Successful selling is about making and maintaining connections! Yes, but its also more than that.
Successful sellings greater success lies in building relationships that deliver repeat business, referrals, and bottom line lift.
There are key behaviors that, when identified, are found in the most successful sales environments and some of these behaviors may not be what you imagine. The hard sell does not sustain relationships with customers. Customers are now better informed and have a good idea about what they will and will not buy. Very often the last step in the buying process is when they connect with the salesperson, advisor, or agent.
So what makes some businesses more successful than others in customer engagement?
Its all about understanding and unlocking human capital performance which involves matching unique communication and behavioral styles to drive successful sales.
Organizations looking for a differentiation that will move their business ahead of the competition understand that the soft skills of building relationships and managing client behavior are more important than selling skills.? Identifying ways to know, engage, and grow a customer relationship is becoming an important conversation among business leaders.
In particular, the Insurance industry, as an example, is facing challenges which require looking at ways to overhaul the ways of operating in order to stay viable as a business. Those in the insurance industry are confronting industry regulatory issues, a customer base that rates insurance as a low priority, and they are also trying to understand how to leverage social media to create a personalized, relevant, and enjoyable experience for their audience.
Perhaps the answer lies in relationships and engagement, as some competitors are discovering as they step out into the world of customer centricity in terms of the way they conduct business.
Ernst & Young in their paper titled, The Journey Toward Greater Customer Centricity, make the following observations:
Many insurers are not keeping pace with changing market and consumer dynamics and are far behind other industries in meeting customer expectations. To succeed in this fast-changing environment and achieve sustainable top-line growth, insurers need to focus on redefining customer relationships, transforming business models to embrace data and digital and introducing an innovative culture in support of strategic decision-making.
Achieving customer centricity is less about implementing a grand vision than about building cadence today, next week, next month and next year. But the time has come when the journey is a strategic necessity, and all insurers need to be clear about where they stand and what steps lay ahead for them.
Customers are willing to build long-term relationships with their providers and purchase multiple products. However, insurers must improve the effectiveness of their communications, as well as recognize and reward the value of the relationships.
David, a highly skilled and qualified insurance provider, had a number of customers whose policies required review. He arranged meetings with them and on each occasion, failed to persuade the customer of the need to increase their insurance coverage. ?David had always seen himself as a relationship builder and had, in fact, sold the customers their initial policy some years before. However, they now seemed to be less approachable, no longer demonstrated trust in the relationship, and even seemed offended by Davids approach. Such reactions confused and concerned David as the offense taken was completely unintended, which was especially worrisome as the success of his business depended on customers such as these.
David and his business colleagues decided to review customer exit interviews of those customers who had cancelled their policies over the years. One clear, yet significant, thread began to emerge. While customers indicated satisfaction with the policy and coverage, they showed dissatisfaction towards the interactions they had had with sales staff and/or advisors.
Essentially, the communication and behavioral style of the advisors and frontline staff had changed since policies were first drafted/ put together.
David could see that changes in the overall economy had required a shift in approach with advisors becoming more pressured into delivering a bottom line result at all costs. The business had focused more on training advisers to Sell! Sell! Sell! and dropped any real commitment to a client-centered approach or virtually any reference to relationship building. This resulted in a team that lacked skills in behavioral insight, relationship building, and customer engagement on any level other than completing a successful deal.
In a sales/advisor/customer relationship scenario, its unlikely that behavioral and communications styles will be similar. But its accurate to say that customers tend to feel comfortable with and buy from sales people that display behavioral styles similar to their own.
Simply training advisors on how to understand, adjust, or moderate their own behavior is not enough and might be seen as patronizing and condescending as customers are much savvier about the kinds of relationship they intend to have when purchasing any kind of service.
David decided to introduce communication and behavioral training and awareness to all the staff. In addition, he requested customers to complete their own communication and behavioral style profile. Initially advisors were hesitant to ask their customers to complete the discovery process but very quickly and confidently, they were able to demonstrate to customers the value in participating
Using the information for client experience management, David was able to match advisors to customers and ensure every customer touch point was appropriately covered by staff who understood their own and their customers communication styles.
David contacted eight of his customers who had been reluctant to undertake a review of their insurance coverage and requested they complete a Communication DNA profile explaining that he would send them a URL link to enable them to complete the process on line in advance of their next meeting. He explained that it would only take a few minutes to complete but that the outcome would enable David to serve them in a much more engaging and professional manner.
Immediately, when David saw the results of the Communication DNA, he realized why he had been unable to engage with each of the eight customers. He had been numbers and details-focused, clearly putting numbers before people only to recognize that:
- Four of the customers required a sociable and conversational approach;
- Two needed help to make a decision and would have found Davids communication style to be confronting;
- One was still mulling over the information and paperwork, and
- The last one was overwhelmed with the details and wasnt comfortable on any level with the need to change or review their insurance coverage.
The contrast of this insight against Davids need for results, his logical and unemotional approach, and determination to get a sale across the line, illuminated why he had failed to engage with his customers.
David openly shared his insight into his own and the customers communication preferences. The engagement between each began immediately as trust was built through this initial sharing of communication styles.
With the knowledge David now had about his customers, he could have chosen the option to match them with a more suitable advisor in order to build a relationship which was a path he was implementing within the business. But in this case, David understood the importance of fully integrating the whole principal of customer centricity and to openly work with his customers to build quality relationships. Such quality relationships would only happen by becoming familiarized with how to adapt ones own communication style to build engagement with customers whose communication styles were different.
This people before numbers approach significantly moved the business forward in terms of repeat business. Over time, David saw evidence of how understanding communication was successfully impacting the bottom line of business.
THE TAKE AWAY
Understanding communication and behavior to build engagement cant be seen as tokenism or the latest trend. It is a serious solution to growing businesses where selling, promoting, or advising in any form is at the core and center of the business. The solutions implementation needs to be rooted at the C suite and used to frame the business focus. Then, it must be implemented across the organization to all those who have any point of contact with customers.