Customer insights to transform sales conversations
It was Mark Hunter who said, "it's not about having the right opportunities. It's about handling the opportunities right." And he was correct.
Sales conversations have changed over the past few decades. While salespeople previously offered expertise in their products and services, customers now expect salespeople to be experts in their needs. The LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2020 shows that customers rank "active listening" as the number one attribute they value in a salesperson.
This dynamic shift has changed the way salespeople talk to customers, but it's also changed the way businesses approach sales strategy. Today, if you want to transform your sales conversations, you'll need to understand your customers.
In this article, you'll learn how customer insights can transform your sales strategy (as well as how to gather insights yourself step-by-step).
Let's dive in.
How customer insights can transform your sales
A data-driven strategy is invaluable to any business, as gathering insights into your customers will help you understand them at a deeper level. But what else can customer insights do for your brand?
In short, they can help you:
Bridge the gap between marketing and sales teams
While marketing and sales teams perform similar roles, research shows that only 81% of top-performing salespeople consider their company's marketing leads to be "excellent" or "good." Unfortunately, this indicates a gap between marketing and sales in many organizations, which is ultimately detrimental to both teams' financial and logistical performance.
Gathering insights will allow you to bridge that gap by building a dataset that benefits sales and marketing professionals.
Gain first-hand knowledge from customers
Gathering insights will allow you to understand your customers and build their trust. As data shows that 47% of buyers rank "trustworthy" as a critical quality in a salesperson, building trust is crucial for closing sales.
Remember, in a customer-centric profession, "trust trumps transactions."
Prioritize customer accounts based on reliable metrics
Tracking your existing customers' qualifying attributes and needs will also help you understand which leads are most likely to convert to customers in the future. This is an important pattern to notice, as you can prioritize selling to the most qualified leads once you know what to look for.
Identify growth opportunities
Finally, gathering data on your customer will help you identify potential opportunities. This includes opportunities that allow you to expand your business with new offerings, change your existing offerings for new customers, explore new markets, or target a specific segment of your current market.
Photo credit: Ibbds
For example, if you sell vending machines, gathering data on your customers might tell you that there's a new market for machines that include foldable umbrellas in the inner city.
Key customer insights to know
Now that you know how valuable customer insights are for your business, you're probably wondering what insights you should collect. There are five insights salespeople need to understand customers.
Qualifying characteristics are the attributes of the business or individual that would make them a good fit for your products and services. Qualifying characteristics help salespeople understand which leads they should focus on.
When you profile your customers, you should consider the following qualifying characteristics for B2B leads:
- Number of employees
- Business size
- Buying capacity
- Type of business (for example, cafes, retail stores, restaurants, etc.)
- Current needs
- Purchase history
If you are selling B2C, you should focus on these qualifying characteristics:
- Purchase history
- Buying capacity
Naturally, you'll want to add in any industry-specific characteristics you can think of as well.
Leads that meet the majority of the criteria listed above are 'sales qualified leads' (SQLs). If a lead meets none of the criteria, they are an 'unqualified lead.' It's important to note that some qualifying characteristics are more important than others. For example, if your offerings are significantly out of a potential lead's budget, their location, business type, and need won't qualify them as SQLs.
Ultimately, there are two ways to understand your customers' qualifying characteristics: ask your top salespeople and conduct market research on your best customers.
Persona insights are similar to qualifying characteristics, except persona insights focus on the person you are selling to. Essentially, persona insights focus on the individual and their experience (rather than the business they represent or themselves as a consumer).
There is a crucial reason persona insights are essential for sales: people make purchasing decisions using gut instinct and their feelings as a guide.
For example, a retail store manager is looking for a new point-of-sale (POS) system and speaks to salespeople from two companies. If the salesperson from the first business made her feel understood and addressed her problems with her current POS system, she would choose their product.
When collecting persona insights, you are looking to understand the general motivations of the people you are selling to tailor your sales conversation to match. This means you want to focus on characteristics like:
- Job roles
- Purchasing power
- Challenges in their job
- Responsibilities at work
- Specialist knowledge
- Experience with your product
The best way to gather persona insights is by speaking to past buyers about their experience with your sales department. This article will cover that process in the 'How to get customer insights' section.
Market insights relate to the broader industry, including current marketing trends, regulation changes, product trends, and the behavior of your competitors. Understanding market insights is crucial for salespeople and marketers, as your leads will expect you to meet (and hopefully exceed) your industry's standards.
To collect market insights, you'll need to monitor the industry through the news, attend conferences and webinars and keep up-to-date with your competitor's products.
You should also stay up-to-date with current research so you can use it during sales conversations. For example, if you sell do-not-disturb software for sleeping, the insight that 71.8% of Americans with sleep disorders use technology before bed would be invaluable.
Product/service use cases
Product and service use cases are exactly what they sound like: case studies describing how your previous buyers interacted with your offering. Specifically, a good case study outlines the following things:
- The customer's past and current workflow.
- The problem your customer was trying to solve.
- How the customer found your offering.
- Their initial experience with your offering (especially if you offer a free trial).
- Why the customer chose your offering over competing offerings from other companies.
If you're looking for some inspiration on a good case study, take a look at this example from eFax. Though it's only brief, it shows the McCabe Group's complete experience with eFax's product, including how it changed the daily workflow on the company's construction sites.
Photo credit: eFax
You'll need to follow the process in 'How to get customer insights' to get sales data for your case studies.
