Are you keeping a customer focus in today’s digitized world?
Technology is quickly shifting the industrial distribution sales landscape, specifically in the ways your customers interact with you. Currently the preferred methods of buying in industrial distribution are email and calling in orders, but recent research shows there will be a dramatic shift to more online purchases and mobile ordering soon.
While there are obvious advantages to supporting your customers’ buying process through technology, there are also some very specific risks associated with relying too heavily on digital purchasing solutions. Without human interaction, the risk of becoming even more commoditized increases dramatically.The human aspect of purchasing is what drives loyalty, wins repeat business, and helps distributors stand out in a crowded marketplace, so you can’t lose sight of that.
Here are 3 ways to maintain a customer focus in a digital age.
1. Get aligned with your customers’ wants and needs
A customer focus should go beyond product, to the way a customer prefers to do business with you. You want every step that your clients take in making purchases to be as frictionless as possible.
Gather info about your customers’ buying preferences from a full range of sources.Then get everyone in the organization aligned and focused on optimizing customer experience.
Here are a few examples of how to gather that information:
- Send out surveys and polls to current customers and have them rank the purchasing methods that are most convenient for them.
- Talk to your salespeople who are hearing feedback from clients and consider including a section in your CRM that allows reps to input data around this topic.
- Ask your customer service people what kinds of questions they’re getting and see if you can answer the common ones on your website through videos, FAQs, etc.
- Go where you customers are going (blogs, LinkedIn groups, YouTube, etc) to keep up to date with their preferences.
2. Work with your customers to fully understand their business model
Like you, your customer is facing tremendous pressure to stay ahead of the competition. How can you help them be more competitive in their own market?
Work to gain a full understanding of your customers’ critical business processes—operations, logistics, manufacturing, marketing, and sales. This customer focus and shift to a consultative approach will position your salespeople as strategic advisors rather than replaceable vendors. It also allows them to maintain more than a transactional relationship and prescribe solutions to all the challenges customers are facing.
Remind your salespeople to not just ask clients about what they’re trying to achieve today, but also about future goals and how they go about doing business. This depth of understanding leads to a stronger partnership and an increased level of trust in your organization—which ultimately leads to increased financial performance.
3. Provide value-added services to establish a direct relationship with customers
Part of a good customer focus is understanding what customers are unable or unwilling to do themselves, and providing that service for them. A few examples are design or diagnostic services, part configuration, customization, and maintenance and upkeep.
Leveraging value-added services not only improves customer satisfaction and loyalty, it differentiates your organization and provides tremendous profit opportunities. According to Aberdeen, margins generated by service-related activities can be as much as 10 times higher than those of initial product sales.
It’s cheaper to service and retain current customers than acquiring new customers, and margins on service are higher than those on products.
The bottom line is that satisfied customers significantly impact revenue growth. If you maintain a customer focus in an automated, digital world you will improve retention, loyalty, and referrals. And in an age where dozens or even hundreds of lower-priced competitors are only a click away, customer satisfaction has never been more important.
Lisa Rose is a Regional Vice President of Sales at The Brooks Group. With 26 years of media/communications and entrepreneurial expertise, Lisa boasts a background in developing all types of people and managing quota-busting sales teams.