An Interview With HBR – Improving Customer Experience Through Sales Revenue Leadership
Customer experience has become such a popular topic that, not only are there dozens of conferences devoted to it, it even has its own designation, “CX.”
I was interviewed by HBR Analytic Services for their latest white paper about the customer experience, “Improving Customer Experience through Sales Revenue Leadership.” I’ve written widely about the importance of the sales experience, and this quotation from the white paper perfectly sums up my perspective:
“The sales experience is the first mile of the CX highway. If it’s a bad experience, customers get off at exit 1, and there is no CX, or even revenues…”
As the focus on CX strengthens in companies, I find that it is typically limited to what happens after the customer has purchased the product. Rarely do I see the sales experience itself talked about as a critical driver of CX, which I believe is a missed opportunity. Traditionally, revenue leaders focus on end-result metrics such as sales numbers for the month, quarter, or year. This emphasis on end-result metrics tends to drive salespeople to focus on transactions, which usually results in a subpar CX. Sales revenue leaders are on the front line of CX and often best able to bring the voice of the customer to the rest of the organization. Recognizing the importance of early customer interactions and designing new metrics that capture them are essential to capture the full CX.
The following section of the white paper quotes my research and perspective on why excluding revenue leaders from CX strategic planning is a mistake:
The C-suite needs to include revenue leaders and data from the sales process in its discussions about CX, says Edinger, but that doesn’t always happen: “A lot of executives’ background is in finance or operations. There is also a widespread bias that strategic work like finance, supply chain management, product development is more sophisticated and that the sales force are charismatic folks who operate separately.
But that type of thinking is a mistake reflecting a lack of contemporary understanding of what is required to provide an outstanding CX today.”
The consequences of failing to incorporate revenue leaders into a company’s strategic planning are significant. I worked with one company that invested over $100 million in new technologies. The company’s revenue leaders, however, were left out of conversations about new initiatives. As a result, when revenue leaders met with clients, they continued to push older products. Ultimately, the company’s attempt to move its strategy forward was stymied, and it wasted millions of dollars.
Executives from various parts of the company should not wait until the end of the sales process to engage the sales revenue team. If executives work together early on, they have an opportunity to broaden a project’s scope and strengthen the outcomes. For example, a technologist could work with the sales team to help a customer solve a problem in an entirely new way that goes beyond a single product or service. When sales leaders provide clients with valuable insights that help them think differently—even if it means acknowledging the company’s product or service may not be a perfect fit in the short term—it is often a better long-term strategy for winning business and providing an excellent CX throughout.
Want to learn more? Click here to read the full white paper.
Currently Thinking About… Are You Hiding Behind Email?
How many emails did you read today? How many did you send? Of those, what percentage would you say were productive, or even inspiring?
Email is a way to effectively communicate updates, but it is not a strategy for working through complex issues or motivating your team. And yet, it has become our primary source of communication in the workplace, regardless of the task at hand.
We use email in ways that were never intended. In Cal Newport’s article exploring the evolution of email, he outlines the story of IBM deploying an internal email system in the 1980s. They used current employee communication to estimate how many messages would be sent. Within a week, the system was overwhelmed. Instead of directly transferring their current communication to a more convenient platform, employees started communicating far more frequently. Newport notes that the story underscores a common misconception about email – it is not a passive tool used to make our actual work easier. Instead, it has completely changed the very way we do our work.
But email is not often the right tool for the job we are asking it to do. This disconnect has resulted in us handling a wide range of communication issues all in the same manner. My take is that leaders often hide behind email, and it’s making us undisciplined. By sending an email, you can check something off your list, or you don’t have to face a difficult conversation. But the reality is, the problem is not solved, and the conversation has not been addressed. Email has also allowed us to become undisciplined in our time management – you don’t need to be thoughtful about how you plan your workday or think in advance about what you need from whom, you can just send emails whenever something comes to mind.
So, if you want to receive less email (and who doesn’t?), stop before you write your next email and ask yourself, “Is this the most productive way to handle this matter?” Then, take action accordingly.