The phrase “The Buyer’s Journey” actually leads to the impression that we stop this journey when a deal has been closed so Tamara Schenk prefers to call it a customer’s journey or the customer’s path because it extends beyond the sale.
Dylis: Hi there, this is Dylis Guyan and welcome to the Inspired Selling Podcast where business owners and salespeople discover how to find, attract, convert and keep more of their ideal clients. I’ve got a superb guest for you today. You’re in for a treat. So, let me introduce you to Tamara Schenk. Have I pronounced that correctly, first of all, Tamara? I should have checked that with you. So let me tell you about Tamara.
She is a sales enablement leader, analyst speaker and co-author of “Sales Enablement: A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force.” As an analyst, Tamara is Research Director at C.S.O. Insights the research division of Miller Heiman Group, where she’s focused on global research on all things sales enablement, customer experience and sales effectiveness. She enjoyed 25 years of experience in sales, business development and consulting in different industries on an international level.
Prior to 2014, she had the pleasure to develop sales enablement from an idea to a programme and a strategic function at T-Systems and Deutsche Telekom Company where she led the global sales force, enablement and transformation teams. So what Tamara doesn’t know about sales actually isn’t worth knowing. Tamara, welcome. I’m absolutely thrilled and delighted to have you on the show.
Tamara: Thanks so much for having me.
Dylis: It’s a pleasure. So Tamara, we hear the word a lot about the buyer’s journey and many people say to me, “So Dylis what does this mean exactly?” So I thought that would be a great subject for us to explore deeper and for you to give us some context and more detail on what we mean about the buyer’s journey.
Tamara: It’s interesting. It’s very often still called the buyer’s journey, which actually leads to the impression that we stop this journey when a deal has been closed so I prefer to call it a customer’s journey or the customer’s path.
It basically describes all the steps a customer has to go through from understanding a problem, creating awareness around a business challenge they want to solve, making the decision. Do we care about it yes or no? Do we solve it internally? Do we need to buy something, and when we say yes we need to buy something, we want to tackle it and we actually go to the next phase to the actual buying phase and that’s well-known because that’s very often the parallel of what you call your sales process.
Then some buyer journeys they stop when a deal has been closed and if you’re really serious with taking things from the customer’s perspective, then we have to acknowledge that making the buying decision is for the buyer just a milestone on their way to something more important to them and that’s their implementation, adaption of usage phase of whatever they bought from you.
It’s also from a sales perspective, very important to focus on this last phase. So not to walk away from buyers even if you shouldn’t become a service person and do their work, but you should just keep in touch with the executive sponsors, with the people who initially created this project and it’s important to get back to them with some kind of confirmation messages to make sure they really understand the value that has been created. Doing it this way, you hopefully can create a new opportunity because they want to share another problem with you.
Dylis: Yeah, and often of course when you’re in working on the initial project, you identify other opportunities that you can then take higher and go see the “C” Suite about this opportunity. But something that you said there Tamara, that is very close to my heart and I’m always banging on about this and it was when you said, “If you are…” I’m not sure these were your exact words, but “If you are committed to your customer first, that actually leads on to different behaviours from yourself, doesn’t it?
Dylis: But still I see this, and I talk about this in my programs about if you focus on how can I hit my targets, how can I get them to say yes, how can I get them to see that we are the best option. It really should be a dialogue that’s saying, “How I can help you achieve your objectives?”
Dylis: How can our company support you in achieving your objectives and getting you to where you want to be? But it’s very easy to say that but for people to embrace it and take it on board and behave differently is quite challenging. Isn’t it?
Tamara: Yeah, that’s the thing, all these topics are not new but if we listen to it from a buyer’s perspective they become so obvious what we should be doing. Then if you look at many sales organisations, how they are set up, how they are structured, how they are managed, you will probably not hear a lot of buyer/customer words in those internal sales meeting, it’s all about internal K.P.I.’s, about the sales process and if this one is disconnected from the customer’s journey. Then we lose traction and we probably assume a customer would be at some point but actually they are not, they are elsewhere. This is why we are always recommending people, “Hey, take the customer’s journey as your primary design point and look at all these stages and decisions and steps this buying team has to go through and then map that back to your internal process landscape and take it from there and not the other way around because buyers are in charge. They decide how they want to buy….”
Tamara: “…how and when they want to engage with the salespeople and they clearly tell us what they want.” So we recently did our first buyer preference study at C.S.O. Insights and it was just fascinating to look at the findings that came out of this.
