Why The Customer’s Path Should Be At The Core Of Your Enablement Approach

We are living in the age of the customer. Our customers decide, depending on the business problem to be solved, if, when and how they want to interact with sales professionals. Whatever we automate internally, it’s still the customers that make buying decisions. These buying decisions are the most important decision for any sales force as they lead to the revenue numbers most sales organizations are measured by. Sales professionals do whatever they can to influence this decision, and sales enablement can help by equipping the sales force to be relevant, valuable and differentiating in every customer interaction. But, that still doesn’t change the fact that buying decisions are made by buyers.

Addressing selling challenges in the context of the customer’s path

Making the customers the core design point for sales force enablement does not mean that the sales force’s particular challenges are not important. Not at all. However, sales challenges have to be addressed based on the customer’s preferences for how to connect and engage with salespeople, how to buy and how to implement products and solutions. The reason for this is also straightforward: You need to make your sales force effective along the entire customer’s path so that they can influence the buying decision right from the start. Creating an enablement strategy that considers the customer at the core and the specific challenges of your sales force is why a formal approach to sales force enablement and a formal charter are so necessary.

Customer’s Path Alignment Defined

What does customer’s path alignment really mean? It means how well you included the customer’s decision steps and gates along their customer’s path in your internal processes. An example would be that a sales organization only looks at internal criteria that are important to them in the early stages of their sales process (e.g., decision makers, budget, time frame) instead of including customer-related criteria (e.g., is the problem an individual pain, or is there a group of stakeholders that wants to change the current state, criteria that drive their decision to change the current state, etc.)

Four Levels of Customer’s Path Alignment Maturity

At CSO Insights, we distinguish four levels of customer’s path alignment maturity. In our 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Study, only 46.2% had their internal processes purposefully aligned to the customer’s path (formal or dynamic), while the majority did not (53.8%).

  • Random (13.8%) means that the customer’s path is not (or only by accident) represented in the internal processes.
  • Informal (40.0%) means that there is an alignment existing in theory, but it lacks consistency and a formal implementation.
  • Formal (25.2%) means that the events along the customer’s path are represented in the internal processes and that a formal implementation has happened. Also, its impact is reviewed and measured. However, the formal approach can become a trap, because it lacks adaptability in an ever-changing buyer world.
  • Dynamic (21.0%) consists of the formal alignment plus mechanisms that allow the organization to adjust their internal processes fast and effectively whenever relevant changes occur along the customer’s path. AI-based technology is key to success to detect those changes early on. Here, the regular analysis from the formal alignment has been evolved to an ongoing analysis in the dynamic level.

 

The hard truth is that only a dynamic alignment, in this case only 21.0% of organizations, has a significant performance impact compared to the average percentage of salespeople achieving quota (53.0%): 7.7 percentage points or 14.5% actual improvement!

Dynamic customer’s path alignment is mandatory to producing high-quality, effective sales enablement services. If there is no clarity as to how internal processes are mapped and aligned to the customer’s path, contributors to your enablement efforts work in a vacuum. 

Questions for you:

  • What is your level of customer’s path alignment?
  • If you worked in this area, what results did you experience?
  • What did you d to get to a dynamic customer’s path alignment?

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