Is the New Customer Buying Journey Impacting Deal Forecasting and the Customer Experience? CSO Insights Data Says Yes

Sean Cassidy

CSO Insights recently released its 2016 Win More Analysis Report. The report, based on data from its 2016 Sales Performance Optimization Survey, provides some interesting observations as we move further into 2016.

The first observations in the report, pulled from more than 500 responding firms worldwide, underscore the growing realization that the sales process is no longer the only major component of the deal cycle. The buying process — or buying journey — is no longer something that sales teams can ignore. Today’s buyers are both savvier coming into a deal and also have different expectations for how they are served.

The concept of the customer experience is a term you now see bandied around quite a bit — and for good reason. In the past, sales reps often would serve as prospect concierge from the latter part of the education phase of the buyer’s journey right through to deal close. Now it is more common for a buyer to first interact with sales at the beginning of the evaluation phase, which naturally results in a different set of expectations put on sellers.

In addition, it is has become much more common to have people involved in the decision making process, from business users through to the final check signer or “economic buyer.” The CSO Insights survey shows that only 7% of firms in a buying cycle have a single decision maker and two-thirds have at least three or more people that need to sign-off on deals.

So, when faced with a shorter buying journey “window” to convince a better educated prospect and more hands to hold through that process, it is more critical than ever for sales teams to understand right away what the customer buying process is and who is involved (and have the right sales tools on-hand to address all buying stages and roles). Yet, almost 50% of responding companies in the CSO survey feel they do not have an adequate handle on the customer buying process. More than half of respondents feel they are not gaining the right level of access to all key decision makers.

Some other key weaknesses revealed in the survey include:

Almost 50% of respondents feel they need work in optimizing deal size. There is never a better time to cross-sell or upsell as when you are closing that first deal with a new customer. Unfortunately, many sales teams do not have easy access to the data needed to make informed cross-sell or up-sell offers.

Selection concept

Sixty-three percent of respondents are struggling to close deals as originally forecast. This is obviously a huge problem for the finance organization, especially in publically traded firms. Deal slippage is an earnings call nightmare, often far worse than having deal value drop a bit during the negotiation tussle. Slippage is often the result of too much time spent negotiating – and figuring out how to effectively sell to all stakeholders — and too little time spent selling value.

The good news is that there are solutions that exist today for all of these problems. Sales teams need to be trained to focus right away on identifying the key stakeholders and buying process for every deal. Reps also need to have the right sales tools available to empower their prospect internal champions to get buy-in for all the stakeholders needed to close the deal. With more and more sales-prospect conversations starting later in the buying journey, sales teams need to foster a consistent and repeatable experience when contact is initiated.

Systems such as configure, price, quote (CPQ) and price guidance and optimization arm reps with the tools they need to deliver the right product and price to prospects, allowing them to spend more valuable time selling value to all deal stakeholders. In addition, these same tools can help optimize deal size through predictive cross and up-sell capabilities and also accelerate time to close, helping prevent deals from contracting and slipping to the next quarter.

The CSO Insights Win More Analysis report covers much more than what I’ve discussed above. To get more insights, download the full report here.

If you’re interested in a more detailed look at how to best create a consistent buying experience for all customers and prospects across all your sales channels, check back in a few weeks as I take a look at how to create a true omni-channel buying experience with CPQ.

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