Why a Solid CX Strategy Consistently Leads to a Solid Customer Retention Rate

Keeping your customers satisfied is one of the few priorities that companies have. Customers drive and expert companies to do more to continuously satisfy their customer experience. Companies need to continuously take value in what customers want, need, and how they can grow positively by implementing their product or service into their everyday lives. It is an important task to gain customers and build and maintain relationships with them to close deals, but it is not easy to gain customer loyalty. The way to keep customers from drowning into your company is to establish a strong relationship. This relationship could be just a business relationship, and perhaps down the line, a personal or longtime friendship. The importance of establishing a relationship is to build trust and loyalty between the customer and company. Again – as a company, you need to understand what the customer wants, needs, and can gain from doing business with the company. 

Receiving and implementing customer feedback is a major key to having a successful company. Customers are the first-hand audience who experience products from the companies with which they choose to engage with – mainly for the perceived value of said products, at least upfront. It is key to receive customer feedback from customers who have had time to use your product and service to have a viable opinion and user experience.  Sometimes, as we all have experienced, customer feedback is not always positive feedback, but any feedback from a customer is good feedback. It is always important to know what the customer is thinking and to have different channels for customers to provide feedback as well. Their feedback can allow the company to grow and think of different ways to fix any concerns that companies have or how to expand on a campaign or initiative that’s doing well. Feedback is beneficial for companies to get information on how to improve retention strategies.

Think about it this way – the first time a company closes a deal with a new or returning customer the customer is excited to have a new product to improve their business for their customers. The customer expects the company to provide the same quality of product every time they make a purchase from them. Advertising your products creatively and strategically to speak the language of your ideal customer can make or break the retention rate of your customers. Customers enjoy when companies make a change in their market, particularly if the change was made due to their primary customer base’s feedback and research. Change shows customers that companies are listening to their feedback and making changes to their approach on products. Making your customers feel comfortable is a key component to obtaining and maintaining your customer retention rate as well. The more comfortable and confident a customer is to the company and its products and/or services, the more loyal they are and will continue to be to the company. 

Here’s the main takeaway here – the main goal of a company is to always keep your customers satisfied.  The management of customer value is paramount. Customers can provide feedback to the company and if they enjoy the product or service then customers will share the company with others. (Word-of-mouth marketing still exists and works quite well. Peers trust peers.) Customer retention rates can simply be analyzed by getting feedback, staying on top of products or services, keeping customers satisfied, and changing up marketing strategies for new and existing customers. 

Understanding and Embracing the Ever Changing Customer Profile

Everyone who has ever worked with the sales team in an organization knows that satisfying your customers is the number one priority, whether it’s making sure that you establish a solid relationship or gaining a sale from the customer. Today, deals and relationships are mostly accomplished. Customers understand that companies cannot change the fact that the world is forever changing. With change comes adaptation. Customers want to know how businesses are communicating with their customers. They care about the logistics of getting the best of what the customer is asking for in order to give the customer the best service and product possible. 

Standing out to a customer has been difficult in the past year. Companies that aren’t keeping up with customer and enterprise-wise business & technological trends are running out of ideas to capture prospects. Customers have higher expectations of their partners now because they can see what other companies are doing due to…technology. There is so much access to data and information about an organization and its direct or potential competitors in the cyber world. That makes it hard for companies to make a positive impression on potential customers and to position your company into truly understanding what you need to change, manage, and improve. Discovering those key elements will allow a company to successfully put themselves into a better position. One good example – chatbots.  Chatbots have been around for some time now. There are many companies that use chatbots, but there are a lot of companies that do not use them effectively. Service and time are important when it comes to chatbots.  In B2B sales, a prime purpose for chatbots is to connect with potential customers and take advantage of the opportunity to “pitch ‘n place” – first, the bot can pitch prospects by asking them leading questions based on data analytics on why your customer base visits your website; then, the “place” occurs when answers are provided to said leading questions, the bot can successfully direct that prospect to the right – and hopefully well-informed – landing page to start the beginning process of sealing the deal.

Today, customers are becoming more and more resourceful. They are avidly aware of everything they want and need, and by doing research, they know what potential partners have to offer. Customers want to know that their needs are taken seriously. Customers want to feel comfortable during the sales process. Companies are always looking for new and fresh ways to bring satisfaction to their customers. Making a deal with a customer can be the first step into personalizing the experience for a customer, and gaining their trust and a longtime partnership.

