How to deliver a great buying experience: Q&A with Scott Albro

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indexLast week I posted a quick Q&A with Dave Brock in advance of this Wednesday’s virtual event: Quota-Busting Sales Strategies from the World’s Top Sales Leaders. This morning I had the opportunity to speak with another of the event’s featured speakers, Scott Albro. He’s a veteran of multiple start-ups and is an all-around smart dude.

His session on Wednesday will cover 10 ways sales can deliver a great buying experience.

He had some good ideas I wanted to share here in advance of his session, specifically around how sales & marketing work together to deliver a better buying experience.

Why should sales care about the buyer experience in the first place? Isn’t that marketing’s job?
Sales should care about the buying experience because it has a massive impact on bookings and revenue. When we ask buyers what influences the purchasing decisions they make, they cite three things: product, price, and the buying experience. Before seeing the data, I fully expected the buyers to rank those three criteria in order. But the buying experience actually ranks first, followed by product, and then price.

Our research also shows that vendors who deliver great buying experiences, grow 2X faster than those that don’t. If that’s not a good reason for sales to care about the buying experience, I don’t know what is. If you want to learn more about the importance of the buying experience, check out why I think the buying experience is the most important thing in sales & marketing.

As far as whether it’s marketing or sales who should own the buying experience, it really comes down to whoever touches the buyer during the experience. In many markets, sales has a profound impact on the buying experience because they are so intimately involved in delivering it. For example, all of those phone, email, and in-person touches that sales owns in a B2B setting or a high-consideration consumer setting are owned by sales.

Sales needs to design and deliver an experience that exceeds the buyer’s expectations for those touchpoints or interactions. Sure, marketing can support that effort, but it’s really on sales to make it happen.

Why is it important to map & customize your sales process to the way the customer buys?
A big part of the buying experience is simply giving the customer what they want when they want it. You can’t do that unless you understand how the buyer buys – the detailed steps they take along the way to a purchase. You need to know a lot about each of these steps to sell effectively: what’s the buyer’s goal; what do they fear; what information do they need; how do they want to consume it…? The list goes on. A map can be really useful for plotting all of this information in one easy-to-understand tool.

Then you can design and map your own sales process to the buying experience map. We call this “buyer-responsive selling” (the same thing applies to marketing by the way). Again, the idea is to give the buyer what they want, when they want it. For example, if the buyer wants a free, easy-to-use trial at a certain point in the buying experience, give them a free, easy-to-use trial. Sounds simple, right? It’s actually not.

You have to carefully define what the buyer means when they say “easy-to-use” and then deliver a lot. One of the common mistakes we see in the SaaS business right now, is that a lot of vendors are offering free trials that are easy to sign up for, but really hard to use. That does not meet the buyer’s expectations. In fact, it fails them and grossly impacts conversion rates at that particular point in the buying experience as a result.

How should the sales team (or rep) figure out who the buyer (or buyers) are in the first place? Or does it take more work to map a broader, more complex buyer ecosystem?
A lot salespeople make the mistake of thinking that understanding the buying experience requires some type of huge research effort. In working with our clients at TOPO, we’ve found these types of projects to be counter-productive. We recommend focusing on quality over quantity. There are a few simple things sales and marketing can do to make their buyer research effective.

First, focus on the buying experience, as opposed to buyer personas. It’s important to understand who the buyer is, but it’s more important to understand how the buyer gets to a final decision.

Second, ask really good questions. Lots of people ask dumb questions like “what brand of coffee do you drink?”. We’ve identified about 40 questions that yield really insightful answers about the buying experience.

Third, talk to a handful of people who understand the buyers. Unsurprisingly, buyers are good people to talk to. But so are salespeople. In fact, we always learn a lot from smart, seasoned salespeople during our client engagements.

Scott Albro is the CEO and founder of TOPO. TOPO is a research, advisory, and consulting firm that believes in a really simple, but powerful idea – that the most important thing in business is to deliver a great buying experience. You can connect with Scott on Twitter.