Buyer behaviour has shifted dramatically and is now challenging the conventional ways of conducting business in all sectors. The sales model of the past no longer works; companies can no longer ‘push’ out to a pool of customers with a straight sales proposition with the hope of triggering enough interest that will lead to sales closure. It is now the customer that is researching and self-educating before seeking out suppliers. In today’s new digital age, the customer is more empowered than ever, meaning that a new business development technique is upon us; engaging with potential net new customers right from their initial research stages.

In order for companies to embark on this new road to business development, all directors and departments need to be focused, and measured, on their contribution. In order to seamlessly adopt such an approach, customer intelligence needs to be used to capture the impact each function of the business is having on the customer.

In order for companies to cope with this, there must be a significant change in attitude to the importance of and ease of collecting, understanding and using customer intelligence to help shape customer experience. The customer intelligence repository – usually in the form of a CRM solution – can no longer be locked away in its own silo; it needs to be repositioned as a layer accessible by the whole business. This means that businesses can gather valuable information on their customers so they can be intelligently nurtured by all parts of the business on their journey to purchase.

How then, should businesses start exploring this new way of working? Here are 5 key questions that company leaders can explore in order to guide their response to the dramatic changes in buyer behaviour:

  • Who are your most profitable customers?
Knowing your target customer is crucial for navigating the new buyer journey - this means knowing who you sell to and who your ideal customers are. Some customers are far more demanding than others and these are the ones that can eat into profitability. Therefore, analysing customer data could not be more important in order to avoid wasting time on profit consuming customers. It is important to remember that revenue alone should not be the sole driving force when deciding which customers to invest in.
  • How aligned are you with your customers’ growth potential?
In order for the business to keep growing, the concept of the new buyer journey will only succeed if it is promoted as a company-wide initiative – this requires strong collaboration and evangelism from all company leaders. It is not possible for just one leader in the business to drive all the changes which are needed to operate as a well-oiled customer experience machine.
  • How do you define your customers’ buying journey?
The crucial factor for companies is to avoid playing catch-up with their customers, and to help put them in a position where they can influence those buyer decision journeys. Businesses need to understand the customers’ buyer journey and that their interactions across the journey are managed in the same way that they would manage a product or service. Customer journeys, including interactions across all departments as well as any external available information, are becoming central to a customer’s experience of a brand and are as important as the product itself.
  • Do you know where in the customer journey that you are losing prospects?
It is important to understand why customers are defecting. Was it because a competitor’s proposition was better? Or was it because you lost your customers’ attention along the customer journey? Therefore, taking the time to compare the successful customer journeys with the unsuccessful ones will show exactly where the dropouts are.
  • Why take a new approach to Customer Relationship Management/CRM?
Businesses need to align to the new customer journey across all touch points – sales, marketing, operations, customer service, finance and HR. Being able to find the right CRM solution and then deploying it correctly involves analysing how business objectives can be met company-wide. CRM is now a strategic tool that gives individuals within the business a competitive edge in working as a team to achieve the company goals.

The customers of today like to feel like they are in control – the decision makers – using all available technology to make those buyer decisions. However if businesses tap into this information, they can track a prospect or current customer’s interactions with a brand, and offer them timely and relevant information, incentives or propositions. Realigning the critical CRM layer to enable the business to be one step ahead of the customer means your company is well positioned to influence, to leverage high returns, and to grow the business.

By Mike Richardson, Managing Director EMEA, Maximizer Software