Customers are the lifeblood of the sales industry - without them there would be no sales and no revenue for the company. Beyond revenue, they also determine the success of a business, so understanding and satisfying a customer’s needs and preferences can be essential for building long-lasting relationships and generating repeat business.
Prioritising the customer experience and providing excellent customer service can be what differentiates a salesperson from their competition. Customer satisfaction is essential for establishing customer loyalty over time, but also integral to winning a prospect initially too.
What is a customer journey?
The customer journey refers to the various steps, processes, and experiences that a customer goes through while interacting with a company. It includes both direct interactions (such as direct contact with a customer service team) and indirect interactions (like learning about a brand through an advertising campaign, or at a tradeshow). The customer experience begins with their initial awareness and follows through all the way to their post-purchase evaluation. While it is a different journey for each customer, it’s a continuous process and will involve a map of touchpoints between any one customer and a company.
Companies need to understand and optimise every stage of this journey to ensure they are providing a seamless and positive customer experience. It’s not surprising, then, that a well-designed customer journey with brand consistency will go a long way to improve customer satisfaction, increase loyalty, and drive repeat business.
Why is the customer journey important?
The customer journey is the keystone to building relationships and securing revenue with prospects and existing clients alike. But why should you be considering this customer journey in every decision you make?
1. Revenue Generation: Customers are the primary source of revenue for a business, so unsurprisingly their spending habits dictate the success of a company. Sales professionals need to understand their customers’ needs and preferences to make sales and generate revenue, which means you need to be priming your prospect to be open to you and your product, at every opportunity.
2. Feedback and Recommendations: Customers provide valuable feedback and recommendations on products and services. This information is critical in the development and improvement of a company’s offerings and can also lead to repeat business and customer loyalty. Feedback on the customer journey itself can be invaluable to improving your messaging and avoiding any areas that turn your prospect off before you’ve got them over the line too.
3. Reputation Management: Word of mouth really is everything. We all know news travels fast, none so fast as bad news, which can be damning to your pipeline. Your company’s reputation is closely tied to customer satisfaction and negative customer experiences can damage this easily. By prioritising customer satisfaction, a company will be far more successful in maintaining a good reputation and building lasting relationships.
4. Long-Term Business Success: A good reputation will play an important part in the long-term success of your company. Excellent customer service, ongoing support, and open communication are the building blocks of strong relationships with customers. A roster of happy clients can be the best place to turn to for referrals but can also lead to repeat business and increased revenue.
So, if customers play a crucial role in the sales industry and need to be kept as a top priority, then what can we do to improve their hard-won opinion of our businesses? Understanding their needs, inviting open dialogue, and delivering high-quality products and services will lead to long-term success and customer loyalty. By optimising the customer journey to focus on these things, we can play a proactive role in garnering customer favour.
What are the steps in a customer journey?
At first glance, it may seem that a customer journey is a simple process: company advertises a product or service, customer buys from them. However, the process is in fact becoming increasingly complex. Because of these complexities, the customer journey now needs more of a mapping process.
To consider the customer journey in full, we must be aware of the steps a customer follows in their buying process.
1. Awareness: Traditionally, the customer will have become aware of your company or product through various marketing and advertising channels. They might have seen you at a trade show or listened to a speaker talk about you. The awareness stage is easy to forget as part of the customer journey as it is often a passive event that brings the customer’s attention to your services.
For example, before you’ve even thought of buying that new car, you might have heard a TV advert with a catchy song that you associate as being fresh or on trend. You might have read an article on car emissions and noted a brand as doing some great work to improve its sustainability. These touchpoints will sit in your subconscious until you realise it’s time for a new car – then you’ll call upon your memory or knowledge of the industry to help spark your interest, taking you to the next step.
2. Interest: The next step is when the customer begins to express interest in the company or product. At this point they will begin to do some personal research and gather more information about the company and product itself. It’s a crucial stage to be considered – we all know first impressions matter! Now, as the customer begins to actively seek information about a company's products or services, they’ve become aware of a problem or uncovered an unmet need and are now considering their options to solve this problem.
