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“Did We Do The Right Thing?” Customer Engagement, It Can Be Really Simple!

by David Brock on January 19th, 2022

We struggle with customer/prospect engagement. We send endless emails trying to engage them. Our autodialers help us make 1000’s of calls, in the hopes that one person will pick up. We flood social channels with prospecting messages. We send endless texts.

We know we have to reach customers through multiple channels. Technology and automation enables us to provide ever increasing volumes of messages across all these channels.

Yet customers aren’t responding. They don’t want to talk to us, they aren’t engaging. So we do more. We execute our sequences, even thought they aren’t engaging the targets of those sequences.

For those that do engage, they express high levels of frustration and low confidence. We don’t understand their businesses, we don’t understand them, we don’t address what they are concerned about. We talk about what we want to talk about–which is our products.

We know those customers struggle with buying. We know their process is “squishy.” (Thanks Hank Barnes). We know it goes in starts and stops, it wanders, new people are involved, priorities change. Yet, we take them through our regimented process: SDR handoff to AE, AE to a Demo, a proposal, and then a discount to get them to order.

Those that do order, are increasingly expressing regret–Have they done the right thing? Not necessarily, “Have they made the right choice,” it’s “Have they done the right thing?”

Yes, customers buy, but because they have to. Not because they want to, not because they are confident in the decisions they make. At the same time, the majority of buying efforts end in failure. So they are missing huge opportunities to change, grow, and improve. And we miss those opportunities to drive our own growth and revenue.

We have a new thing now. It’s the customer digital buying journey. Since sales people aren’t as helpful as they could be, they look for information and to learn through other channels. They search, they talk to peers, they learn on their own. We revel in this, marketing is busy building content and methods to engage customers in their digital buying efforts. Some say all of this will displace sales people. We revel in using technology to manage this engagement, it’s much more consistent, we can reduce our spending on sales people, because we need fewer.

43% of customers prefer a sales-person free buying experience. And all indications, show that will increase. That fuels our investment in digital channels. At the same time, the majority of those who buy express high levels of remorse. Again, the question arises in their minds, “Did we do the right thing?”

“Did we do the right thing,” keeps coming up as a fundamental concern for complex B2B buying. Brent Adamson has called this issue, “Decision-confidence.” The principles of sensemaking focus us on helping the customer answer that question.

There are some interesting things about this question.

  1. It has little to do with our products and solutions. Yet we respond by continuing to talk about features, functions, feeds, and speed—and if you order by the end of the months, we might be able to discount.
  2. It is all about them, their businesses and what they are trying to achieve.
  3. It is all about them, individually, it’s about their fears, the personal risk, the uncertainty.
  4. It is different for each company. Each situation is different, each company is different, what they are trying to achieve and why is different for each organization. Yes, there are similarities, but we need to peel those back and look underneath them to understand how they feel.

As we peel all this back, we find at the core, it’s all about people. It’s all about human to human interaction, people to people engagement.

Timeless principles about empathy, understanding, compassion, caring always have been at the core of all successful human interactions.

Being confused, being overwhelmed, being uncertain are all human characteristics, as are striving for success, growing, learning, and feeling heard/valued.

We know these are important. We know they are at the core of everything each of us do/feel.

Yet we “engineer” all of that out of our engagement processes. We forget that what matters to each of us as human beings is what matters to everyone we work with, everyone we engage, even our customers.

Customer engagement isn’t that complicated, but we seem to have forgotten the basic principles. And as a result, we fail–our customers and ourselves.

Customer engagement is about people working with people. It’s about empathy, understanding, compassion, and caring. What would happen if we put that at the center of everything we do with our customers (and within our own companies)?

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