Customers are always going to want companies to cater to them and make sure they are taken care of, especially nowadays where competition and options are vast. Companies need to obtain and truly comprehend what customers want to be able to deliver quality work. The better a company knows about their customers, the better the service or product purchasing will be for their customers. Companies will gain experience and knowledge that will better themselves enterprise-wise by implementing this type of thought leadership with managing customer value first and foremost and will reap the benefits of doing so.

What’s the Secret to Closing Big Deals as an Up-and-Coming Brand?

business people closing the deal graphic

Closing a deal is one of the most important aspects of a company, especially if the company is a startup. As a start-up company, each closed deal is extremely important. The relationships that are developed through a sale will last for a lifetime, and especially having important executives such as Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) as part of the experience to close the deal is paramount to lifelong partnerships and business relationships with your customers. Specifically, CEOs have a ton of responsibilities on their shoulders. The most important influential aspect of being a CEO is being an integral part in closing a sales deal.

Being as true and genuine during the process of proposing a deal is a major factor. With DecisionLink’s products, customers are always guaranteed to see results from the use of the products that are offered. It is important that the CEO is well aware of the product and that they understand the elements, as well as any additions, benefits, difficulties, the whole gamut. The CEO should organize the expectations for sales and marketing in a way that customers will understand why they need the product, how the product is going to perform positively and efficiently for their company and their customers, and how the results are displayed and calculated for easy consumption and action going forward. Moreover, when a CEO gets involved during a sale, it shows your customer that you sincerely care about the product that you’re selling. You also care about the value of establishing a relationship between customer and client. B2B companies will see a CEO involved with closing a deal and wonder the potential outcomes from having an executive involved.

Sales leaders are consistently trying to discover different ways to keep their teams engaged with closing deals or creating new deals. Having a CEO, CTO, CRO, CMO, or CCO would be something that companies do to change the way sales are led. The important part of including executives, especially CEOs, is being able to show the prospect the value of having all hands on deck during a sale. CEOs can drive the sale to the next level just by showing the difference between their company and a competitor in the same space, and why “said” competitor isn’t even an option to consider based on the aforementioned reasons: measurable results, constant and consistent product advancement, and having an overall great customer-client lifelong relationship.

Involving CEOs and other executives to assist in closing significant deals is a game-changer that will forever put a great impression on future companies. The backbone of companies is their executive board, and it’s important to have them involved in every possible way. Having them involved is key to building lifelong relationships, gaining exposure, and the opportunity for the company and the brand and its products/services to grow exponentially in the months and years to come.

Customer Success is the Key to Your Organization’s Value Maturity

abstract graphic of a finger pointing

At the recent Gainsight Pulse conference, DecisionLink’s Sterling Cottam, Senior Director of Product & Platform Value, introduced the Customer Value Management (CVM) Maturity Model in an eye-opening lightening talk. While more and more companies realize the importance of customer value in the sales stages of their relationships, the impact of CVM at every step of the customer journey is a game-changer for customer success teams and overall net recurring revenue.

CVM is an Essential Customer Success Tool
As the craft of customer success evolves and effective CVM tools become available, value can be more easily integrated into every customer conversation. No matter how good your people skills are in customer success, data shapes how your customers see you. The cold, hard facts of the tangible value you deliver to your customers plays an essential role in their perception of your organization. According to our research, companies can increase net recurring revenue (NRR) by 130% by focusing on value. In fact, one of our customers has found that sharing impact scores with their customers directly increases renewal rates. In situations where impact scores aren’t provided, renewals are less than 100%.  When value insights are used, the renewal rate increases to 115%.

The potential for value data to increase your NRR and renewal rates is huge! But, according to Dimensional Research, only 18% of companies can provide the kind of value analysis their customers want to see. For most companies, the ability to express value is spotty because traditional approaches to calculating customer value are extremely manual and hard to scale.

The Phases in the CVM Maturity Model
When you look at the CVM Maturity Model, it’s clear where most companies get stuck —Level 1, Adoption.  Clearly, increasing your maturity level is an opportunity to differentiate your company. To make that happen, you have to understand what it means to move up the curve and the tools you will need to make that happen.