The interest step of the journey actually includes four stages. The initial research period a buyer undergoes can include product comparison or may involve seeking a third-party opinion. At this point the buyer moves on to engagement. The customer now might engage with a company through its website, social media, or other channels to learn more about its products or services. Interaction with a sales representative will normally come next, when the customer may reach out for additional information on a product or service. Finally, the customer will begin to build trust in the company or brand. The company will need to prove its ability and credibility in order to build trust with the customer before they will be ready to take the next step in the customer journey.
3. Evaluation: Sometimes considered the turning point of the customer journey, this step is really when the customer decides whether or not to make a purchase. By this point, the customer has gathered information and is considering the various options available to them. They will have performed some comparisons and will now decide whether any competitors can better meet their needs. They will be weighing the pros and cons of each option and will decide which product or service is most suited. The customer will then perform cost-benefit analysis to evaluate whether the product is worth the investment, before finally starting negotiations on terms and conditions of the purchase, such as delivery time, price, and other features or services.
A company will need to offer clear and detailed information about its products and services, as well as being responsive to the customer's questions and concerns at this stage in order to increase the chances of making a sale. A positive experience here can lead to a successful transaction and increase the likelihood of repeat business and referrals.
4. Decision: While the customer will already have made their own internal decision as to whether they’ll buy or not, this is the point at which it becomes a formal, spoken decision. To ensure a yes, your customer will need to be committed to you and the company, as well as their decision – so it’s of utmost importance that you’ve proven your worth and trustworthiness before this point.
You can expect last minute questions or doubts here. It’s natural for a customer to focus on the small details before they part ways with a hefty wad of cash, so take these queries seriously. It might be the third time they’re asking, but it is crucial to make the customer feel comfortable and safe in your hands. They might need reassurance or even a bit of handholding to get them across the line, but your care and responsiveness to their hesitation will go a long way in reassuring them, and securing your company’s reputation as one which cares.
5. Purchase: While many consider this to be the culmination of the customer journey, it really ought to be considered as the penultimate point. Of course, the payment, confirmation, and delivery of product or services is to be expected at this step in the journey, but customer interaction won’t stop there – nor should your focus on the customer’s experience and their journey.
It is important to remember the follow-up that comes following a purchase, whether this be an onboarding process or a customer success representative touching base after a few days to ensure the customer’s happiness. Now is a good opportunity for the company to reach out and ask for feedback, further ensuring the buyer is satisfied with their purchase.
6. Post-Purchase Evaluation: Finally, having used the product or benefitted from the services now provided, the customer will have a chance to evaluate and consider them, alongside their overall experience with the company. The post-purchase evaluation stage provides valuable insight into the customer’s experience and helps the company recognise areas for improvement. Companies that prioritise customer satisfaction and deliver positive experiences at this stage are more likely to build strong relationships with their customers and increase repeat business.
If you’ve done the good job you’ve been aiming for, this is where you can start to reap the benefits with repeat purchase or loyalty. If the customer is satisfied with their experience, they may become a repeat customer, upping their usage of your services (and their spend), or can become an advocate for the company, spreading the word or even passing over some direct contacts for you to pursue.
A positive customer experience can lead to repeat business, customer loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth recommendations, while a negative experience can result in negative reviews and decreased likelihood of future purchases. It’s worth considering that the B2B customer journey is often longer and more complex than the B2C customer journey, as B2B buyers typically represent a group decision-making process and often set out with more specific needs. Regardless of whether your company is B2B or B2C focused, it’s essential to not only impress, but also guide and reassure your target customer at every step of the journey.
Sales triggers in the customer journey
Sales trigger events are specific actions that signal that a customer or business has either realised an unmet need, or is looking to expand their capabilities, and is looking to make a purchase to support their next endeavours. Identifying and using these sales triggers can help improve the customer journey by allowing companies to target their sales efforts more effectively.