Dylis: What were they saying, Tamara?
Tamara: Basically, they look at salespeople as salespeople. So, they don’t hate salespeople. They like to talk to salespeople. That it’s very rare that they really see them as business partners that help them to solve their business problems. So, there is one question we ask them, “What are your preferred resources when it comes to solving a business challenge?’ And what would you guess at what position did salespeople come in? Number 9.
Tamara: From 11. So we look at experts, third parties, conferences, peers, their networks other experts and groups, then salespeople came in at number 9; I think 23% was the number.
So we’re asking them, “Do they like to talk to salespeople? Yes, but as salespeople so that’s a thing because usually, they said, “Oh yes, they basically meet my expectation” but only in very rare occasions they said, “They exceeded my expectations” and this is where we want to go to. Because what we know from customer experience research it’s never enough just meet the customer’s expectations. That does not create loyalty, so they can still buy elsewhere. So, we want to focus on what we need to do to exceed their expectations where that drives loyalty and a stronger relationship and be perceived in a different way.
Just another highlight from the study was done because there was always this saying “Yeah buyers don’t want to engage with salespeople early on, they do all their stuff on their own.” So while in general, this is true, they do a lot of research. They can do that on their own and have a tendency to engage salespeople later. But it’s not the case that everybody is doing this.
It’s interesting to see that they were also were very open to say “Yes, they are a lot of opportunities when we actually would like to engage with salespeople earlier and this is always when something is complex which means I have to deal with different functions internally or when the situation is new to me. So probably I never bought the business process outsourcing or something is risky for me in my position or for the entire organisation.
I mean, with all the technology we have out there, there is so many new cases and new challenges for organisations, I think it’s not difficult to find one of these four situations where buyers want to engage earlier and then to really engage them the right way.
Another interesting thing was; what is it actually you really want from sellers? And it’s not difficult, they simply want that they understand my business as a buyer, they understand my industry, my role, my challenges and that they simply know they are selling craftsmanship; basic professional selling skills so to speak. And that they don’t walk away when the deal has been closed.
Very simple, they want to be inspired and learn new things about all these things sound simple as you said earlier, they’re actually not, if you want to put this into…if you want to implement it this way because it’s still the case that, especially salespeople who are in these roles for decades, they feel very successful decades ago selling based on features and functions and taught you the same buyer roles. But see the buyer roles have changed, decisions are made elsewhere. I have to have a different approach because all these things are online.
So, it’s no longer interesting what the product is and what it does. I can find that online and I compare stuff online but what it means to me in my business in one of these, especially in one of these four situations that’s what matters. That requires different skills, different conversations, different content, different messaging, all these things. So, it’s actually a bigger transformation even if it sounds simple.
Dylis: Yes, yes. As we just discussed before, this comes from the top in big companies. Where we’re looking at companies who’ve got sales forces. If we look at the S.M.E. (Small to Medium Enterprises) Market and I know that you’ve got the experience of the S.M.E. Market from when you very first started your business. Is that right?
Dylis: Yeah, so the S.M.E. Market generally will have a small sales team and generally, they won’t have sales and marketing departments to support the sales effort or even training departments to support them. How do we instil this or how do we help the S.M.E. to embrace this when most of them will say to me, “I don’t want to be seen as a salesperson.”
Tamara: Nobody wants that.
Dylis: I think, it’s this kind of negative connotation that’s associated with being a salesperson and actually it shouldn’t be. Because a salesperson…funnily enough, I was at an event last night and I was talking to a guy and he said exactly that “I don’t want to be seen as a salesperson.” I said, “How do you see a salesperson then?” and he went “Well, being pushy and in people faces” and I said, “Good selling isn’t that”
It’s about taking someone from a position where they are now, to a position where they want to be. To help them achieve their objectives. And I said, actually if you put this very simply if you don’t give someone the opportunity to say yes or no, not right now, you are leaving them subject to that problem on-going or they’ll go to your competitor. But it’s not about pushy selling.
So how do we educate? I’m like an evangelist and spreading the skills but not just the skills, the motivation. I want to inspire people to go out and share what they can do for their clients and to inspire their clients to take action on their vision you know. So, what are the things that we can do Tamara, to help this S.M.E. population, the entrepreneurs, as well as some of the salespeople who’ll be listening to this as well of course?
Tamara: So, first of all, I’m going to touch a little bit about what you shared about the sales roles that people generally don’t want to be seen in a sales role. So they want to be business development representatives or consultants or whatever.
