Mass culture often depicts a successful sales representative as someone who can sell absolutely anything to anyone suggesting that the main skill is to convince a customer to buy something even if it’s unnecessary.
While this approach may bring immediate profit, an organization that purchases a product or solution without ever planning to use it is unlikely to come back for more. As such, vendors that want to build long-term relationships with customers need to take a more strategic approach than just pushing products. To be considered a true industry expert, they must offer a product that has clear benefits over competitors in the market.
Why symbiotic relationships are beneficial for both the vendor and customer
A survey of B2B customers revealed that customers who strongly agree that their vendor is a trusted adviser are two and a half times more likely to say that they are “extremely likely” to repurchase the company’s products or services. They are also more inclined to recommend these products and services to their peers.
Increased revenue, however, is not the only advantage of trusted relationships. Another benefit is that customers can more easily express their needs to vendors and reveal trends in their business segments. For example, they can update companies about the rise of emerging tech within their industry, or about upcoming changes in regulations. If services or products from competitors are in place, customers will also often share their experience of using these solutions.
This allows vendors to recommend the best way for customers to respond to specific challenges based on their vast expertise. Companies can even add new features to existing solutions on request, which in some cases are relevant for the whole industry and subsequently made available for other customers in new updates.
To help vendors communicate effectively with clients, we have developed several rules to follow based on our sales experience:
Identify all relevant stakeholders, and formulate the right arguments for every group
In business organizations, there are usually several teams involved in the purchasing process, so the solutions in a company’s portfolio should fulfill the needs of different groups.
Conflicts may arise, however, when one department (IT) has to carry out tasks at the request of another one (IT security). In the case of conflicting interests, we recommend that vendors do not interfere in internal matters, but instead are ready to respond to all questions and give fair answers.
In addition, employees with various backgrounds and levels of seniority take part in the purchase process. The vendor should therefore put forward the most relevant representatives when communicating with these different roles in a client organization. They should have appropriate skills and knowledge to instill a sense of trust with each person on the customer side.
It is also important to note that organizational structure and scope of work within certain departments or roles may vary in different organizations. For example, the cybersecurity function can be a part of the IT remit. As a result, the communication strategy should be amended for each client.
Fine-tune customer tasks and let them try before they buy
A common situation arises when customers see that some processes in their organization needs to be improved, but they don’t know how to do it. In these scenarios, they tend to ask vendors about buzzwords they pick up in the news through analyst reports or at industry events.
What does this mean for the sales team? First, it is important to first clarify what problem the customer wants to solve. This ensures that they won’t be disappointed with the purchase.
Secondly, a pilot project is also a good way to avoid frustration after buying a new solution. Before any demo, the customer and vendor should set measurable goals they would like to achieve. This way, if the project doesn’t meet expectations, a vendor’s representatives will know exactly what went wrong and can amend its offering accordingly. This strategy increases customer loyalty as they see that the company is focused on solving their tasks, instead of just selling the most expensive solution from its portfolio.
Stay in touch after the deal
Communication with a customer doesn’t end after the purchase. It’s important to stay in contact so as to not be unware of evolving needs. In cybersecurity, this can happen due to many reasons including new types of threats, compliance requirements, business expansion, etc.
But how can you find a balance and keep in regular contact with customers without being annoying? This is partly a natural skill and tact, but it also needs to be paired with a clear communication strategy. As a result of first-hand best practices, we hold short, one-hour meetings with customers on an annual basis. At these events, we briefly describe how our product portfolio will develop in the year ahead. This allows us to gently remind customers about all the solutions we provide so they are better able to map their business strategies against our product plans.
In short, it’s completely ineffective to insistently pitch security solutions for point of sale systems to those who don’t have them. However, when clients decide to open a new retail subdivision or acquire a new business – which can be rather unpredictable – they know that they need to protect underlying systems and who can help them with that.
Building trusted relationships with customers requires a skilled, knowledgeable and expert sales team, as well as input from those in other key ‘behind the scenes’ roles as they can influence a purchase. However, as it is mainly sales representatives who interact directly with customers, they are often the face of the vendor and their actions will impact the perception of the company as a whole.
To build a successful relationship with customers, it comes down to some simple rules: a salesperson should not come armed with unnecessary information or push irrelevant products in pursuit of quick wins. Instead, they should always be short and informative. By following this approach and not pushing sales representatives to only recommend the costliest solution, the business can achieve significant results in the long term.
Alexander Moiseev is the Chief Business Officer of Kaspersky, responsible for sales strategy and marketing globally. Prior to this role, Alexander was Kaspersky’s Chief Sales Officer, where he led global sales and new business development.@Alex__Moiseev, @Kaspersky
Trust stock photo by Stuart Miles/Shutterstock