A quick Google search for ‘how to improve customer engagement’ yields nearly 500 million results. Not surprising if you consider how tough it has become to attract, retain and grow customer accounts.
B2B companies need to improve customer engagement as customers rethink their investment priorities, consolidate vendors, and freeze their spending. That is according to post-crisis B2B Buyer research from Challenger, who indicate that:
- 53% of buyer organizations have reprioritized their priorities
- 36% have a spending freeze on anything not deemed essential
I recently had the opportunity to interview Challenger’s Spencer Wixom, Senior VP of Marketing, who made it clear that uncertainty has taken root, causing the implementation of more conservative purchase policies. During our conversation, Spencer highlighted:
- 54% of purchases now require prior central review and approval
- Clip levels for procurement involvement have been lowered to $5,000
- 38% of all purchases require a formal RFP process for proper vetting and vendor selection
This has had a significant impact, frustrating both buyers and sellers.
- 4 in 10 buyers have started a purchase process that ultimately ended in no-decision
- 46% of sellers report they’ve lost deals to “do nothing” (Oct 2020)
Close the Engagement Gap to Win More Deals
In order to avoid losing deals to “do nothing” (38% of total purchase cycles) and competitively differentiate your company and products, sellers need to deliver more to meet today’s buyers’ significantly elevated expectations.
When studying what buyers want and need, Spencer highlighted 5 steps to improve customer engagement, inspire change, and drive purchase approvals, including:
- Demonstrate unique insights
- Help the buyer come to a decision
- Understand and address different stakeholder needs
- Help the buyer build support across the customer organization
- Make it easy for the buyer to make a purchase
Unfortunately, buyer expectations have changed. And many buyers feel sellers have become less effective over the last 18 months, especially post-crisis.
Challenger research clearly shows an Engagement Gap between what buyers expect and what sellers deliver. In just one year, Spencer and the Challenger team have seen a 40% decline in buyer assessments of key seller capabilities, including:
- A 52% decrease in sellers’ abilities to demonstrate unique insights
- A 41% decrease in sellers’ abilities to understand and address different stakeholder needs
- A 49% decrease in sellers’ abilities to help build support across the customer organization
We agree with the team at Challenger that the Engagement Gap is an expanding issue for sales and marketing leaders. There is a huge opportunity to improve customer engagement with the right content and enablement right now. Any organization that successfully bridges the gap will have fewer deals result in “do nothing”, win more than their fair share of new business, and dramatically improve customer loyalty.
3 Recommendations to Improve Customer Engagement
Taking a look at the biggest shortfalls to guide improvements, here are our recommendations on ways you can deliver:
Deliver Unique Insights
More often than not, especially early in the decision-making process, buyers need inspiration to help motivate change. This means providing messaging, content, research, and benchmarks to help buyers understand that their current methods and solutions cost them dearly on a personal, organizational, and business level, and need to change. It’s all about illuminating and amplifying the pain, the biggest motivator for change. Insights should be used to connect, clarify and elevate the challenges. While many companies leave the determination of what insights to present to sellers, we find that strategy doesn’t always work. More mature enablement organizations may pre-package insights and benchmarks for common business challenges, but often these insights are not unique and it’s hard to personalize the findings for every industry and stakeholder to be most relevant. Others have researchers who prepare customized insights and analytics for particular prospects, but this doesn’t always scale.
Create an interactive application or presentation based on a customer’s specific profile (e.g., type of business or geographic location) to scale insights for your field sales teams to improve customer engagement. Use the interactive to automatically search and render the correct insights to help inspire change. Leverage similar use cases, solution recommendations, and success stories alongside those insights to help demonstrate how to solve key challenges.
A large beer distributor, for example, uses an application that automatically senses the driver’s location at each stop and loads sell-through data the driver can use to communicate opportunities and drive optimization of price, product, placement, and promotion.
Using an interactive capability/maturity or value assessment tool allows your team to easily capture data from every customer engagement and intelligently create an insight/benchmark database. Your insights and benchmark collection and communication can include capability/maturity scores, challenges to address, benefits delivered, and more.
For example, an application integration solution provider uses an online cloud integration assessment tool to help prospects understand their current capability and maturity, compare themselves to peers, and obtain advice on next steps. The solution provider uses the tool for outreach, to get more, better executive meetings to run the assessment and deliver the unique insights to inspire change.
View the tool here.
Drive customer decisions
Buyers need advice to improve, which is often the basis for them connecting with you in the first place. Complex purchase processes create a huge opportunity for good sellers. Act as a concierge to help buyers make sense of their challenges and potential solutions, and help them navigate the decision-making process.
To enable sellers to improve customer engagement, you must provide the right content to help them understand potential solutions and communicate solutions to buyers with demonstrated use cases.
However, this often results in messaging guides that don’t scale or 200+ page PowerPoint decks.
To truly improve customer engagement, replace bulky messaging guides and big decks with more modern interactive presentations. With a little discovery about the buyer, their wants, and needs, an interactive presentation can help the seller tell a precise story about the challenges, prescribed solution, and similar success stories.
Instead of a big deck that the seller has to clairvoyantly cull to anticipate the meeting flow or wade through for the right content, an interactive presentation guides the seller and buyer to the exact right dynamic slides, demo videos, and content needed to fuel the conversation and collaboration.
Givaudan, for example, leveraged Presentify to convert a big solution catalog and 400-page PowerPoint deck into an interactive presentation to provide sellers with guided, interactive discovery and the right few pages of content to match the specific prescriptive solution recommendation.
Align key stakeholders and drive consensus
Every stakeholder has different challenges they want to address and different outcomes or value they hope to derive from the proposed purchase. Stakeholders need financial justification to buy in, get aligned, and ultimately approve the purchase. But this is hard to accomplish across large, cross-functional buying committees. Providing a one size fits all justification or customized analysis on every deal via value consultants doesn’t scale.
Implement an interactive value assessment tool that sellers, partners (and even customers) can use directly to create a customized business case for each unique prospect and decision committee. The value assessment should tune itself for the specific roles involved in the decision-making process, buyer challenges, and prescribed use case scenarios.
For example, Xactly needed to arm their sellers with an easy-to-use tool to introduce value early in every deal and put together a formal financial justification business case for buying committee review and CFO approvals. The team leveraged Mediafly’s JumpStart ROI program to rapidly create and scale a credible value assessment tool to sellers and prospects worldwide.
Learn more about the Xactly tool and program here.
For more research and advice from the Challenger team, check out our full interview with Challenger’s Spencer Wixom on our EVOLVERS Podcast episode Challenger Evolved: Inspiring Change AND Making Sense.