So, I mean, the core of it is we still have an issue with sales as a profession. Though I think this is at the core where we should really work on to evolve this profession. It is a profession. It’s not something fancy and I’m sure you remember then Pink’s book “To Sell is Human.” And he asks people what comes to their mind when they hear the word selling, was exactly what you said, which is why nobody wants to. There is really, really a big challenge to evolve sales to a really serious profession which what it should be especially in the age of the customer. It’s what you said, we always use the phrase, “It’s about creating value at each stage of the customer’s path and then can be the case to help them to achieve their goals through different ways” because they will come back to you for other occasions.
So yeah, back to the small businesses. Some things are much easier in small businesses. Because you don’t have to align your sales and more often marketing department because you’re probably one yourself. Also, the role thing it’s much simpler, if you look at small companies’ people usually cover several roles.
So, when I started with a partner in my own business, just coming out of university. I did everything from selling to implementing stuff. We had a software company it was about a software for the automotive industry for their suppliers. It was a testing time software, so it had to be sold, it had to be implemented, had to be maintained and then you have to look at the product side and of course you have to create new customers. Which I think the biggest pitfall for S.M.E. is if you’re depending on a few big customers and you’re selling and delivering on your own then, you usually don’t take the time for prospecting and you will have an issue when the project is done. So, this is very important to develop a business model that allows you to have an on-going prospecting phase. This is really so important, and I learnt that the hard way. It has to be an on-going task.
So interestingly we do at C.S.O Insights and that is probably encouraging for us as well we do now for 23 years a research base on a very simple framework which we call the Sales Relationship Process Matrix. So, it shows that the level of relationships you have with your customers and the level of sales process maturity. In general, we’re saying and this is what the data says, the more advanced you are, the more mature on your process, maturity, the better able your relationships are, the better performance you will achieve.
So this is not always true. It’s true in general. But you can also be very successful with a random or informal process and having a high-level relationship which is often very true for very small organisations. So, they start with one, two, three salespeople. They do everything on their own and you can probably not replicate what one did to the other one because they have their own style, but they have the relationship, they know their customers best, they play on this consultative flow, they know what to say they can be very successful this way.
The problem is, if they want to grow their business they have to invest in this foundation of a sales process, of a methodology so that they can on board new people. So, if they would hire 10 more sales people then they would have a real problem because nobody would know what actually works, what person A did and what person C did and why this worked, and this didn’t. Which one of the core issues of having a more formal approach to selling is to know what works and what doesn’t? If I don’t know what everybody’s doing so how could I change something, I mean I cannot.
Tamara: So, I mean that’s simply encouraging. If somebody is in this position now, you can be successful in this environment with a few people doing their own thing. You just cannot scale your business this way. That’s just the important thing to know. I think if you usually have then a smaller portfolio of services and you can take the time to understand your customers, what is exactly the business problem you’re solving and how exactly are you doing this and how is your differentiation to the competition. These are the main things to begin a conversation with prospects and customers and then it will be easy to turn to a product and feature and function level later the more advanced you go with them through the buying process but it’s just important not to push your product too early.
Dylis: Yeah I call that “Peeeing” too soon.
Tamara: Yeah exactly.
Dylis: This is it I work with a lot of S.M.E.’s now, and it amazes me…well actually it was same when I was working for, the big corporate. Is that people walk around as silos, as individual silos, holding all of this information and not sharing. Even as far as competitor information, everyone’s holding their own competitor information. Let’s just create a hub of knowledge on the competitor. So that when new people come in, you can say, let me introduce to our top five competitors and here’s their strengths and weaknesses and so on. Here’s how we can differentiate ourselves from them.
So you not having to fall upon this information by default. It’s much more structured. It just amazes me the large S.M.E.s’ even who’ve got a number of sales people, still don’t have processes in place and systems in place and many of them aren’t even tracking.
Tamara: Yeah, it’s a big issue and I’m always surprised by even medium sized organisations, they invest a lot in selling skills and messaging and stuff like this but if there is no foundation these services can connect to, you know, they cannot exist in a vacuum. So, they all have adoption issues for good reasons because people cannot connect it to their daily workflow.
What was it I wanted to say, the silo thing and the sharing issue. Yes, I completely agree, so it was always a difficult thing for me, in my previous sales roles that there is so much competition inside a sales force. I mean we have enough competition out there. Why should we compete like crazy internally and keep our success as our own?
