Originally published by Darrell Amy on LinkedIn Pulse.
As I talk to businesses around the world I keep hearing frustration that there isn’t more customer loyalty. While our equipment and solutions get more sophisticated, the actual purchase gets more commoditized. There’s too much “me too” and not enough value driving gross profit. This leads to “buying-the-business” deals, frustrated sales reps, and businesses with thin profits. In all of this, the client misses the opportunity to maximize their return on their technology investment.
Every so often I see a statistic that arrests my attention. This week, research from the Corporate Executive Board jumped off the pages of my new favorite book, The Challenger Sale. In this research, they surveyed 5,000 business decision makers and asked about what drove loyalty to a vendor?
The responses were very surprising and not what you might expect:
- 19% of customer loyalty was related to product service and delivery.
- 53% was related to the purchase experience–specifically, did the company/rep bring valuable ideas to the table that helped my business.
We all want customer loyalty. We want them to prefer our business over the other options. But loyalty, it turns out, requires more than great customer service.
What Drives Only 19% of Customer Loyalty?
In the quest for loyalty, we tend to look to things that can set us apart. In the office technology and managed services worlds, the thing we go to first is customer service. As I help businesses develop marketing strategies one of the first questions I ask is, “What is your competitive advantage.” (This is a good question to ask yourself right now. Make a mental note of your answer.)
What is your competitive advantage? If I asked this to 100 businesses, 95 of them would say the same thing. I can almost mouth the words:
- “We offer outstanding service.”
- “When you call us, you don’t get an 800 number in another state. You get a real person.”
- “Our first call completion rate last quarter was 98%”
Now, don’t get me wrong: great customer service is important, even critical. If you don’t have great customer service, you won’t be in business long. However, these days, great service is a just a ticket to get into the game, not a guarantee of a win. Not withstanding manufacturer-direct locations that may not provide great service, most deals you are in include multiple competitors and whether you like it or not, in the customer’s eyes, the majority of them offer great service.
“Over and over we found that customers, generally speaking, see significantly less difference between us and the competition than we do ourselves.”
“While we spend a lot of time emphasizing subtle differences, customers tend to focus on general similarities.”
What Drives 53% of Customer Loyalty?
This part of the research absolutely fascinated me. As a recovering sales rep that has now spent the last 12 years on the marketing side of the fence (if there even is a fence these days) I’ve always known that positioning yourself as an expert and educating your clients was important. However, the results of asking 5,000 decision makers showed that 53% of customer loyalty was related to the purchase experience. Specifically, did the business and the sales team bring value to the table:
- Offers unique, valuable perspectives on the market
- Educates me on new potential issues and outcomes
- Helps me avoid potential land mines
- Has widespread support across the organization
- Provides ongoing service and consultation
Wow! Over half of customer loyalty is related to things that most of us only give lip service to. We need to give more insight. We need to educate prospects. We need to be the business/sales rep that comes to the table with ideas that challenge the status quo.
“What sets the best suppliers apart is not the quality of their products, but the value of their insight.”
The implications of this list are profound and I’m sure will lead to many other blog posts and webinars as we unpack this together. But for today, here are a few things that seem glaringly obvious to me.
Smart Businesses Will Position as Experts With Great Service + Helpful Insights
The Challenger Sale goes on to talk about how sales people need to become teachers, bringing helpful insights to prospects that add value and challenge the way they think. Businesses must to equip the sales reps to have these conversations. What does that mean?
1. Train Your Reps
Your Sales team has to be able to add value beyond handing out lease quotes and reference letters. They need substance. Find every opportunity to train your sales team on the products and solutions you sell. Go beyond the specs to the actual applications. Look at successful implementations and dig to find the real value. Make sure your reps understand how technology transforms business and equip them to have these teaching conversations.
2. Build a Teaching Brand
Be the business that offers tons of helpful information. Do this on your website, blog, social media, and events. Include some kind of education in every interaction with your clients. Recently, I challenged our entire company (sales, development, and support) to find a way to add value by educating our clients in social selling and online marketing in every interaction. Be the company that always adds value by teaching.
Smart Sales Reps Position Themselves as Experts
“Why should I share my precious time with you?” is the question that every prospect asks. Smart sales reps answer that question by positioning themselves as experts that have been proven to add value to business owners. You don’t just walk in and get a seat at the table unless you have something to offer. These days, this starts with a LinkedIn profile that makes the rep look like someone a decision maker would really benefit from knowing. That includes building a great profile summary, continually sharing helpful information, and a list of references from clients saying that you added value to their business. It continues through every interaction the rep has with the client’s buying team before, during, and after the sale.
What Can You Do?
19% of customer loyalty is related to service. 53% of customer loyalty is related to adding value. How will you respond to this?
This new reality energizes every project in which I’m involved these days. The Social Sales Academy equips reps to position themselves on LinkedIn as experts that can add value.