Customer experience is something of a holy grail for business leaders around the world. Every company is looking into delivering the most seamless and unforgettable journey to the customer, and every leader is convinced that by doing this, buyers will be more loyal. And they are right.
Great customer experience is not about pretty packaging or free shipping — it’s about making the buyer feel understood, it’s about the ability of each individual within the organization to put themselves in the customers’ shoes, create a process that adapts to their needs, and deliver services and conversations that are meaningful to them.
Restructuring your sales process around your customer may not seem like a priority, but it can ultimately lead to happier customers, increased revenue, and cross-team collaboration.
In order to solve our customers’ problems, we first need to identify their needs and encourage conversations, and only then offer solutions and feedback. The key to implementing customer-centric selling is making sure your teams are aligned and happy, otherwise, servicing the customer the right way can become a daunting marathon. And that is where my team and I come in: to help align cross-functional goals and process, making both internal and external customers happy.
What is sales enablement, anyway?
About a year ago, Hugo Macedo, the VP of Marketing, told me to check out an emerging field within enterprise: sales enablement. At the time, I was a Business Development Representative at Unbabel, seeking out new business opportunities with potential customers, but I was also helping onboard new-hires, making sure trials were handled correctly, and helping to fix the demo environments for our reps. When I saw what sales enablement was all about, I knew that it would be my future. And so it has been, for the past year and few months.
There’s been a lot of talk about sales enablement lately. Blog articles, LinkedIn posts, Medium tips on best practices, and you’ll find a myriad of definitions on the web. To me, it’s about making sure people are aligned and have the right processes and tools are in place to help customer-facing teams genuinely understand their buyers and better communicate, advise, and serve them.
It’s easy to believe this concept is the realization of a new holistic approach to sales, but if we look into the past, sales enablement has always been there for us. The advent of the computer in the 70s, Microsoft Excel in the 80s, the cellphone in the 90s, and now with formal rep training, eLearning platforms, and AI-driven content management and customer relationship management systems. All this technology fueled new strategies to leverage companies’ ability to communicate their services and products more effectively, and best solve your customer problems.
How can sales enablement help you set more efficient processes and operations, and align teams around a customer centric mindset?
Walk in your customers’ shoes
In his best-selling book Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice, Anthony W. Ulwick introduces the theory that people buy products and services to get a “job” done. If that product or service gets that job done, great. Otherwise, we say, Chau, Chau, Adiós!
In one of his articles in Medium, he explains that companies can use these jobs to be done to build their market strategy and communication. However, they can also be used at lower levels within the organization, to understand what the customer’s end goal is, both personally and professionally, so that we can better understand them and help them achieve their goals.
The best way to get into the buyer’s mindset is to have your team fill in a Job to be Done Canvas.
Ideally, you’ll conduct customer interviews to get this information: “In the customer’s own words, what’s the job they are doing that causes them to choose this product or service?” You can even become the user yourself: As we say here at Unbabel, eat your own dog food. Ask your new joiners to sign up or test your products within their first week in a group session. Ask them what they felt, and what their experience was — it can provide great insights for your product team.
As people get to know the users better, the information in the canvas will evolve and become more realistic. Share these with the newbies, so that they can get up to speed faster, but also customer-facing teams, marketing, product, training, and everyone involved in the sales ecosystem.
Define clear processes
Not everyone is a fan of processes. When you’re implementing them, those extra layers of complexity can end up creeping up on you, slowing you down, or even seem to be at cross-purposes with your business. But looking at the bigger picture, it’s the only thing that allows you to scale.
Make sure your team knows how to direct a problem to the right department, file a bug complaint from the customer, or add a new feature request. No more gentle tapping on the shoulder, gingerly asking for a bug to be fixed. Every change, every request, documented, visible, across the entire organization.
Processes help when looking at the customer journey as a whole, especially when there’s an obstacle. What happened during the sales cycle? What was the customer promised? What are their expectations? Understanding this will help your support team deal with any issues and swiftly solve them.
Here’s a thing or two you can try with your team:
- Lead a whiteboard session and ask them to draw the steps of the processes, the tools, information, and people involved in each to check if they understand what needs to be done in any given situation.
- During onboarding, conduct a simulation in a sandbox environment. Have them work through each of the steps of your process, knowing that they won’t be modifying any real information. Create different guidelines for different scenarios and degrees of difficulty to help guide your newcomers.