Level 1 is all about adoption. By understanding the basics of usage—how many users you have, which features they are taking advantage of, what behaviors you are seeing as a result—you have a sense of reach, but none of impact. Most companies, especially SaaS providers have this information readily accessible. According to Dimensional Research about 59% of companies can access this information. The problem is, it only scratches the surface and does little to move the needle on customer perception.

The shift to Level 2 expands to a more emotional arena. It’s about gauging sentiment, which can be accomplished with surveying tools. Here, we are capturing themes, quotes, testimonials. It is a more qualitative measure of the value provided. While this information can be vital for marketing usage, there is only marginal influence on expansion and renewals. Unfortunately, this is where easy-ish access to value data ends. There is an inherent barrier for most companies between levels 2 and 3.

Transitioning to Level 3 demands a centralized repository for your data. This is where a CVM platform like ValueCloud is essential. More than just metrics, this is about impact metrics. You’ll be looking at trends on things like incident reduction, non-productive hours, asset utilization, cost offsets, system consolidation, audit improvements, whatever is most meaningful to your customer. Determining the right metrics and establishing your baseline for these metrics is an essential part of the early relationship. If it isn’t part of building the value case in the sales process, it should be part of onboarding a new customer. Measurable objectives make all the difference in having meaningful value conversations with your customers at every stage.

As companies move from Level 3 to Level 4, the scale of the impact really begins to take hold. Here we are transitioning from individual measures to overall business impact. This is where the day-to-day accounting of the value you deliver is translated into economic value for the organization as a whole.  At an individual company level, we’re looking at return on capital, operating margin, earnings per share, which are all influenced by the impact metrics gathered earlier. In addition, with a tool like ValueCloud, you have the ability to look at metrics cross-customer in peer comparisons and share best practices. At this level of CVM maturity, you can use your value data to create competitive tension amongst customers, which makes discussing opportunities for improvements and expansion that much easier and exciting.

Accelerating Your Maturity
What is evident from the maturity model is that to make a real impact, it is essential to integrate CVM into every step of the customer journey. The more sophisticated your abilities to measure and communicate value to your customer-base, the greater the potential for cross-sell and up-sell. DecisionLink ValueCloud® was developed to make these capabilities more widely accessible. And with the launch of the ValueCloud® Value Realization bundle, we are giving marketing and customer success teams the tools they need to bring CVM into every customer interaction.

When you have the data, the emotional tenor of your customer conversations changes. It’s no longer, “I hope they will renew.” Having data to back-up your recommendations shifts the tone from uncertainty to urgency – “My customer needs to expand or they are limiting their business potential.” Crossing into this new world of customer success conversation is powerful.

So, the question is, where are you on this curve? Are you able to scale your value conversations into customer success? Can you share peer best practices? Are you really showing your full value potential? You need to be.

If you’d like to watch Sterling’s Gainsight Pulse lightening talk, watch the video here. And to bring the power of DecisionLink Value Cloud into your customer success organization, learn more about the ValueCloud Value Realization bundle.

 

What Do Bounce Rates, Lead Qualification and Web Calculators Have in Common?

man studying value management on laptop

For marketers, keeping people on your site and engaged is an essential part of an effective lead generation strategy. Like the canary in the coal mine of days gone by, bounce rates are often the first indicator of a potential problem. If people are leaving your site quickly or are only visiting your home page, they are either finding your content confusing, irrelevant, or uninteresting. When your audience visits your home page but can’t find what they’re looking for or found your offering lacking in some way, your bounce rate may be high. It may also simply be an issue of insufficiently deep or engaging content.

Work smarter with your sales team
The goal of any lead generation program is to increase brand awareness, build relationships, and generate the kind of qualified leads that your sales team can ultimately close. Your website needs to be a resource that both draws in potential customers and gives them enough information to help qualify leads. While one part of the strategy is to get the prospect to your site so you can collect their information, equally important is how you ensure that the leads you direct to sales are high quality. Understanding how your sales team defines quality and qualification is key to an optimized lead gen strategy.

