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3 Critical Customer Service Lessons for B2B Sales Reps

4 min readOctober 11, 2013

Have you ever gone to buy a new pair of pants and received such friendly service that you walked out with an entire outfit? Or maybe you’ve found yourself returning to a restaurant repeatedly because the waitstaff is warm and attentive. Think sales and customer service are separate silos? Think again. Data from McKinsey shows that 70% of all buying experiences are based on how customers feel they’re being treated.

Working in the B2B space has put us in touch with a veritable parade of channel sales reps from different organizations. Some of them could have benefited greatly from some time working in retail. The best sales organizations already understand that profitability hinges on customer loyalty. It’s time for businesses to realign sales strategies to provide a better customer experience across every touch point.

Lesson 1: Sell Relationships, Not Features

We’ve encountered far too many channel sales reps at organizations that almost instantly begin sales conversations by working their way down a list of features. The thinking behind this method of sales is that a powerful, robust solution sells itself. But your prospects aren’t picking up their phones to be read a list of features. Today’s customers are more educated than ever and have likely viewed a feature list on your website already. From the moment the phone rings, a B2B sales rep should be focused on building a relationship with that prospect. This means:

  1. Likability– I’ve found that warmth, knowledge, confidence and honesty are the most important qualities to display when selling anything.
  2. Addressing specific pain points– When a lead calls you, they are likely dealing with a specific pain point. If you can focus your pitch on solving customer problems, it’s easier to close deals. (Note: sometimes customers have pain points they aren’t yet aware of.)
  3. Ongoing support- Before customers make a relatively large investment (e.g. a SaaS marketing tool), they want to know that they will be taken care of by a company. A sales conversation should be the first touch point with customer service, not the last. Make sure that customers know that they will be supported.

Lesson 2: Your Most Valuable Prospects are Existing Customers

The first thing I ever sold was used books, and from that job I learned something valuable- when you provide customers with a great experience, you see them again. B2B sales success is almost always contingent on forming long-lasting relationships. Yet far too many B2B sales teams take for granted that when a company signs a contract that they’ll automatically renew. Research from Bain & Company shows that it costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one! Not only that, a simple 5% reduction in customer defection can increase profits by up to 95%. In other words: losing customers—especially specific ones—can make a business go belly-up.

By being more customer-focused, B2B companies can avoid customer and company anxiety around renewal time. For some businesses this will require shifting from a short-sighted to a customer-focused renewal strategy.

A Short-Sighted Renewal Strategy: A common sales strategy in B2B companies is to avoid contact with a company until the 11th hour — often past a renewal deadline — in hopes of coercing a company into re-upping a contract.

A Customer-Focused Renewal Strategy: Great B2B companies don’t avoid their customers – they nurture relationships. This can be done by sending helpful support content, calling regularly to ensure that prospects’ pain points are being addressed and providing a sense of belonging to a community. And while a company can invest in a fantastic customer support program, if the sales rep is aloof or smug at the point of renewal, then  valuable customers are going to fly the coop.

Lesson 3: Be A Customer Company

One of the main themes at Salesforce.com’s upcoming Dreamforce convention is being a “customer company,” a message that InformationWeek’s Doug Henschen summed up as “It’s the Customer, Stupid.” Businesses will succeed and fail based on their ability to provide a customers with a better experience than competitors. To that end, businesses must integrate  location awareness, cloud communications, identity management and CRM technologies in order to maximize engagement at every point of interaction.

The stakes are high, but there are huge rewards to be gained by being a customer company.

A SlickText infographic reveals several reasons why it pays to be a customer company including:

  • Customers are four times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service-related rather than price related
  • 55% of consumers would rather pay more for a better customer experience
  • A 10% increase in customer retention yields a 30% increase in value to a company

There are huge opportunities to differentiate our business through customer experience. The infographic shows that less than two thirds of large businesses meet customer expectations and only 3.2% of large companies exceed customer expectations. And Forrester research shows that 42% of employees are unable to efficiently resolve customer issues due to disconnected systems.

At Revenue.io, we build apps and agent assist technology that help inside sales reps provide customers with a better experience. We deliver account details to sales reps on browsers and mobile devices, we make conversations smarter with contextual data from social media streams, and we provide IVR and automated routing solutions that can send leads to the right rep with the right data as quickly as possible. Customer expectations are growing. However, our solutions can not only help you meet those expectations, but exceed them.