Marketers and Salespeople Must Rethink Customer Engagement Efforts

At day two of the Forrester Forum for Sales Enablement Professionals, speakers highlighted the importance of employing calculated methods for engaging their customers, and emphasized that organizations must produce consistent, compelling content for sales reps to use.

In her keynote, Laura Ramos, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, said that memorable brand stories are one gateway to customer loyalty.  “If you want to create lifetime engagement with your customers, the answer is quite simple,” she said. “[Tell] a story.” Quoting statistics which Andy Hoar, principal analyst at Forrester, shared the previous day, Ramos reminded the audience that customers are researching products online at an increasing rate, and avoiding unnecessary interactions with sales reps unless they need help in understanding a product or service. In citing Hoar’s statistics, Ramos’ goal was to reinforce the idea that, content is becoming more important to sales, and so should the intentions and commitment levels of those who are sharing. As the role of the salesperson evolves into something closer to an advisor, they’ll have to learn to better engage customers in meaningful ways. Ramos also recommended focusing on the customer after the sale. She looked at an example of how customers can effectively also use longer forms, such as essay, to tell stories that will represent their brands and stick with readers long after they’ve left a Web site. 

Paul Gottsegen, senior vice president and chief marketing and strategy officer at Mindtree, called for a new approach from a marketing perspective. He suggested that marketers make a more concerted effort to produce materials that can assist the salesperson in connecting with customers. For Gottsegan, this means they must “create a personal brand; find the right people; engage with insights; and build strong relationships,” one of the slides in his presentation read.

Following Gottsegen’s line of thought, Matt MacInnis, founder and CEO of Inkling, maintained that the training of sales reps must be restructured if it is at all to be effective. Rather than use traditional training programs, companies should reach out to reps with content through stimulating formats, if they have any hope that their messages will ultimately find their way to the customer. He criticized the tendency of organizations to force their sellers to demonstrate mastery of sales-related knowledge. “This is horrible because it stops them from doing what they should be doing, which is selling.” Instead, MacInnis says that performance should be measured passively, to avoid interrupting the natural flow of the sales process.

To close out the conference, O'Neill, vice president and research director at Forrester Research discussed the idea of keeping the customer central to all sales operations. “Think outside in; not inside out,” he urged. “Be customer obsessed.” O’Neill then outlined several key points that companies should always keep in mind. They should develop all of their business processes around the customers’ needs, as well as position themselves to make sure they have a clear understanding of the product they are representing.  Likewise, they should make content easily available to salespeople and ensure that the story each part of the company is telling is fluid and has not been arbitrarily decided upon by any one individual. Further, if a salesperson is to be at all effective, she should be equipped with up-to-date information about the client, provided on an “innovative and compelling platform” that they also enjoy using. 

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