Qualify with content
In a world where everyone is inundated with information, giving your prospects the right kinds of content can help with the qualification process. You want content that cuts through all the noise and gives potential customers the insights they need and the time to better understand what you’re offering. That’s often where interactivity can help. When prospects spend more time with your content, they can better process the benefits you offer and gain a deeper understanding of the value your product could add to their business. It’s not just the silver bullet of the right nugget of information at the right moment. It’s the time and space to have a more robust perspective.

Calculators are key
Web calculators are a great option for qualification and engagement. By giving your visitors the power to customize inputs to fit their situation and align it with the realities of your product, you can deliver the kind of deep insights that can move them along the funnel. The challenge has always been the work that it takes to make an effective calculator tool. From data collection to underlying calculations, they can be complicated to create.

DecisionLink Smart Web Calculator changes that. Now you can create top-of-funnel tools that align closely with sales needs and move leads through the process with accompanying insights. By creating real-time, interactive ROI simulations, Smart Web Calculator makes it possible to introduce the value your product can deliver even before your prospect speaks with someone on your team. Best of all, it’s a fully automated development process. Smart Web Calculator is integrated with ValueCloud® the world’s leading Customer Value Management platform. By using your actual customer value data as a foundation, you have a customizable, fully-branded tool that can make your website more compelling and even be used in live sales presentations.

Leading to the next step
Interactivity is essential to keep people’s attention these days. With Smart Web Calculator, you can easily create an engaging online tool based on real-world value data. When visitors are busy inputting information and getting value insights in return, bounce rates go down because they are compelled to take the next step in the buying journey. Smart Web Calculator can also integrate with your CRM or marketing automation platform to help you use it for lead scoring, routing, and qualification. And by connecting your calculator with other sales and marketing tools, you can create a unified communication path across all of the channels you use. As a result, Smart Web Calculator delivers a 12.5% improvement of inquiries into MQLs, for real-world impact your sales team will appreciate.

Success and Value Come Together at Gainsight Pulse. Join Us.

Gainsight is the Customer Success Event of the Season. Let’s Go!

Gainsight is the Customer Success Event of the Season. Let’s Go! The Gainsight Pulse event is coming up June 9-11. It’s virtual and sure to be jam-packed with great insights, perspectives, and trends about customer success. DecisionLink is looking forward to participating in the event (and making some exciting announcements). We’ll be bringing Customer Value … Read More

Attract & Engage Who You Sound Like

Group discussing attracting and engaging who you should like

Run your “Value-Thread” from Lead to Customer.

by Joanne Moretti, featuring Kim Kaminski from ServiceNow

During my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work in sales, serve on boards, and lead marketing organizations for startups up to Fortune 200 brands. And what I love more than anything else is creating magical experiences and outcomes for prospects and customers.  Attracting them with differentiated messaging, engaging them with unforgettable experiences, empowering sales teams to lead with value-based conversations that result in new business, and ultimately ensuring customer success through, what we called at the time, customer relationship management. That thread of ‘customer value’ was always at the center of everything I was part of, and I tried to ensure my colleagues were aware of this focus at every touchpoint.    

As marketers, we are on the front lines, creating awareness, attracting interest, as well as engaging and compelling prospects to take the next step to set up sales for success. We often create the customer’s first experience with the brand – and first impressions are lasting impressions. That’s why, I firmly believe, it is critical from the very start to convey the value you deliver. Today, when companies evaluate the success of vendor relationships, they no longer rely simply on cost or pricing to determine ROI – they look at the total added value, including intellectual capital they can’t get elsewhere. 

That’s why it’s so critical that marketers no longer position their solutions based on features, functions and price; that will simply land salespeople in what I call “procurement jail”.   What’s needed today, to avoid that race to the bottom, is to market and sell, and then manage customer relationships based on value.  And it starts with us in marketing.  If we project value-based messaging, we start the engagement on the right foot, in terms of speaking to customers about investments versus costs. There’s a subtle but big difference there.

With high-priced digital transformations taking shape into new business models with big hopes of higher margins, and the VC world pouring billions into SaaS-based offerings, traditional marketing, and selling models, that involve selling features and functions as well as discounting game can devour your margins in a heartbeat and ultimately fail to deliver the returns your stakeholders expect. As marketers, we need to frame the narrative as value — the benefit minus the cost.

 Value is the net weight that your customer expects to get from buying your product/service. Unlike satisfaction, which is based on performance, value is based on importance – how valuable (same root word) to them is the result of the relationship? How important is what you bring to the table? 

