April 20, 2020

How to Build Customer Confidence in a Crisis

By Wendy Higley, Global Account Director, Upland Altify

Whether it’s a public health outbreak, a data breach, an economic dip, or other uncontrollable conditions that deplete the sales pipeline, it’s incredibly important for sales professionals to lean on customer relationships as the foundation to succeed.

Every sales deal has a Point A (wherever it begins) and a Point B (the moment the deal closes, at the end of the sales funnel). In my experience, the process from A to B can be full of unexpected roadblocks – crises among them – so following a clear selling process that’s grounded in the customer relationship is essential to weathering and succeeding in difficult scenarios.

Many people say selling is an art, but I am firmly in “camp science.” Relying on a scientific sales process that places customers at the center is the key to a successful and smooth sales process.

Why Salespeople Need to Build Trust with Customers
Customers live in a world of constant updates, targeted content, and influential information – often of unclear origin. This environment allows for entirely new kinds of relationships and communities, ones in which trust can easily fall by the wayside.

Building trustworthy relationships with people and understanding their problems is at the heart of great selling – and these relationships are the key for companies to survive unforeseeable events.

Last year’s LinkedIn State of Sales report named trust as the key factor for closing deals. In fact, 40 percent of sales professional respondents ranked trust above ROI and price in importance for the sales process.

Trust does not form overnight, which is why sales professionals need to cultivate it in their sales practice over time. Building long-standing, trust-based relationships with valued customers provides the foundation sales professionals need to maintain customer confidence during more difficult times, when the sales funnel may evaporate.

How to Manage a Successful Customer Relationship
Data – lots of data – is what salespeople need to shape relationship intelligence.

Data is even more critical in a crisis. It may sound counter-intuitive to name data first when talking about relationships, but it captures the story of a customer, including:

  • what attributes they have,
  • how they buy, and
  • what they are influenced by.

One of the keys to being successful in any sale is qualification in order to win the deals that matter. Knowing a customer’s profile and persona is an essential part of qualifying leads and also lays the foundation for trust in the relationship.

For sellers, relationships need to remain just as important as revenue – more so in times of crisis.

When you build meaningful customer relationships, customers tend to be more satisfied, and satisfied customers are the ones who will come back again. Here are two quick tips to do so.

Tip #1: Align your teams. Improving the customer experience starts with improving the connections between a company’s siloed teams. Salespeople need to work alongside the entire extended revenue team, from customer success to product specialists, to offer a fully tailored customer experience from opening sales call to close. By connecting the different departments that compose the extended revenue team, leaders become able to share and reuse account and opportunity insights across the entire application.

Tip #2: Understand the customer’s challenges and deal influencers. To inspire confidence during the sales process in times of crisis, it is important to understand the customer’s main challenge or goal as well as who is influencing them or their role within their organization. Relationship maps empower sellers to build their understanding of key players and personas who influence the organization while capturing details of the customers’ desires to ideate solutions that offer unique value.

My situation at Upland Altify is unique in that I am able to utilize the technology and resources I sell to my customers every day. As a result, I bring my sales success stories to life when I speak with customers, which forms a bond. Empathy is essential for understanding where a customer is coming from because it places the seller in their shoes.

For Success in Sales, Blend the Human Element with Data
Every customer interaction generates value, and, even though data analytics are AI-driven today, the human element is crucial to the customer interaction. CRM systems today are becoming even more powerful, leveraging AI to develop into the hub for the right customer data, augmented at each customer interaction. However, in times of crisis, consumers don’t want to be sold to, so salespeople should look to offer interactions and experiences that provide value for the long term.

Understanding the problems a customer is facing, and acknowledging the whole picture, will not only strengthen the relationship but also build comfort and confidence for the future.

Wendy Higley is a global account director at Upland Altify, where she is passionate about helping global enterprise companies transform and optimize revenue. Wendy has 15 years of sales experience.