Much has been written about the cost of low employee engagement. But keeping customers and prospects engaged in your sales process is equally important to the success of your business.
We know a great deal about the high cost of low employee engagement. We know that there are over 20 million disengaged workers in America alone and that the cost of this problem is nearly $350 billion dollars per year in lost labor and output. We know that the root cause of this disengagement is employee-job misalignment and that when employees “fit” with both the culture of a company and the job to which they are assigned, productivity soars along with business profits. If it sounds like an easy fix, it’s not. Hiring for technical fit and competence is challenging enough without taking the cultural aspect into consideration. Finding technically proficient human talent that aligns with your culture, embraces your core values, and is passionate about your vision can be down right daunting. That’s why most companies just don’t do it.
(You can grade your company's recruitment process here.)
They same type of HR issue exists in your sales department. It takes effort, time, and planning to get able, willing, and motivated prospects to become customers. Nevertheless, engaging prospects and customers is the purpose of business. Stephen Covey’s “no margin, no mission” reminds us that if we do not find enough right fit customers who will buy from us at our established price we will have no business.
Customers, like employees, are human and as such they have a need to feel a part of, to feel inspired by, and to be actively engaged in the process of resolving their business issues and problems. As business people, we have identified a business opportunity and we must recruit the very best customers as well as the very best employees so we can fulfill our mission. In order to recruit the best customers, like recruiting the most talented employees, you need a well-thought-out process and the discipline to follow it,especially when following it is hard to do. An effective process will cull the most qualified prospects from the endless sea of suspects, giving you more time (a precious commodity today) to engage, inspire, and act.
The two largest pieces of the engagement process are capability and fit. If your prospect is not capable of making the purchase but has a passion for your product, you have misalignment. The same misalignment exists if your customer has the ability and motivation to make the purchase but lacks the willingness or ability to work within your terms or within your production time frame. Misalignment equals disengagement. Disengagement equals no sale. No sale equals going back to the sea of prospects and beginning again. Or worse yet, trying to magically make an unqualified prospect turn into a customer. Good luck with that. (You can grade your company's sales process here.)
What is prospect misalignment costing you? Probably more than you think. It is impossible to maintain positive engagement much less create lasting relationships when misalignment is present. That said, it is stunning how many salespeople continue to try to persuade ill-fitting prospects to do business with them. Have you considered how much time and money your company spends on chasing, courting, and pitching to people who simply don’t qualify for what you sell? How many lunches do you buy them? How many demos do you do for them? How many incentives do you offer them?
I have a client who used to spend a fortune on a very expensive and universally appealing giveaway for trade shows. They were thrilled that so many people showed up to their booth to get the prize that they had a line around their booth the entire show. They were proud that their giveaway was tied to their product. They were pleased that their staff was busy talking to visitors every day of the show. The problem was they had hundreds of “leads” — but nobody was buying.
Their booth and lack of sales process was costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted money and resources and millions in opportunity costs. When I explained to them that part of their problem was that the line around their booth was preventing real customers and prospects from getting to them they were taken aback but they listened. Even their customers admitted that they rarely visited my client’s booth because, “it was too busy to do business there.”
We worked together to create solutions that allowed them to meaningfully engage with real prospects and discover business needs, to ask important questions that uncovered compelling motivation to do business, to discuss whether or not each prospect was financially able to make the commitment, and to solidify next steps in the engagement process. It wasn’t easy for them to make these changes but it was worth it. They now have very solid sales processes that translate into real sales in the office, in the field, and on the show floor. It took time to develop the processes. It took courage for them to dismantle a system that served their egos but not their mission. And it takes steady discipline to work the process and find ways to continuously improve upon it. Today they have far fewer “leads” (or should I say busy work?) and far more time to meaningfully engage with real prospects and customers.
This is not an unusual scenario. Many companies are spending so much time trying to sell to everyone, their real customers can’t find them or never hear about them. Sales misalignment is a barrier to customer engagement. Here are a few ways it can show up:
• Not enough new opportunities in pipeline
• Not enough new business closing
• Not enough growth from existing business
• Sell cycle taking too long
• Average sale is too low
• Too much discounting
• Losing out to the competition
• Prospect’s buying process doesn’t match your selling process
• Prospect doesn’t have influence or authority to make decision
• Prospect is sold on your solution but lacks financial ability to move forward
• Prospect needs to fully customize your client-ready solution
• Prospect wants/needs your solution but can’t justify the price
These are fairly obvious ways that misalignment can lead to loss of engagement. Unfortunately, these and many others are often overlooked in the beginning stages of the sales process leading prospects to feel pressured or overwhelmed and leaving you with a serious lack of sales results. The good news is that it can be fixed. Do it – fix it – you and your customers deserve it!
What is low customer engagement costing you? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below and feel free to send me an email at [email protected]
© Copyright 2014 Cheryl Powers
Image credit: cartoonstock.com
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