Do you suppose this is a quality customer engagement? “My name is Mtu Mwingine from Kampuni Nyingine Manufacturers. We are the only ones who make low-cost, robust quality refurbished TVs. We at KNM deal in used TVs sourced from all over East Africa, we refurbish them and you wouldn’t tell them from a brand new one by the way they look and work! We deal in all major brands. Buy this one!”

And the prospect would buy, if not immediately, later. He didn’t have an option. The sales person was king who knows it all. Such was the sales pitch then: a half-minute speech by the salesperson based on the one assumption that he knows and has what the market needs and it must buy.

Today, the sales person must evolve to meet the dynamic prospect via high quality customer engagements. He may have a sales pitch yes; but, purely to define his business but not to make a sale.

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What is, and why have, a quality customer engagement?

Customer engagement goes hand in hand with customer experience. How your business engages with the customer at all its touch points determines the customer’s experience, and therefore, his thoughts of it. The points of contact and steps are awareness creation (marketing), customer acquisition (sales) and customer retention (operations). Keeping these customer engagement activities spinning keeps the business spinning.

Being a sales blog, we shall limit customer engagement to the experience your prospect goes through with you during the process of acquisition. The higher the quality of engagement the higher the chances of acquisition and retention. “I remember how you were good to me, so I’ll give them another chance.” If you’ve sold long enough, you’ve been told this by an angry customer, happy about the acquisition process and so forgiving of Operations who have bungled his order.  It’s also the reason why said customer may move with you when you change employers.  

Read: Boost sales: see salespeople as points of contact not those that sell

Adapt to the Dynamic Prospect in the 21st Century

The sales pitch has come a long way since absolute monopolies ruled the world. That was when newspapers were the major advertising outlet, the Bank Manager was a demi-god and Elliot’s was the only bread.

At the time the pitch like the one above was perfect for the salesperson. The client had only two options — your product or your product.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then and institutions have evolved to respond to market needs, players within and industry have increased dramatically and customers have become so much wiser. I mean, think about it. If you are selling log book loans, for example, do you really think this pitch will stitch it?

“My name is Yet Another Salesman from Yet Another Log Book Loan Firm. We will give you loans against your logbook, up to 50% of the value of your car.  We are the only ones who do so without checking your status with CRB and you will get the loan within 24 hours. Here is my card. Call me when you need a loan.”

Read: How do I stand out in sales? Show value

quality customer engagement

The benefits of quality customer engagements

Yes, I hear you say, they will call when they have a need cause it’s a loan, and loans, sell. Maybe. But that’s not the point. He may call you but as a last resort which automatically speaks to the quality of prospect you get. Especially given you volunteered to mention that you don’t check with CRB.

He may call you because all other log book loan lending institutions have declined his application and possibly backlisted him. Around the time you pitched, he may also have been in need of a loan, so the cosmos aligned for him. But not you, when he immediately defaults and becomes a debt collector’s nightmare. But I digress. The reason you want to have a quality customer engagement is so that you are top of mind when he thinks of your product/service (acquisition) and so that retention is higher (repeat business and referrals). This is why a quality customer engagement is important.

Evolve from sales pitch to customer engagement

We are now in the 21st Century. You don’t know it all simply because you are a salesman. Last century’s pitch didn’t need salespeople but order-takers and renewal agents. The order-taker (like a cashier) did just that from the client (take an order) and submitted it to the office. He then waited for the client to call again and repeat the process.

Read: How the 21st C customer affects your selling

The renewal agent also waited to be called by the client on the renewal date of, say, car insurance, and he happily ran, not out of a sense of duty, but purely because commissions would follow. Both the order-takers and renewal agents were not pro-active and, for them, business was one thing and one thing alone: a transaction.

Relationships were unnecessary and a total waste of time. With this knowledge, institutions acted. For instance, depending on the product, putting the price and distribution outlet online meant they didn’t need the order-taker. E-commerce companies like Jumia and Amazon are examples. The sales pitch of yore has no place in today’s market place. Ask any order-taker.

Technology has replaced order takers and renewal agents

Today’s salespeople (if they are to survive) must engage with the customer.  From creating rapport to listening; making the pitch a dialogue not monologue. In fact, the more complex the B2B sale is, the more quality the customer engagement should be. From undertaking mature sales engagement of your competitive solution to holding and looking at long term vision conversations. In the case of comparatively simpler log book loans, customer engagement will ask, “What do you think of logbook loans?” for instance. A quality customer engagement will further respond appropriately to, “I don’t like them,” with, “I’m sorry to hear that. May I ask why?” A last century pitch will ignore (or not even hear) the response and quickly run to the safety, sanctuary, of the prescribed pitch.

Today’s pitch is meant solely to yield sufficient interest in the prospect to want to know more, thereby willingly opening up to a conversation that will lead to a purchase. That’s why to get his attention, make the opening about buyer.

Working knowledge increase quality customer engagements

Now then. Depending on the sophistication of product sold, you may need to have a working knowledge of the industry to create a quality customer engagement. When selling bank accounts, for instance, I used to encounter prospects who would ask questions on investments and even insurance.

It would add significant value to the conversation when it would even appear as if I have a working knowledge of these players in the financial industry. This was way before commercial banks diversified into insurance agencies and stock brokerages. The epitome of this, is moving from mere salesperson to trusted business advisor. 

Today’s sales person must morph to suit the prospect’s ever changing needs and wants. He must also move from transaction focus to relating with prospects and customers alike.  This is the essence of a quality customer engagement.

Read: Don’t sell. Help customers make purchase decisions

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