Quantify that. The DNA of value marketing is ROI. Unless you work for a non-profit or in the public sector, we all have the same job description: make money for the firm. Value selling communicates the hard numbers behind everyone’s reason for being, i.e., “Deals are 20% bigger” or “There’s 10% less customer attrition.”

It can be a different sell, but CMOs are already ahead of it. A study last year found that value selling has become part of the methodology for a whopping 94% of respondents. (In the COVID era, the other 6% may be just trying to keep the lights on.) It’s incumbent on marketing leaders to communicate this positioning and achieve greater top-of-funnel lead flow, better conversion rates, and ultimately, greater marketing ROI.

 Kimberly Kaminski, VP of Global Integrated Campaigns at ServiceNow, leads a team driving value marketing across the buyer’s journey. “It’s a fundamental pillar of Integrated Marketing Campaigns (IMCs)” she says. “Too often, you see companies talking about themselves: ‘We do this, or we’re known for that.’ But if you keep the focus on the customer and their business imperatives, then the value surfaces. As customers engage with us — from ‘first touch’ awareness of our brand, through the sales cycle, and even to becoming advocates — we reinforce at every touchpoint the value that they will realize from a relationship with us. It’s always about them, not us.”

 I never say never, but here are six rules of thumb:

  1. Sell the brains, not the brawn. Remember, companies value knowledge transfer from their suppliers.
  2. Don’t discount. If you’re under duress, go the Hubspot route: provide more services (add value).
  3. Lead with the benefit. DocuSign (a DecisionLink customer) doesn’t promote online document management; it sells faster times to close.
  4. Know who isn’t your customer. That may be 65% of potential clients in your universe… but the 35% you do partner with will be with you 100% of the way.
  5. Sell up to the top. It’s pretty straightforward: executive management will think in terms of the business outcome and strategic value of your offerings vs. operational staff, who are more concerned about features, functions, and price. I discuss this in my previous article Putting All your Eggs in One Basket?
  6. Engage in Value from the get-go.  It’s everyone’s job along the entire customer journey to align on the value and benefits you are delivering to customers.  Start the conversation with value from initial lead to customer.
  7. Know your audience. As you engage in value discussions, it’s critical you adopt your subject’s POV. What is their persona? What are their pain points? Your competition has your prospect’s attention, too — what impressions are they making?

 People like to do business with companies they admire. And discussions centered around value instantly say, “This company gets me.” It takes you from selling/buying to seller/buyer, as you’re not vending product but connecting on a deeper level with their motivations and core business imperatives. And — here’s the best part — it’s totally doable. DecisionLink’s shelves are filled with case studies of customers that are succeeding with the value approach. We’d be glad to set up some meetings if you’d like to talk to us, or join our upcoming webinar with several marketing leaders, including me and Kimberly, called: “#ChoosetoChallenge with Value: How Leading Women Leverage Value to Win”.  Or check out ValueCloud®️ for Marketersto get you rolling on attracting and engaging customers with business value metrics.

P.S. – for every person who signs up for our webinar, we’ll be donating $50 to support women in STEM career paths. Register now! 

Happy International Women’s Day 2021!

women standing in line showing friendship and empowerment in value management

In addition to our upcoming webinar, “#ChoosetoChallenge with Value: How Leading Women Leverage Value to Win,” we’re celebrating International Women’s Day by hearing from the amazing and inspiring women of DecisionLink. 

Not only will we check in on some of the powerful women leaders we heard from last year, but we’ll also hear from some of our talented and enthusiastic new employees, who share why they’ve decided to join DecisionLink and what they’re looking forward to! Let’s dive in. 

Joanne Moretti, Chief Marketing Officer

“I’m so excited to be hosting our upcoming webinar featuring incredible business leaders and women who choose to challenge. I’m especially excited because these women in marketing and customer success choose to challenge in business terms and through value-based engagement. I’ve said for years how important it is for women to speak the language of business in order to level the playing field, and I’m so happy to see this happening and happening successfully, especially among the women I’ve mentored over the years! There is no gender when you speak in economic impact; people lean in and listen and take you or your company more seriously. So that’s why I think this webinar is a great opportunity to learn more from these successful business people and enjoy a great conversation together.”


