Whether you’re selling products door to door or as a member of a B2B sales team, one fact never changes: The happier the customer, the better chance you have of closing the deal. It’s sales 101. Yet, in large-scale B2B sales, the customer’s experience is often overlooked. According to Salesforce Research, only 27% of business buyers feel satisfied with the B2B sales experience.
Odds are, the experience you’re delivering to customers has room for improvement. Somewhere between initial contact and closing, you’re losing customers—you’ve got to determine where. Identifying areas in need of improvement is simple: just walk a mile in your prospect’s shoes.
Buyers want a frictionless experience, and in the complex world of digital sales, this can be hard to deliver. To provide a seamless purchasing process, you must examine each interaction the buyer has along the way and identify areas of friction.
In this blog, we’ll cover actionable methods for testing your buyer’s journey in the first stage of the sales process: pre-sale. (Don’t worry, we cover the other two stages—closing and post-sale—in parts two and three of this blog series!)
Setting up your testing methodology
If you’re anything like us, you’ll want to jump right in and identify those areas of friction. You know that you’re losing potential sales, and naturally, you want to fix that as soon as possible.
Our advice? Slow down.
While speed is important, your priority in this process should be thoroughness. Before diving headfirst into your buyer journey, you need a plan, a set of guidelines to follow to ensure rigorous, effective analysis of your buyer experience.
While your exact testing methodology will be unique to your sales process, we’ve compiled a list of preliminary considerations to make your testing process as thorough as possible:
- Test your experience anonymously as a customer.
- Get the right tools in place to track what your reps are sending or saying.
- Establish a standard so you know what you’re checking for.
- Foster a culture of transparency and ownership. Be open with your teams about the fact that you’ll be monitoring and evaluating their interactions with customers. Remind them the objective is to improve, not to punish.
- Reach out to customers to get their perspective. If possible, get feedback from prospects who chose not to buy from you.
- Aim to determine and differentiate between personnel problems and process problems. Using a predictive index across teams can help you recognize trends as they relate to personality types and corresponding close-win results.
Now that you have clear standards of success and your teams are up to speed, it’s time to dive in and pick apart your presale processes.
What to look for during prospecting
The buyer’s journey begins the moment they receive marketing collateral, long before a sales team is involved. As soon as a customer receives that first marketing email or downloads that new e-book, it’s go time. This means that both your sales and marketing strategies must be aligned.
Buyers like to do their homework: A study by SiriusDecisions shows that 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before they even reach out to a sales rep. As a buyer searches for a product to meet their needs, they are constantly sizing you up, comparing you to your competition.
At first, this may sound intimidating. But remember: you’re in control of some of the information they’re gathering. What messaging are they receiving? What content are they looking at? Every touchpoint in the purchasing process influences a buyer’s perception of your product or service.
While marketing collateral makes the first impression, the buyer’s journey really kicks into gear when your SDRs (sales development representatives) first contact a potential customer. The average SDR performs 94.4 activities per day, from social media and email touches to live calls. Whatever the channel of communication, SDRs’ contact with buyers sets the stage for the rest of the deal: it’s the first live communication they have.
As you test your buyer experience, it’s crucial that you understand exactly what is going on during each interaction.
There are plenty of statistics about the efficacy of live chat, but here’s the important one: According to Intercom, “website visitors are 82% more likely to convert to customers if they’ve chatted with you first.” Needless to say, it’s in your best interest to ensure SDRs are providing the best possible experience for buyers during these conversations.
Testing the buyer’s chat experience is simple: Hop online as if you are a prospect and have a conversation with an SDR. This gives you real-time insight into the buyer’s experience. Screenshot and print out actual chat conversations and review them with your team.
If you aren’t already, start keeping track of how many leads from chat are converting to sales to establish a baseline and document improvements.
As prospects chat with your sales reps, a number of factors impact the overall experience. As you evaluate these conversations with your team, keep these questions in mind:
1. How quickly are reps responding?
As your SDRs chat with prospects, speed is everything. Customers expect responses within seconds—on their end, the slightest delay can feel like radio silence. If a rep takes longer than 30-45 seconds to respond, it’s likely too late: the would-be customer has left the page and you’ve missed a sale.
Quick response times = sales. Easy, right? There’s just one problem: SDRs are humans, too. They can’t realistically respond to every chat query within seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is where chatbots come in. While a chatbot is never going to be as good as a living, breathing SDR, they are available for customers 24/7 and can tide prospects over until an SDR is available to respond.
2. Are reps connecting with prospects?
Think back to those chats you recorded: As you interacted with a rep over chat, did they come across as friendly? Cold? Robotic? Conversations between reps and customers should be personal—reps need to work to understand a specific customer’s unique pain points. You’re selling a solution to their problem, not a list of features. Customers want to buy from real people. Your reps shouldn’t be afraid of humanizing the conversation and taking steps to connect with the customer.
3. Are reps sending relevant information?
Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes: Would you rather receive a generic email newsletter or content specific to your pain points? It’s a no-brainer. 82% of buyers view five or more pieces of content before purchasing—to maximize sales, that content should be tailored to the customer’s specific needs. If SDRs take the time to understand each specific customer and their pain points, they can provide relevant information at the right time.
4. Do reps know when to switch channels?
Chat is a great way to engage with customers early on, but ultimately sales are made on the phone. According to Sales Hacker, live meetings or appointments are viewed as an important step of the sales process by 88% of B2B buyers. Reps should have a clear strategy for moving the conversation from online to in-person (or on the phone).
