Customers are the lifeline of all companies. If a company does not have any customers, well . . .
So, why do some companies make it so difficult for customers to buy? Most not even realizing.
My favorite question is, “What are you doing to make it easier to be your customer and harder to be your competitor?”
One of the things that many companies are doing to make it challenging for their customers to buy from them is making a salesperson the only entry point. That means that they have to set an appointment with a salesperson to get details or a demo.
Now, some of you would say, what’s wrong with that? Well, aside from all the business you may be missing because prospects go to the competitor after realizing they can’t get the info they need on your website, I guess nothing.
The B2B buyer has gone digital. They want to do their research online and at any time of the day or night (not to mention all the time zones if you sell globally). So to make it easy for customers to buy, you have to make it digital.
This means that sales can no longer be all about the seller and what actions they take. Sales has to be about meeting the customer where they are. Marketing has a role since they control the website and social media, which is where a prospect might make first contact. If they are on your website and you have a chat feature, they might talk to customer success first.
And if you believe, as I do, that making it easy for customers to buy continues after the initial sale is closed and into renewals, add-ons, and upsells, then meeting them where they are throughout their life cycle is critical.
One CEO that I’ve kept a keen eye on over the years is Jacco van der Kooij, founder of Winning By Design, because of his focus on the customer journey and the collaboration between departments to make it easy for customers to buy and provide exceptional customer experience from hello to loyal customer.
Jacco founded Winning By Design, a global B2B revenue consulting and training company, in 2012 with the vision of changing the way companies look at sales. He set up his company to be science- and data-driven, with a focus on the customer throughout the customer’s lifecycle.
“It has become clearer and clearer that selling is not an activity done by a single function in a company, at a single point in time, but it’s done all across the full lifecycle of the customer by everyone that engages with the customer.”
Don’t Hire Salespeople
So, you might be wondering how Jacco and his company have kept the focus on their customers after all these years. Understanding the CEO’s role in sales, Jacco recommends you not hire salespeople when you first start a company.
WHAT?! I know it sounds like the opposite of what you think you should do. But as the CEO and founder, you have the entrepreneurial drive and enthusiasm that propels sales. Unfortunately, those you hire probably won’t (for many reasons, and that’s another article). So even though you are wearing many hats, the focus on sales is critical.
By working with the customer very closely, they are willing to have conversations with you. All the learning you do propels product development and your growth. It allows you to map the customer journey before setting up a sales organization. Taking the time to do this will help ensure the success of the salespeople you do hire.
“With that passion of being in part frustration, in part excitement, and putting that in front of the customer, the [CEO/Founder] is very well able to provoke the client, to reframe their thought process because they came from the same world and understand the problem.”
Of course, you can’t do it alone if you want to grow, but in the beginning, at least, don’t look to hire the traditional salesperson.
So, who does Jacco recommend that you hire first? Hire people who are passionate about solving the problem you set out to solve and are passionate about your solution, even if they don’t have a strong sales background.
Hiring people who share the same passion as you makes it easier to continue to focus on the customer throughout the customer’s journey.
The Other Side of the Bow Tie
Unless you know Jacco’s work, you are wondering what I’m talking about. Bow tie, isn’t that something people wear with a tux?
Many of us have dispensed with a traditional sales funnel and adopted a customer journey that looks like a bow tie. A customer enters and works through the journey with the appropriate team from your company. The middle of the bow tie is the purchase, and it expands back out from there.
During my conversation with Jacco, I was curious to learn what his sales team looks like today and what percent of their time is spent on the other side of the bow tie that so many companies forget about. What he brought up was so fascinating to me and something that I believe all CEOs can take away from this episode of Sales Talk for CEOs.
Jacco has created “stackable units” called pods at his company. “We have a group of people which we call a pod that applies before and after sales activities, may involve a program manager, architect, a bunch of experts, and we bundle them together. That’s a stackable unit.”
This concept of the pods is so interesting to me knowing that the days of the lone wolf seller are long gone, and companies have moved toward team selling.
No customer wants to be approached by a salesperson who wants to do a traditional discovery call. They want someone who knows their industry and what others in that industry are doing successfully. They expect insights and to explore their needs thoroughly, not be asked if they are the decision-maker and if they have a budget, and what the timeline is. All of that will come out if you can help, solve, and guide.
Customers want to engage with you at whatever point with the correct information or expert that they need at that moment. They want a team of people (a pod!). They want to know that they’re secure in working with you and that there’s someone there who can help them when they need it. So, these pods are a very good way to manage all of that.
Listen to Learn More
Listen to Jacco’s episode of Sales Talk for CEOs to learn more about how he groups his team members into customer-focused pods to enable them to become powerhouses for customer success + so much more.
Alice is nationally known for her expertise in elevating sales to increase valuation for companies with a B2B complex sale that have exceptional growth potential. She’s originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group. Spending her time strategizing with CEOs and their leadership teams to build the strategies that find new business and grow existing accounts is her passion. Her clients love her spirit and the way she energizes their sales organization.