I think it’s a bit of this where do sales roles come from and there is this lonely-wolf thinking, still in some organisations or in the DNA or how should we name that and it is more challenging in sales organisations to implement and to get to a learning and sharing culture and what I’m always seeing you can provide a lot of technology, it won’t change unless it’s really an issue of the sales leadership team.
Tamara: I think sales front line first line sales managers or in smaller companies the sale leader, they can make a big difference if they encourage the members of their sales team. We had a great deal over here. You know why did we win this deal? Could you share. Also we have a painful loss here so let’s discuss what just happen there and what could we all learn from this. So, it is important to have technology enablement content management solutions in place. Especially in bigger organisations you’d have to have definitely one spot where everything can be found ideally in a CRM system and if that’s not the case, just have one spot and not 25 different share drives and that’s not working, and telling people to upload your stuff to it, it’s not working because they will never go there.
Dylis: Yes that’s right.
Tamara: So this is my encouraging salespeople to share something because if you have a lot of A players you don’t need a lot of coaching to do for them but they love to be praised as well. If you can’t give them the kind of welcome to share a story, it’s helpful for everyone and it can change the culture a little bit more because we need a learning culture. Buyers continue to change how they’re buying. It’s not they did and that’s what they do now, they continue to change.
Dylis: Yeah, just going back to your recent data research on buyers and what they thought of the salesperson and what they are looking for. What were the other key issues that came out of that, that the buyers were looking for from the seller?
Tamara: Yeah, more specific it was these four key areas what they were looking for. So the question was, “What would you expect from salespeople that they do more often and more consistently?” and that was, “Understand my business and know me before you engage with me,” and it really means, do your homework, do your preparation for every single call.
You know for me it’s funny. I mean yeah, I’m an analyst in the enablement space for quite a while. I am well-known to a lot of vendor companies. So how would you feel if you get all these companies’ ideas like, “Oh are you new to enablement? And we know it’s hard to build an enablement function from scratch and how can we help you to do it?” And I say, “Okay, first of all, I should be in your C.R.M. in one way or another. It’s not difficult to find me on LinkedIn or Twitter. And by the way, we work together before-hand, so you know it’s just not a good idea to send me this message. But I’m not the only one so we still reuse automation tools the wrong way.
So, on one side, we have a ton of data. We can find everything at our fingertips if we would look for it. So that’s the one thing that has to be done. The information is there, I just have to look at it. And then it’s better to only send five messages instead of 10 or 15 and you know, half of them, they’re simply useless
Dylis: Relevant is the word.
Tamara: Yeah so just make your research and also understand what are the challenges in their industry? So if you talk to a finance role or project management role it’s very different so how do I find the right language? Use all the tools to map out the account and understand what all the roles are. You cannot know everything before you get on a call but know should know their business, you should know their general business challenges and trends in the industry. You should have an idea what this role would care about and you have to make sure that it’s useful to make this call. So, don’t call an existing customer and assume it’s a prospect. We all should not be doing that.
So this is all about prep work. This is really something I think is a gap again because many sales managers engage with their sales people too late in the process. Only when there is a secured opportunity, but this is all about prospecting and lead generation and we know that most of the sales organisations generate their own leads. Around 50 percent of their leads come from sales.
So sales managers really have to focus on coaching their sales people especially around prospecting because then we avoid this first thing. And then it’s be an excellent communicator and that means communicate what your buyers want to communicate. So we have just added different channels. So, we have phone, we have video, we have social networks, we have text message, we have WhatsApp, we have email, we have all these things in place and we’re adding stuff, so it just means there is a variety and we should respect how our potential buyers want to communicate.
Dylis: Yeah and it’s just as simple as asking the question.
Tamara: Yeah, asking the question and also be good in following up. So, if there was a meeting, wrap it up, secure the next sections but that’s actually basic tasks. Everybody can learn that. There is no magic with that.
Dylis: And that’s a really key…sorry to interrupt but that is a really key element of making sure that you’re securing the next step. Whatever that…you know if you’re not closing the sale at that meeting, what’s the next step and get it a agreed if it’s a date in the diary or to meet someone else in the team or another department. Get that secured. I see that missing so often.
Tamara: But that also means, I prepare the meeting and I make sure what I want out of the meeting, the decisions I want to be made and then it’s easy for me to do that after a meeting, so these are just basic skills. And then don’t run away when the deal has been closed. You work on a relationship to build and evolve a relationship often over several months and then you walk away. It’s just not a good behaviour it’s as simple as that.