With live chat, you were able to play the role of customer and interact with your SDRs directly to evaluate them. Calls typically come later in the buyer’s journey, when an SDR has already established rapport with the customer. This makes evaluating your reps’ calls a little trickier—you can’t just hop on a phone and pretend to be a customer like you would with chat.
The obvious solution is to sit in on your reps’ calls. But obvious isn’t always best. Having a supervisor breathing down your neck isn’t the most relaxing feeling—if you shadow calls, SDRs will likely engage with customers differently than they normally would. Your presence inhibits your ability to accurately assess reps’ calls.
To accurately evaluate sales calls, you need anonymity. Use Outreach, Chorus, or another similar platform to record your reps’ calls. (Always be transparent and let your reps know that you record calls!) In your team meetings, randomly select a few calls to listen to as a group. One-on-ones are another great opportunity for analyzing calls—bring a few of each rep’s calls to their 1:1 and provide personalized coaching.
Ok, so you’ve recorded sales calls for analysis. But what exactly are you analyzing? As you listen to your recorded calls, here some things to look out for:
1. Did the rep do their homework?
In B2B sales, it’s easy for interactions to feel impersonal and generic. When they pick up the phone, reps should know who they’re talking to before. A little bit of research goes a long way, even if it’s just a quick LinkedIn search.
2. Does the rep make the call about the customer and their needs?
At this point, you’re probably starting to see a pattern: no matter the channel, reps should strive to give customers personalized attention. Each customer has unique pain points; that’s why no two sales are identical. “Most people think ‘selling’ is the same as ‘talking,’” explains Roy Bartell, “But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of their job.”
3. Does the SDR ask the right questions to qualify the lead?
It doesn’t matter how good you are at selling if you’re talking to the wrong person. If they don’t have decision-making ability within their company, you aren’t going to close a deal by talking to them. Over the course of a call, an SDR should ask questions to determine if the prospect has buying power. These questions can be as simple as “Who else do we need to show this to?”
Writing the perfect sales email can feel impossible. Too short, and the customer may feel neglected, or that they aren’t receiving enough information. Too long, and—well who hasn’t skimmed over a long email? It’s a tricky balance. That being said, salespeople spend 21% of their day writing emails—it’s important your reps are getting it right.
Just like you did with chats, print out your reps’ email conversations with customers. Review them as a team and in 1:1s. With these emails, content and cadence are everything:
1. How quickly are reps responding?
In TimerTrade’s B2B buyer survey, 84% of buyers reported “Always” or “Frequently” receiving no response to their purchase-related questions. It’s a pretty grim statistic, but leaves plenty of room for improvement: a simple follow up email can set your reps apart from the crowd.
2. Are spelling and grammar correct?
First impressions are everything. It goes without saying: Your reps should be using correct spelling and grammar. What’s less obvious, however, is the style they should use. Reps should stick to shorter, simpler sentences and omit industry jargon where possible.
3. Are reps sending additional resources to inform the buyer’s decision?
Just like with chat, your reps need to be sending the right collateral at the right time. As they get to know the customer and their needs, they can select resources relevant to that specific client.
Send your sales reps this resource on writing a follow-up email in 4 easy steps.
What to look for during account transfer
Once you’ve picked apart your prospecting processes, it’s time to address one of the most crucial parts of the buyer experience: account transfer. As soon as an SDR has qualified a lead, they hand the baton to the account executive (AE)—it’s a tricky process that can be jarring for prospects if executed poorly.
So how can you ensure a smooth transition for buyers when the lead changes hands? Once again, thorough documentation is essential. Go over the recorded calls to see how SDRs navigate the transition. Ask your AEs if they’re getting enough information from SDRs to continue providing personalized attention.
And, of course, talk to your customers. Whether you email out a survey or schedule follow up calls after the sale, ask customers about the transition: Was there anything that went especially well? Any room for improvement? As you parse through these calls and customer feedback, keep the following in mind:
1. Is there a process in place?
To help SDRs navigate the handoff, management should outline a clear process. Reps should have clear answers for questions such as: What is the minimum amount of information SDRs should gather before initiating the handoff? What should be discussed on the first call with the AE? Should the SDR and AE both attend the first call?
2. Are SDRs making use of Salesforce notes?
Much of an SDR’s job is gathering information about customers—that’s the easy part. What’s tricky is effectively communicating that info to account executives. When AEs get on a call with a prospect, they need to know exactly who the buyer is and what their pain points are. Salesforce allows SDRs to record all of this information in standard and custom fields, which the AE can then access directly.
3. Do your SDRs debrief the AE before the call?
While Salesforce helps facilitate smooth account transfer, there’s nothing like face-to-face communication. As the SDR prepares to hand over the account, they should take time to meet with the AE—the nuances of any given sales account are best communicated in person.
Finished with prospecting? Check out what’s next
We’ll be the first ones to admit it: That was a lot of information to take in. And that was only the first step in testing your buyer experience. Take a moment to breathe and look ahead.
Establishing these practices is the most difficult part of the process. Once you have a testing methodology in place, everything will become routine: Maintaining the high standard you’ve established for your prospecting processes will feel like a matter of habit.
Don't stop there—continue testing your buyer experience! Learn what to track during the closing phase.