Lizzie O’Rourke, Vice President of Marketing

“The job of a marketer has become increasingly difficult in the last few years. We are constantly expected to do more with less. A few years ago, I learned the benefit of leading with value in marketing campaigns and initiatives. I found that when we leveraged a company’s financials and quantified value in our campaigns, our likelihood to secure a meeting dramatically increased. As prospects spend more time performing their research before ever talking to a salesperson, value-based marketing messaging can help your message rise above the noise by grounding it in quantifiable value; something competitors often can’t do.”


Kristina Cutter, Senior Director of Customer Engagement

“Deciding to focus on business value throughout the entire customer journey requires organizational change as it is a shift in mindset and approach for all go-to-market functions. I love supporting my customers in their journey to choose to challenge the status quo and get the internal buy-in they need to make leading with business value part of their organization’s DNA. It has been a pleasure to work with so many strong female leaders to do this!”


Deanna Spinelli, Associate Value Engineer

“Achieving value for the dollar was always a challenge. In the “new normal,” it’s become even more challenging. However, here at DecisionLink value is what we do best! We help our customers overcome the challenge of explaining value. In my position, I have the fortunate opportunity to work with customers and their marketing teams to create visuals that sales teams use to help deliver their value in a creative fashion.“


Shirley Dunkley, Sales Development Representative

“I look forward to helping companies realize that they can improve the long-term success of their business by improving every aspect of their customer’s journey with DecisionLink’s ValueCloud®!”


Kath de Lange, Senior Director of Operations

“My life changed 3 years ago when my eldest was born – when I first understood the challenge of balancing family and career that so many women struggle with. While I’d never had a colleague be anything but supportive when I had a conflict between work and family, it became clear to me there was a difference between a colleague being supportive and an organization truly being family-centric, especially in today’s “new normal.” Understanding that difference was why I joined DecisionLink. It was clear to me from meeting the team that this was a group of people who really believed in doing the right thing by each other, and by their customers. And I wanted to be a part of that!

I choose to challenge through mentorship. In my career, I’ve had the good fortune to find people who were happy to be in my corner. Having that support framework helped me identify when and how to challenge the status quo in my life and career. And I’m privileged to be able to provide that framework for a number of strong women, in the hopes that I can pay that forward.”


Lindsay Maddox, Regional Sales Manager

“A woman I look up to in many ways is a leader at DecisionLink; I knew that the work she was doing was fun, meaningful, and fast-paced and that she was kicking butt at it. When I found out DecisionLink was hiring it was a no-brainer to me that I wanted to work here. They hire, develop and elevate all of their employees regardless of gender and take care to actively allow women to also be mothers, sisters, daughters, and partners outside of work. I am looking forward to my future here because I now know several female leaders at DecisionLink I can admire, be mentored by, and learn from every day. Regardless of their rank in their organization, they are accessible and truly want to guide, teach and mentor. I can’t wait to learn from these awesome women!”


Maria Goldsholl, Chief People Officer

I joined as a fractional Chief People Officer at DecisionLink because I was excited to help build a world-class team with a high-integrity culture. The leadership was very clear that deliberately building and investing in a diverse workforce was a key priority to their growth. As an HR leader, this is music to my ears when my values and the company’s are so well aligned.” 


Lisa McWhirter, Customer Value Director

“I am most excited about being with a company that not only talks about standing behind their product but providing the ability to prove the value that is delivered to customers. My belief is that if one of our customers is not achieving the value we say they will, then this is a company that will work with the customer to course-correct and get there!”


Jackie Liney, Customer Success Manager

“There are many reasons why I joined DecisionLink. When I heard about the product and what it was able to do for customers, I was sold. Establishing and communicating value is something I feel a lot of companies aren’t doing on the full customer journey. The ability to show my clients the value of our product along with helping them to be able to show their value to their clients year over year is key. There just really isn’t an efficient way to manually accomplish this, which is why I have such a passion for DecisionLink. In regard to the customer success role, it is my job to help each client find success and I know that by using ValueCloud® we will be able to do that. I also found a great deal of passion among the leadership team and team members. Each person has such a passion to support each other in a positive way no matter what role you are in. It was a team and company that I could not wait to be a part of and I was welcomed with open arms.

