I recently had an experience that put a frictionless customer journey to top-of-mind for 2023. The purpose of this post isn't to complain about a recent interaction but rather to illustrate how easy it is for a deal to go sideways.
Here's some background information. A Red Javelin client tasked us with gathering information on contact list packages.
I started this research on a Friday, and during that research, I submitted a request for more information on Vendor X’s website. I was looking for pricing for a very standard package – hoping to score an EOY deal for the client.
After I submitted my contact info, I subsequently jumped on a 30-minute call with my staff. During that 30-minute call, I received three calls from the Vendor X rep and two emails. As soon as my call was over, a fourth call came in from Vendor X. That made four warm outbound calls within 30 minutes. I admit that I was annoyed at this point.
I picked up the call and made a very specific request for pricing. The rep said he would get back to me, but it wasn’t their policy to work with a third party – an agency. OK – I thought that was weird. They are selling contact lists; agencies should be a sales channel for them.
Over the weekend, I received another seven automated emails from the Vendor X rep, one requesting a call for tomorrow (Sunday). None of the emails contained the pricing information that I requested.
Now I have received a total of nine emails. Four phone calls. An offer to talk on Sunday. And one big rejection for basic pricing that should have been on their website in the first place. What a waste of time and energy.
I am moving on to their top competitor.
B2B sales are changing, and the buyer is in the driver’s seat. Recent surveys have shown that B2B buyers are 80% through the buying process before they speak with a sales rep. And if prospects encounter difficulties during any aspect of the buying process, they will move on to a competitor.
And after this encounter, I get it.
Let’s take a closer look at the friction generated.
- Vendor X Website – Consider putting list pricing on your website. You can still have your sales reps solution sell, but prospects want baseline pricing information.
- Gatekeeping Pricing – Reps should have basic content pieces that answer questions they can easily share. B2B buyers want context to see if their budgets match up.
- Automate Communications During Weekends– Automated workflows or sales sequences should not continue to run on weekends or during holiday shutdowns. Prospects don’t want a cluttered email box filled with sales pitches on Monday morning.
- Contact Info Abuse – I usually don’t mind giving my work email if I need a piece of information. But don’t inundate me with emails and information I didn’t request.
- Aggressive Callback – Four calls in 30 minutes is overkill.
- Ghosting – Don’t tell a prospect that you will get back to them, and then don’t.
Some friction is caused by the marketing team, and some are caused by an inexperienced sales rep. Both play a role in this but remember, it doesn't matter where the friction comes from.
Any friction affects your brand perception in the market.
What can you do to ensure a frictionless buying journey?
- Put an executive in charge of the Customer Experience (CX) – Assign an executive to own the CX. It must be someone who can work across organizations and implement programs across the company.
- Understand Each Touchpoint in the Buying Journey - There are many touchpoints in the buying journey - take the time to understand each interaction and ensure that the tools are readily available to make it a positive encounter.
- Audit your website quarterly - Scrutinize your website regularly. See which content resonates and which content is not, and fix it! Hire outside help to evaluate the ease of use. Sometimes when you are too close, it is hard to conduct an unbiased evaluation.
- Hire a B2B Mystery Shopper – Mystery shoppers are used extensively in consumer marketing and the hospitality business. Mystery shoppers pose as regular customers to gauge and report on the buying experience. As more and more of the buying process moves online, it’s time for B2B to adopt this model and report back on what is and isn’t.
- Develop a policy regarding automation – Institute policy across the board to turn off or pause automation during the weekends and holidays. During set-up, it is easy to limit automation to running only during business hours.
- Back to Basics Training – Send all customer-facing employees a refresher course on phone and email etiquette. Establish a customer-facing class that reviews the soft skills needed for customer success.
- Develop sales collateral – Sales teams need quick summary sheets to send prospects as a follow-up to each engagement. It could be as simple as list pricing or a checklist on what to look for when buying your category of products.
- Make ghosting a negative thing in your culture – Ghosting is the absence of engagement and is a form of disrespect. In some companies, ghosting is acceptable from the top down while conducting business. But people remember, and it will come back to you even if you don’t know it. For example, I recently saw a connection of mine had been laid off—great skill set, but famous for ghosting partners, vendors, and potential employees. I know of the perfect job for him, but he won’t culturally fit into an organization that values respect because of his history of ghosting. Needless to say, I won't be making that connection,
Friction = Lost Business
Friction in your buying cycle negatively affects your brand and ultimately results in lost business. How much business did you lose this year to unforeseen friction? As more of the B2B buying process moves online, it is important to regularly identify friction and fix it. Will this move to online displace your sales reps? No. But sales skill sets will need to transition from transactional to consultative.
If you need help, contact us.