So, you keep engaged in one way or another and even if it’s only to ensure that you communicate about the value that has been created, or that will be created that you help bring into the service team and these things. And as you do that you will figure out new ideas to create even more value for them; what you just mentioned earlier, and I totally agree on that.
Then give me insights and perspective and that is probably the most challenging part of it because that requires that you have some data you can share with customers about your industry, how your solution, achieve for sales with other customers, how they can achieve their goals with different approaches; have you thought about doing it this way and you can even achieve better results. Something like this.
So you need data and that’s a lot about the value messaging part, it’s about the differentiation part and providing this perspective. So, it requires you to really understand the business problem they want to solve and what they want to achieve. And also, to have a clear understanding; what’s the role of my product or my solution in that bigger picture.
Usually, it’s a line item in a bigger business case because the customer also has to do a lot of things to make sure that you can actually achieve a certain value. If you look at a assessing implementation, you know you cannot…it’s not the vendor’s responsibility 100% to help the customer to achieve a goal they also have to work together to get there. They have to collaborate to get there and also this has to be initiated in one way or another.
Early on this is really important, with insights and providing this kind of perspective because buyers want to learn more and that’s what keeps them engaged when they say “Oh, I haven’t thought about it this way”. So that’s a great feedback from a conversation because you’ve stimulated something you can roll with, take them on that track, you have built some trust and some credibility and can take it from there. But I think buyers that you have data, you have case studies, you have success stories, you have ideas, you have cases simply from a product management perspective that you have a marketing team that helps to put case studies, references together. That you have an enablement team that helps you with your value messaging ideas for different stages, different roles and provides you with tools and services like this.
Dylis: Yeah, which is brilliant. The S.M.E.s’ that are growing, if they get this foundation in place right from the beginning, it will set them in good stead growing and developing as a business. The other thing I just want to mention is that they shouldn’t feel reluctant or nervous about approaching bigger companies. Even now my company is not huge but in my early days when I was just on my own, I was winning contracts with businesses that I would never have dreamt that I would even have a chance but actually I could bring different benefits to those of a large company. So, I could turn on a sixpence very quickly. We don’t even have sixpence now, I don’t know why I referred to that. That’s a real old-fashioned northern turn of phrase actually. But there were a lot of benefits that I could bring and the smaller S.M.E’s can bring those benefits in exactly the same way as long they’ve got the structure that you have very clearly laid out for us today. And I really thank you for that Tamara because this isn’t hard, it’s just putting the right steps in place, isn’t it?
Dylis: So what resources would you recommend for my audience?
Tamara: Of course, it depends on how much time everyone wants to invest in looking at articles or books or whatever. So, I always find it useful to set some hashtags on twitter for the topics you’re interested in or in LinkedIn or you really get the relevant stuff that’s interesting for your business.
Of course, people can always have a look at our blog at www.csoinsights.com/blog. We have blog posts twice a week and just the last couple of weeks, Celeste Lunsford and I both tackled a lot of topics from the buyer preference study and also this is a free download which we just need a few ingredients but that’s an asset people can download for free. I think that simply helps to have conversations within organisations. What is it we need to do, what is it buyers in general, want to have and how can we get closer to this? So, it’s just easier if you get that information from a buyer’s perspective.
And of course, we always have a lot of studies. We have study out there where we look at Sales Inspiration. I’m currently again working on the 2018 Sales Enablement Optimisation Study and of course we have the book. I was happy to co-author with Byron Matthews, our president and CEO of Sales Enablement. That’s the book that tackles sales enablement from a very strategic perspective but with very practical models and frameworks and tools that also works for smaller companies and I was just saying, it’s sometimes much easier for smaller companies to do things. So yes, the book is available on Amazon.
Dylis: And that’s for sales enablement?
Tamara: Yeah “Sales Enablement: The Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower World Class Sales Force.”
Dylis: Perfect, perfect. Just to be clear, that’s www.csoinsights.com/blog if they want to read your blog. Just go to the website to find other resources there; fantastic. Tamara thank you so much. You’ll have to come back on again at a later date because we’ve got so much that we could talk about, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and thank you for being a guest on the show.
Tamara: Thank you so much for having me Dylis it was a pleasure.
Dylis: You’re very welcome.
Tamara: I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much.
Dylis: Bye for now. Bye
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