I see a lot of potential here at DecisionLink to grow professionally and personally. Each person is looking for new ways that they can help you grow and learn more. On my very first day here I started adding meetings to people’s calendars to meet them and learn what they do and they accepted right away. I believe in the product and the teams surrounding it. I am so excited for my future here and to see how I can bring my strengths to continue to help DecisionLink grow.” 


Thank you to all of the smart and powerful women of DecisionLink, and a warm welcome to those who are just getting started. 

Want to hear more from women leaders at DecisionLink? 

In our upcoming webinar, “#ChoosetoChallenge with Value: How Leading Women Leverage Value to Win,” we’ll explore the strategies and tactics business leaders can use to increase top-of-funnel engagement by 30% and ultimately create customers for life. Hosted by Joanne Moretti, DecisionLink CMO, and featuring panelists from Fictiv, Thales, ServiceNow, and DecisionLink, the webinar will also celebrate International Women’s Day by offering practical advice on how women leaders can #ChoosetoChallenge and shatter the glass ceiling in their own careers. 

P.S. – for every person who registers, we’ll be donating to a scholarship fund for women – stay tuned for more information, and in the meantime, register now

How Digital Engagement Increases the Focus on Customer Value Management

business woman and man viewing customer value management on laptop

As contributor to the recent report, “2021 Predictions for Sales Leaders: The Year of Value,” I proposed that technology will become increasingly important to the entire commercial side of the business. Now, that may sound a little trite in a paper coming from a technology company, so here are some further thoughts to that prediction.

In 2021, unlike 12 months ago, sales teams no longer can take people to hockey games, golf courses, or even dinner meetings, to close a deal or build rapport with buyers — the role and routine functions of a seller have been transformed. Many B2B buyers are discovering the benefits of eCommerce and doing digital research. Buyers and their employers have also discovered that working from home is beneficial and that may even become routine in the future, with ramifications on most aspects of selling: attending and presenting at meetings; extending invitations and socializing; organizing knowledge transfer; right down to valuable personal account manager skills such as working a complete buying center of multiple people during one customer visit by “walking the corridors”.

DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT BECOMES THE PREFERRED NORM
It should come as no surprise that digital marketing and digital selling are now established as the modus operandi of B2B interactions. According to this report by McKinsey, 89% of companies are expecting the changes to stick because buyers have discovered they prefer this way of working. If everything now happens online, making every conversation count requires that businesses must now be good at leveraging digital technology to facilitate and inform sales meetings.

This group of technologies is commonly labeled “sales engagement,” assisting sellers in several aspects of their role,
such as:

  • Presenting and sharing information
  • Distributing important content throughout the buyer’s company
  • Providing important insights to sellers about their buyers’ needs and preferences (predictive analytics)
  • Coaching and training sellers on the fly

The sales engagement applications market is already rich with innovative vendors. These vendors have the technology to support all the processes listed above. Some sales engagement vendors also offer “value selling” functionality to help the sellers present or calculate some sort of value proposition, though often this is more about adopting a sales methodology.

AS-A-SERVICE
But there is even more going on with B2B sales at the moment – parallel to the dramatic adoption of sales engagement technology is a more fundamental business-model transformation to an “as-a-service” interaction. This is most prevalent in the adoption of business software applications, but it is quite apparent that almost every industry is now touched by this trend of digital transformation. This means that many sales meetings are not about negotiating a one- off capital investment but are more focused on evaluating the current state of a software or service license and whether or not it should be renewed, increased, or canceled.

The topics discussed are no longer price and costs versus benefits and, perhaps, return-on-investment (ROI). No, these meetings cover data about usage and adoption of a software/service; the user or customer experience; and the business success achieved through the use of the software/service – i.e. the value received from the subscription.

FROM VALUE SELLING TO CUSTOMER VALUE MANAGEMENT
One important sales engagement technology not listed above, and not offered by the sales engagement software vendors, is a platform that helps sellers to promote and measure the real customer value of the product they are representing. Value Selling playbooks and workaround technologies such as spreadsheets, bespoke applications, or ROI calculators written by the vendor themselves will not be good enough for these new meetings.

Curiously, one logical consequence of an “as-a-service” offering is that the value can be monitored continually as usage and deployment of the service fluctuates over time. So, ROI is no longer a one-off forecast based upon estimates and assumptions, it can be modeled and set up in a system which is able to collect actual data and provide ongoing reporting. SaaS is, by design, more easily measured and monitored than on-premise software, including value-relevant data about usage and relevant business outcomes.

