If you are selling a cloud-based solution, your business model has changed far, far beyond just the delivery mechanism. You may not have realised it yet, but the business value you provide has moved from products to customer experiences. This transformation is fundamentally changing how businesses operate, interact with customers, and how they make money. Let me explain.
With the cloud, you don’t actually have to communicate directly with a customer in order to be customer facing. These days, we are all ‘front of house’ whether we realise it or not. Departments that have historically been far removed from the customer, such as IT security, data centres and software engineers, are in fact directly impacting customer service and the overall customer experience. From an employer perspective, it is important that individuals recognise the critical nature of speed of response and service, and its resulting impact on the customer.
In the cloud world, demonstrating that as an organisation and as a sales team, you are focused on ‘delighting’ customers with a high level of service across all interactions is expected – or you risk them defecting elsewhere. It’s a huge shift from days gone by.
In the past, technology companies and sales teams were almost exclusively focused on software capability. In the ‘old world’ of on premise software, a typical development cycle was 18 months. By the time the new functionality was released, the market had moved on.
“The shift to the cloud, the transparency of the internet, open discussion forums and customer references have essentially turned your customers into the world’s most honest product managers.”
Today, monthly and sometimes daily releases mean cloud companies are able to understand, influence and deliver faster than (or at least keep pace with) the rate customers consume them. This enables software companies to stay in front of the customers’ needs and continuously deliver value and improvement.
So how can you turn your customers into your most effective salesforce in this new world order? Let me give you a few suggestions (six to be exact):
- Two words: “delight them”. It is now just as important – if not more so – to focus on the service and it is the service that will ‘delight’ your customers and help turn them into your best salesforce. That means everyone recognising that they have an impact on service, even if they never speak to or eyeball a customer.
- Always over deliver on commitments and be transparent with the customer whether it’s positive or negative news. In doing so, they know where they stand and there is trust in the relationship.
- Make life easier for them by focusing on peer networks within your customers and their markets. By bringing customers together informally on a regular basis so they can interact and get peer level advice is another means of adding value to the relationship.
- Turn your customers into product managers. With cloud, the ability to react to market and customer demands is much greater which allows software companies to work closely with customers to better understand what they need rather than just sitting in ivory towers assuming they understand the market.
- Create an environment for openness in customer references. If you are in fact ‘delighting’ your customers, reference-based selling is one of your strongest means of closing new business. And by asking customers to be a reference that means you don’t chaperone prospective clients on reference visits and conversations. Instead allow them to meet with existing customers alone to create an openness and demonstrate that as a cloud company, you are confident in your service, trust your customers and that you are transparent in the realities. With a service, your prospective client needs to know exactly what they are getting into – warts and all.
- Provide a platform for your customers to tweet, speak publicly and build their own sense of community.
The shift to the cloud, the transparency of the internet, open discussion forums and customer references have essentially turned your customers into the world’s most honest product managers and your company’s most powerful sales reps. In the same way all of your employees are now sales people in one form or another, customers are now empowered to be product ambassadors – or your worst critic, depending on the service you deliver. It seems we are all wearing different hats these days. The difference is… not all of us have noticed.
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You can also take a look at the complimentary report below from the Aberdeen Group for smarter sales strategies you can take in 2015.