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Customer Experience Disruption: Is B2B Sales Falling Behind?

There’s a sea change happening in B2B customer experience. But while everyone else—from marketing to customer support—is riding the crest of this wave, sales might be missing out. Here’s why your sales team needs to take an ownership stake in CX, plus three ways to make sure your sales process provides the exceptional experience customers crave now.

6 min. read

Disruption.

A word that’s overused, misused, and misunderstood. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Look at customer experience (CX), for example. It’s touted as the next great differentiator in business. How can you tell? It’s already being disrupted.

In their keynote at the Inbound 2019 conference, Hubspot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah talked about how a traditional customer experience just doesn’t satisfy anymore.

The research backs this up. Nearly 87% of organizations say a traditional experience no longer impresses customers.

So what are the disrupters doing differently? They are disrupting CX by making it easy for customers to do business with them.

A lot of the disrupters Halligan cited are on the B2C side, like Spotify, Dollar Shave Club, and Lyft. Your next ride, razor, or Rihanna-heavy playlist is always an effortless interaction away.

What good CX gets you.

Halligan points out that though CX disruptors make good use of tech tools, disruption doesn’t have to come from ground-breaking technology that turns an industry on its head.

“These companies represent a new breed of growth leader that gets ahead by completely disrupting and reinventing the treatment we’ve come to expect out of companies as consumers,” he says.

But just because the trend gained momentum in B2C doesn’t mean that B2B companies can ignore this customer experience revolution.

Halligan again: “In the B2B space, I’ve noticed a similar sea change of companies with the most frictionless and customer-focused experience taking over from incumbents because they provide a much better customer and user experience.”

This sea change has been a rolling tide over the past few years. Back in 2012 consulting firm Walker Information forecasted that customer experience would overtake price and product as the primary brand differentiator for B2B sales by 2020. It seems their prediction is coming to pass.

Customers in both B2C and B2B have come to expect a strong customer experience every time they buy. That means there’s a huge opportunity in this revenue-driving area. Research has shown that even a one-percent increase in a company’s CX scores can mean millions of dollars in revenue.

How? As predicted, delightful CX is a differentiator and a unique selling point. And it provides good motivation for positive online user reviews, another key area for B2B sales.

CX sounds like something sales ops and sales teams would be all over. However, it seems like the onus for delightful customer experiences in B2B tends to fall on the shoulders of other departments, including marketing, support, success, and product.

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So who really ‘owns’ customer experience in B2B companies?

In a recent post, writer Kaleigh Moore talked to B2B SaaS businesspeople about delighting customers and asked them for their own definition of customer delight. I was struck by how exactly none of them mentioned sales as taking part in their company’s customer experience strategy.

Websites and content, yes. Onboarding and support, yup. The software itself, sure. But sales, nope.

When you move beyond the anecdotal, even the statistics back up the hypothesis that sales isn’t leading the way in customer experience.

A survey found that eight out of 10 sales leaders don’t believe in their organization’s ability to deliver an exceptional customer experience. But less than 10 percent see themselves as the owner of the customer experience within their companies with the power to change that.

Sole ownership isn’t the goal, though. Each department has a role in creating a good customer experience:

  • Delight in marketing is speaking to real people and making it personal, not just personas.
  • Delight in support is going over and above and viewing dealing with customer issues as an opportunity instead of an obligation.
  • Delight in customer success is a smooth onboarding process and continued investment in customer results.
  • Delight in product is a functional, pleasant-to-use product or service, which the C-suite knows it because it eats its own dog food.

So what does creating a delightful customer experience look like for sales teams?

The sales process and the customer experience

With many B2C and even some B2B companies opting to do away with the middleman (aka salespeople) and sell direct-to-consumer, effective customer experiences during the sales process are crucial.

Sales teams need to take an ownership stake in the customer experience or risk being on the outside looking in as bots, AI, and self-serve initiatives take over.

Dammit, Janet, don’t take my job!

Here are three ways sales teams can make sure that their sales process includes a delightful customer experience:

1. Manage complex relationships

B2B sales is rarely a one-on-one game anymore. It involves multiple players and decision-makers, each with their own perspective, priorities, and participation level.

As Kyle Racki, Proposify CEO, points out, B2B sales can take a village. Over on LinkedIn, he talked about the typical prospect ecosystem that our sales reps encounter:

How can salespeople sell to all these people efficiently AND provide a great customer experience? Provide information and insight that speaks to different decision-makers and make sure that it is easily shareable.

For example, a well-designed sell sheet template is easily customized and the finished product is appreciated by both executives and managers.

2. Simplify and remove friction

The B2C brands Brian Halligan identified as customer experience disruptors had one thing in common: a commitment to a streamlined purchasing process.

B2B sales will always have more touchpoints than B2C, but knowing where to remove friction from the sales process (and where to keep it) helps improve the customer experience.

The question is: are you making it easy for prospects to buy? Or does it just seem like you’re making it easier for your sales reps to sell? Proposify’s director of sales, Daniel Hebert, confessed to making this classic customer experience misstep earlier this year.

Here’s what he had to say about streamlining the sales process for the wrong people:

3. Act as an advisor

B2B buyers say that the biggest factor separating winning sellers from the also-rans was that the winners “educated me with new ideas or perspectives.”

Where do these new ideas come from? They’re in the value proposition. A sales leader survey found that improving reps’ ability to communicate value was their top priority for the year ahead.

It comes down to telling prospects something they don’t know, whether it’s how they can get more out of a software tool or why a particular pricing scheme most benefits them. But first, salespeople have to know what the prospect already knows.

Effective sales calls help your sales team get more detailed information from prospects more efficiently. They can then put that knowledge to use in their sales advisor role and improve the prospect’s experience.

Conclusion

B2B sales might not be front and centre in the conversation about customer experience, but that doesn’t mean that sales ops and reps get to ignore the impact of CX in their sales process.

How will B2B buyer expectations continue to change? What’s the next wave in the CX sea change?

Let me know what you think in the comments or head over to Kyle’s and Daniel’s LinkedIn profiles to join the conversation there.

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