So that is the most valuable technology we envisage in this new age of selling: setting up a customer value management collection and reporting system – usually as a collaborative effort between buyer and seller because both companies can benefit from the data collected.

This is an emerging technological paradigm and there are just a handful of vendors offering customer value management software. The vendor with the most experience and the greatest suitability to the SaaS model is DecisionLink – probably one of the reasons that several venture capital and private investors have joined the recent Series A round worth $18.5M. DecisionLink solutions can be established in most cases without custom programming and extensive investments, by small and by large vendors, and they can be deployed for customers of all sizes.

Always keeping you informed! Peter.
poneill@researchinaction.de
www.marchnata.eu

About Peter
Peter O‘Neill is an IT industry veteran with more than 39 years of experience in advising vendor and end-user clients and performing research-based consulting, combining strong research capabilities with comparative vendor assessments and actionable advice. He is most known for his 12 years of service at Forrester Research as industry analyst and research director. Most recently Peter managed Forrester’s research on B2B Marketing organization, process, and automation topics, a worldwide team of 11 experienced analysts. Prior to his time at Forrester, Peter had worked for 20 years at Hewlett-Packard in Germany and the USA and then joined META Group (2001 – 2005) where he led the company’s Vendor Consulting Group across EMEA.

Buying/Selling vs. Buyer/Seller

business man presenting value management to colleagues

By David Brock

——

Recently, I’ve been trying to shift my own thinking and vocabulary about buying and selling. Several people have asked me about it. I thought I’d spend a little time on it.

I believe shifting our vocabularies from Buyer/Seller to Buying/Selling is much more than wordsmithing. It forces us to change our perspectives about how our customers buy—or drive their problem solving/change initiatives.

And it forces us to rethink how we engage these customers in selling.

The problem with the terms Buyers/Sellers is we focus on certain roles or people of our and our customer’s organizations. By doing this, we potentially miss the change in the activities being undertaken in the buying process and how we align our engagement strategies with how our customers buy.

The big thing that we discover when we start looking at buying/selling is that we realize Sellers are no longer the only people engaged in the process. Buying dynamics are changing dramatically. As a result, it changes our selling dynamics.

As an example, in Rethinking Sales Enablement, I presented data from Gartner research that showed how buyers are spending their time. Total time spent with salespeople from all the vendors they are considering is 17%!

So if we focus on Sellers and Seller activities, then we are limiting engagement strategies to that portion of the 17% of their time that we can engage them.

But if we look at the other 83% of our time and start thinking of buying and selling, we identify many more opportunities to engage them.

For example, we are forced to start looking at their online and offline research (45%) of their time. We are forced to think about, “How do we engage customers in these parts of their buying journey?” We begin to see that we have to look at selling differently–perhaps how we might redirect some seller activity, or how other functions contribute to selling.

For example, marketing, customer experience, even product management start playing critical roles in the buying/selling processes. We have to start thinking of our digital engagement strategies/experiences. We have to start thinking about offline engagement strategies.

If we constrain our thinking to buyers/sellers, we might be blind to those parts of the buying journey/process. We might find ourselves failing to meet customers where they are at, in the manner they best learn.

Changing our mindset to buying and selling changes the way we look at the customer problem solving/change management process.

Changing our mindset to buying and selling forces us to reassess our entire engagement process.

Changing our mindset to buying and selling forces us to reassess roles, responsibilities, and activities—who, how, where we engage customers in their buying process. We recognize the selling isn’t just the job of Sellers.

Changing our mindset to buying and selling forces us to reassess this engagement process through their entire buying journey. No longer will we think “Marketing catches them, sales skins them,” but rather our customers will be using multiple channels in their buying journey, and we have to be aligned/consistent with how we engage them through this process.

We no longer live in a world of buyers and sellers. Rather, we live in a world of buying and selling. We have to understand this, and we have to change to adapt to this.

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David Brock is the Author of “Sales Manager Survival Guide,” CEO of Partners in EXCELLENCE and is a ruthless pragmatist. View David’s original post and read more of his work on his blog, Partners in EXCELLENCE, here.