2B Economy, we found that many “…B2B companies don’t suﬃciently survey decision-makers or believe, incorrectly, that the people they survey ARE decision-makers. This may provide a “false-positive CX view” of their brand.” This is because B2B companies struggle to gain a real-time picture of their account coverage. Because of this, they ultimately miss closing the loop in real-time with the right contacts.
Coverage is a metric tracked in an account-based CX program that measures how large a portion of your customer base the collected, real-time feedback covers. If you only survey a small fraction of your accounts, it’s easier to get a high response rate. But the response rate alone won’t tell B2B companies if they’ve captured enough relevant feedback.
B2B CX programs and technologies should enable a real-time monitor of both the health of high-value accounts and ensure that you’re speaking to the right people.
Intelligent CX: Smart Technology Meets B2B Sales Ingenuity
B2B sales organizations rely heavily on account relationships for expanding business – from referrals to reviews to up- and cross-sales. In fact, Harvard Business Review found that almost 84% of B2B sales begin with a referral alone.
Account-based CX and sales technologies have transformed how B2B customers interact and approach relationships with brands. Arming sales teams with intelligent customer experience tools to enhance their sales process can have an incredible impact on bottom-line gains.
From a customer lifecycle perspective, this intelligence also needs to come into play at the first point of contact with potential customers. Imagine one of your sales reps being notified when their Tier 1 accounts are browsing your site – then being able to directly personalize the content on your site for these VIPs based on the data gathered around that persona.
Below is an example of how Drift Intel helps sales personalize messages on their website around an account, and put a face behind the expert reaching out to them.
Once a prospect transitions into a customer, additional opportunities present themselves. As mentioned, B2B sales organizations rely on these relationships for generating additional business. But without the necessary insight, understanding which accounts offer growth opportunities is impossible.
B2B CX software should also offer insights into the growth potential of an account. For this to happen, companies must be able to juxtapose revenue on top of satisfaction metrics such as Net Promoter Scores®, CSAT, etc.
Our clients use a tool called SWOT to identify which accounts are ideal for referral marketing as well as up- and cross-sell opportunities.
Making the sales process seamless and personalized across the customer lifecycle is something that B2B organizations are slowly starting to come around to. And for those that do execute a holistic B2B sales approach, the benefits can be substantial.
- The best practices discussed in this article help shorten the sales cycle and grow additional retention revenue. But more than that, they can improve relationships with accounts, who will feel brands are catering to their specific needs.
- To capture sentiment and prevent churn, B2B organizations must embed communication tools into relevant customer-facing channels and touchpoints—and ensure they scale comms. to account for the 24/7 nature of their global businesses. Additionally, the insights gained from these interactions must also be provided to sales teams in real-time to inform strategy and improve long-term retention.
- B2B companies rely heavily on account relationships for additional revenue. Ensure your team is armed with the tools that create a seamless buyer’s experience both during and post- acquisitions.
Want more B2B selling tips? Learn how Drift’s business development manager uses Conversational ABM to target their biggest accounts here.
As the Senior Marketing Manager and resident wordsmith at CustomerGauge, Sarah works to educate the market on the importance of employing a customer-first focus to drive higher retention, competitive advantage and sustainable growth. When Sarah isn’t typing madly away on her keyboard, you can find her hiking, traveling, making bad jokes, or firmly glued to the television.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from CustomerGauge. Interested in contributing content to the Drift blog? Email Molly Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.