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customer experience
Shaun Smith
  • By Shaun Smith
  • May 11 2008

The Sales pitch is dead. Time to re-invent selling

Is your sales process undermining your customer experience?

Do you remember a decade or so ago when focus switched from ‘getting’ customers (selling) to keeping them? Sales-led organizations the world over were struck in particular by Fred Reichheld’s book The Loyalty Effect (1996) with his bath analogy; that being sales-led without a retention strategy was trying to fill the bath while the plug was out.

It has become clear in recent years that the dislocation between over-promising through sales and marketing to win new customers, and the actual customer experience that comes after, is a major contributor to customer dissatisfaction, defection and cynicism.

Smart customers tend to see the sales process as one of manipulation. And, as the Swedish economist Kjell Nordstrom likes to say, “There are no more dumb customers any more.”

The days of old style, hard sell sales practices are having to change as a result. Dixons, the UK high street electrical retailer, found out the hard way that incentivising its sales assistants to sell extended warranty policies at all costs is incompatible with building a brand that consumers trust. In the short-term, up to fifty per cent of the company’s profits came from the sale of extended warranties. But, the practice saw a consumer backlash and Dixons no longer exists on the UK high street.

In the business to business world, hard-nosed sales cultures use the term ‘bait and switch’ to describe the practice of wheeling in one team to win a contract and then replacing them with a much more junior team when the contract is won and the work starts.

In both the B2C and B2B examples, above, customers are disappointed because they feel the sales process is manipulative, fundamentally dishonest and not operating in their interests. Not the reaction you want from your customers if you want to create positive word of mouth referral.

It doesn’t matter what techniques you use to disguise your selling. Savvy customers are wise to all of them. “Everyone today does relationship selling. Everyone does consultative selling,” argue Terry R. Bacon and David G. Pugh in their book The Behavioural Advantage. “The selling process itself has become commoditized.”

It’s time to recognize selling for what it has to become - the buying experience part of your customer experience; the introduction and induction to your organisztion for new customers.

A number of forward-looking organizations are re-inventing their selling process from the ground up. In coming blog posts I will take a look at how they are doing this. For now, as part of this introduction to our series of occasional posts on re-inventing selling, I’ll leave you with the six key areas you need to think about:

1. How the sales experience can be redesigned so that it becomes an integral part of the customer experience and dramatizes the power of your brand
2. How sales people are hired and more particularly, the spec that is used in hiring them
3. How sales organizations are structured and managed
4. How the sales effort is measured and how sales people are rewarded
5. How senior management works with (or doesn’t work with) the sales team
6. How the sales team is integrated with the rest of the organization, to ensure customers receive a continuous experience rather than a disjointed one

John Aves
Smith+co