Choose the right tools
Where is your user’s data getting stored? Are you servicing multiple channels and touchpoints? Does the team have full visibility on the customer? To implement the right processes, and most importantly, to solve your customers’ problems, you need the right tools. Sometimes, you’ll be able to purchase tools from third party vendors, or use an API to integrate, and sometimes you’ll have to develop in-house tools to fit your business needs. When in doubt, opt for the tool that needs less supervision and overall maintenance. When it comes to sales enablement, automation is your best friend.
- If you’re rolling out a new platform, explain to your team why it’s being implemented and what they’ll get out of it. Ideally, you’ll want a focus group to test it beforehand to see it fits their current workflow. Once that’s approved, ask the vendors to do training sessions with the whole team.
- During onboarding, ask the recent members of your team to shadow more senior people in order to understand how to use these tools. You can also use simulations for them to practice on their own.
Whatever you do, make sure you have the documentation in place for the team to learn how to use them.
Document and document again
You cannot expect people to remember everything, and that’s especially true when you have dozens of products or integrations, each with its own workflow. All key knowledge should be documented somewhere, and if people have to remember something, let it be the location of those documents.
- Build an intranet or central repository that can be easily updated. Keep a record of all the information you have there, a kind of index, with an owner, creation date, and validity attached to it. Make sure all your employees know how to access and navigate it.
- You can also go one step further and build an internal bot, as we did after reading about Ben Cotton’s experience at Hubspot. We needed a solution that could help our customer-facing teams find data, cheat sheets, case studies, and all kinds of content, in real time, anytime they needed. With the help of tools like Slack, or Zapier, you can build triggers that will allow you to push on-demand content for your agents when they need it the most. And a small tip, save yourself the endless trouble and create a bot that can be navigated just by clicking pre-chosen options, as free responses are harder to get right.
Be the product geek
Your team needs to know the product inside out. It’s an obvious one, but you’ll be surprised how many people don’t know their own product. Customers expect their problems to be solved quickly and accurately, and if you don’t know what they’re talking about, they’ll get frustrated, and rightly so. To avoid that:
- Create videos that demo the product’s workflow and features as well as show how to solve different kinds of issues/bugs.
- Make product knowledge a comprehensive part of your onboarding. You can add a little gamification here, by combining the power of eLearning and trivia games. Ask your product managers to write the questions in the cards and let the newbies test their knowledge while having fun.
- Every time you release new features or updates, have your team complete training sessions on those, too! You can reinforce this by creating a monthly newsletter with the main points of each update and links to the documentation.
Happy employees make for happy customers
Customer happiness doesn’t come at the expense of employer happiness. On the contrary! The State of the American Workplace, a report using data collected from almost 200,000 U.S. employees, shows that employees who are engaged are more likely to improve customer relationships, with a resulting 20% increase in sales. This can only be done by fostering a culture of constant learning, transparency, communication, and opportunities for innovation and growth.
Here at Unbabel, we’re implementing several processes to achieve this:
- Have regular check ins, or one-on-ones, with the members of your team, removed from the formalities of office life. Ask them how they feel about the work they’re doing, what their goals are, and make them feel comfortable sharing honest feedback with you.
- Career paths are a great way to motivate people — they give your team a sense of their role within the company, as well as where they can go and how they can get there.
- Another powerful tool is innovation — empower your team and give them opportunities to get creative, like brainstorming sessions or task forces to solve a specific issue. People like feeling valued, that they are contributing to a greater good. So give them a chance to bring new ideas and implement them (very important)!
- Set a budget for training opportunities, mentorship programs, or online learning. Encourage your team to enroll, and keep learning new things.
- Finally, let them have fun! Employ gamification techniques wherever you can: divide them into groups and give prizes to winners, create a leaderboard, or even implement systems like Bonusly, that reward them for going above and beyond.
I’m a Lego fan. It amazes me how all those tiny pieces come together to create something amazing. On their own, the pieces mean nothing. An internal bot here, a training session there. But when you start putting them together, it all just works.
Whatever you do, always put your customer front and center. Try to understand not only the professional, but also emotional drivers of people’s purchases. Participate in sales cycles and business reviews, conduct interviews with them to understand their needs and challenges, internalize their perspective first-hand. Only then can you influence the product roadmap and drive the right culture to solve their problems. After all, as Hugo Macedo would say, businesses don’t talk to businesses, people talk to people.
Even if you don’t have a proper sales enablement team in-house, you can always introduce some of these ideas to your current activities to align everyone in your organization, and engage your clients throughout the customer journey. So go ahead and start putting all those Lego pieces together!