For example, if a company knows that a customer has just signed a lease on a new office space, that can be a sales trigger for them to reach out and offer support in furnishing or staffing that new office. It might also offer opportunity for new operating systems or HR services to support a growing team. The customer has already committed to growth, which enables a salesperson to reach out at the earliest opportunity to help fulfil their growing needs – before their competition, and before the customer has started to consider their options. This enables greater control over the customer journey from the beginning.
By using sales triggers in the awareness and interest stages, a sales representative can help their company to identify potential customers and reach out to them with relevant information and offers. This makes their first touchpoint with a company a more controlled experience, allowing the salesperson to reach out with a personalised, relevant first message. A more proactive approach, enabled with the use of sales triggers, almost skips over the first ‘awareness’ step of the customer journey, ensuring your company is the one at the front of the buyer’s awareness.
Sales triggers can also be used in the evaluation stage. Sales triggers allow you to provide tailored information and offer the exact solution to the customer, based on their individual needs and interests. Using triggers such as financial results announcements allows a salesperson to focus on the specifics of a company’s intentions. For example, this event trigger can outline a company's intention to develop a certain product, supply services in a new geography, or grow its team to allow future scaling and improved capabilities. As a sales representative, you can reach out with relevance, demonstrating your understanding of the company’s aspirations and showing the value your company or product can provide.
During the decision stage, sales triggers can help address a number of queries or questions that arise. You can personalise your approach for the different shareholders you may need to speak with and offer them the confidence they are looking for with thorough understanding of their company and its needs.
Similarly, in the post-purchase evaluation stage, sales triggers can help you identify if an existing customer might need additional products or services. By keeping a focus on what your existing clients are doing, you may be able to recognise an opportunity for upselling or increasing their use of services within your company. A customer who feels valued beyond the purchasing stage is one far more likely to recommend you, give you a great review or testimonial, or offer you some invaluable referral opportunities.
How will sales triggers improve the customer journey?
A customer journey using sales triggers can offer a far more personalised and timely experience, based on the customer’s specific needs. Reaching out with relevance also increases the chances of closing a sale and building a long-term relationship with the prospect.
Here are five ways in which using sales triggers can improve the customer journey:
1. Increased personalisation: Using sales triggers allows companies to anticipate the customer's needs and make more relevant offers. Reaching out with relevance will also support your credibility, showing that you understand your target company, you know what its needs are, and that your solution can offer real value to its situation.
2. Improved timing: An age-old problem faced in sales is knowing when it’s the best time to reach out to a prospect. In fact, being the first to speak to a buyer increases your chances of closing a deal by 74%. Sales triggers offer the first buying signal and opportunity for you to act on, ensuring that you reach out at the right time, which will increase your chances of closing a sale.
3. Increased efficiency: Setting up alerts for sales triggers can help you halve the time you spend on prospecting. This means that not only will your sales team get back up to 15 hours a week of research time, but that gives them 15 more hours a week to focus on outreach and customer service. By targeting their sales efforts more effectively with the use of sales triggers, companies can save time and resources by only reaching out to customers who are likely to make a purchase.
4. Better customer experience: Only 13% of buyers believe a salesperson understands their needs. Sales triggers can help inform a salesperson of the needs and wants of a company, as well as give them a good overarching view of what is going on there in the day-to-day too. By anticipating the customer's needs and reaching out with relevant offers, companies can improve the overall customer experience, save both parties time and effort, and deliver true value to those who need it the most.
5. Increased revenue: By achieving the previous four points, increased revenue is sure to follow. In a world that is increasingly full of competition, it’s essential for sales professionals to stand out from the crowd. Using sales triggers, companies can increase their chances of closing a sale, leading to increased revenue. With a better and continually evolving relationship with a customer, you are far more likely to win repeat business, customer loyalty, and those all-important referral opportunities.
Sales triggers enable you to start conversations with buyers as soon as the ideal buying conditions arise. This increases your chance of securing a deal by arming you with optimal timing and situational relevance. Being proactive and reaching out can help shorten the customer journey cycle, as well as providing the opportunity to influence the first awareness of your brand that the prospect has. Starting conversations with the relevant information and a deeper understanding of your buyer can increase your close rate by over 74%.