Customer pain points
Finally, you'll want to collect data on your customers' pain points. Pain points are specific challenges that customers are looking to solve with your product. While pain points are specific to the customer or their business, understanding the general challenges your customers share will help you market your offerings better during each sales conversation.
There are four types of pain points relevant in sales, including:
- Productivity pain points = these pain points add excess work and stress to your customer's lives. For example, it's a productivity pain point if assistants at a retail store have to manually calculate a customer's change, as the process reduces their efficiency at the checkout.
- Financial pain points = these pain points hurt your customers financially. For example, it's a financial pain point if a retail store cannot afford its POS system.
- Process pain points = these pain points add friction to processes that should be easy. For example, it's a process pain point if a retail store doesn't have a bank nearby, so the manager needs to drive 40 minutes every week to deposit money.
- Support pain points = these pain points arise out of an inadequate customer service experience. If for example system administrators have to deal with complicated maintenance issues, and don't receive support in a timely and efficient manner, they'll have to spend an unreasonable amount of time seeking out solutions on their own.
The best way to understand your customer's pain points is through the process outlined in the next section.
How to get customer insights
So how do you collect customer data? This section will outline the steps you need to follow to collect, analyze, and use high-quality data.
Let's get started.
1. Put together your team
First, you'll need to put together a team to help you gather sales insights. Ideally, your team will need people who can:
- Analyze data
- Collect data
- Speak with buyers
- Provide expertise on your product
- Manage the project
- Compile data into a report
As you need a diverse skill set, you will likely need team members from sales, marketing, product design, and management. Bringing people from different departments together can be tricky, so make sure you facilitate open conversation by downloading one of these collaboration tools before collecting data.
2. Determine the key customer insights to gather
Once you've gathered your team, you'll need to revisit the list of insights covered in the 'Key customer insights to know' section. In short, these include:
- Qualifying characteristics
- Persona data
- Market data
- Use cases
- Pain points
As a group, you will need to identify which insights will help your salespeople the most.
3. Mine data from customer contacts and groups
Next, you'll need to mine data for your insights. There are many ways you can collect data from customers, including through:
- Face-to-face Zoom calls
- In-person focus groups
- Telephone interviews
- An automated survey after a sales call
- Customer feedback surveys emailed to your customers
- One-on-one consultations facilitated by salespeople
- Quiz software like SurveyAnyPlace
- Written reports from customer
4. Analyze and research the insights
Once you have collected raw customer data, you'll need to analyze your findings by compiling, cleaning, sorting, and analyzing the data. Then, you'll need to compile it into a report, so it's easy to share with your salesforce, managers, and employees in other departments.
We recommend dividing your report by insight (i.e., report the data for pain points, qualifying characteristics, market insights, and persona insights in separate sections). For each insight, make sure you include data visualizations to help your reader understand your insights better.
During this step, you should also set up a data aggregation dashboard using a solution like Whatagraph. This will allow you to monitor your ongoing sales data in real-time, which will help you measure the impact of the changes your salespeople make in '5. Transform your sales conversations'.
Photo credit: Whatagraph
5. Transform your sales conversations
Finally, it's time to put the knowledge gained from your customer insights into action. There are three ways to take your data and transform your sales strategy, including:
Shifting the conversation based on your data
First, you can adjust the way you relate to customers based on the insights you gathered. For example, if you sell retail POS software, you could adjust your sales strategy to the personality of each store manager you speak to, using your persona insights as a guide.
You could also integrate the market insights you gained to strengthen your sales pitch using relevant statistics and studies.
Engaging with customers through social media
Second, you should use your customer insights to tailor your social media posts to suit your customers better.
For example, suppose you operate a gym and learned that a common pain point of your customers is exercising during COVID-19. In that case, you could relate to customers with infographics like this one from Bairdwarner.
If you are looking for inspiration for social media, try these social media post ideas:
- Online interviews
- Answers for questions
- Sales pitch videos
Continuously learning and growing
You'll also want to keep growing your sales team's skills. Continuously developing your skills is an easy way to sell to customers better. It's so easy that you can build your skills by:
- Working with a marketing mentor
- Taking online sources
- Working towards professional growth goals
- Learning from your peers
- Taking a customer experience course
- Attending professional development workshops
You could also enhance your general digital selling skills by learning to use online marketing tools like SEO tools, link trackers, and grammar checkers. While these aren't sales-specific, they will enhance your overall job performance.
Selling: it's all about trust
You could summarize this article with Siva Devaki's quote:
Sales is not about selling anymore, but about building trust and educating.
However, let's leave it on a more tangible note.
Gathering insights into your customers is the best way to transform your sales strategy. Collect the right insights, and you'll understand your customers to the point that selling becomes easy.
You should focus on four key areas of insight: your customers' qualifying statistics, persona insights, the market, use cases, and customer pain points. Finally, make sure your salespeople use the data you collect in sales conversations and on social media.
If you follow the insights in this article, you'll be better prepared to transform your sales strategy.
Mark Quadros is a SaaS content marketer that helps brands create and distribute rad content. On a similar note, Mark loves content and contributes to several authoritative blogs like HubSpot, CoSchedule, Foundr, etc. Connect with him via LinkedIn or Twitter.
Want an easy framework for translating customer insights into effective sales conversations? Get your free copy of Profiler: The Ideal Customer Profile Kit.