“Efficient customer engagement starts with effective employee engagement. As sales leaders, you should be able to create an action-oriented organizational culture based on transparency, regular feedback, and long-term goals. The onus of creating an environment where the importance of customer engagement is spelt clearly lies on you. Employee accountability will happen only when sales leaders themselves behave accountably.” – David Snyder, President, PONO Learning
David’s statement comes as a much-needed wake-up call for sales leaders who expect their customer-facing employees to engage in proactive customer outreach without sufficiently coaching them on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the exercise.
David Snyder, President of PONO Learning, has more than 25 years of experience in managing sales teams and consulting business leaders on cultivating determined and capable employees. His expertise makes him the best subject-matter expert to answer questions pertaining to how sales leaders can hold their frontline accountable to effective customer engagement.
Here’s what we learned from our Q&A session with David-
With COVID, it’s no longer enough to be available for specific hours at a specific location for your customers. In such a situation, how can the frontline staff keep their customers engaged from within the confines of their homes?
One thing is certain - the pandemic-driven provisions are here to stay. If you want to stay connected to your customers in these uncertain times, you need to start exploring interactive ideas and avenues to create a synergy between your employees and your customers. One of the best examples of customer engagement through a unique initiative is that of Apple stores. They do a great job of conducting free sessions for their customers on how to use their products.
Now the same concept can be taken and applied to a virtual environment. As a sales leader, you can enlist the help of an employee who is extremely well-versed in technology to create visual content around your products. This exercise will provide your team with plenty of opportunities to upsell and cross sell your offerings to your existing customer base. Such campaigns and programs will restore flexibility to your customer engagement efforts and help frontline employees to be available wherever your customers are.
How can sales leaders implement an internal feedback loop so that they are regularly updated about the customers’ concerns and can change their customer engagement strategy accordingly?
An effective internal feedback system can be implemented only when you teach your frontline staff members how to give objective feedback. When the feedback is granular, factual, and broken down into actionable items, it’s easier to act on it. You have to be very tactical about how to extract this feedback from the team and need to start asking better questions. Also, how you act on this feedback and make adjustments to the customer engagement strategy is very crucial. Otherwise, the internal feedback loop can quickly turn into a futile ranting session.
Productivity and performance at the frontline depends on the coaching they receive from their leaders. What rituals can sales leaders put in place to ensure they are constantly improving their sales team?
Lack of communication from the side of the sales leader is one of the biggest contributing factors to reduction in productivity, performance, and accountability at the frontline. Based on my experience, every sales leader needs to ingrain these 5 rituals in their organizational culture:
- Be transparent with your team
- Schedule regular one-to-one discussions with your frontline employees
- Don’t overwhelm your employees with too much work at once – instead break the end goal into mini tasks so that their day is organized
- Focus on creating sustainable habits among your sales team; don’t just focus on the task at hand
- Explain the ‘why’ part of every goal that you set out for your team. Once the employees understand the ‘why’ part, figuring out the ‘how’ and ‘when’ part becomes simple
Sales leaders are often tempted to resort to high-pressure tactics to maximize short-term results and hit their number. How can leaders refrain from that behavior and create a culture of building deep, long-lasting customer relationships instead of settling for transactional relationships?
Transactional relationships with customers are obsolete. Period.
You can’t go from being a zero to a hero with last-minute promotions and pressure sales in the final quarter of the year when you know your team has fallen far behind. Sales leaders who still make their team resort to high-pressure tactics instead of asking them to focus on building long-term customer relationships are always going to be hard-pressed to meet their goals.
If you want to become a visionary sales leader, you have to do away with the short-sighted, panicked approach of blitzing your customer lists and hoping someone bites. Instead, you should start emphasizing the importance of implementing consistent tactics that improve customer engagement through your employee training sessions. You should coach your frontline employees on how to take customer communication beyond a transactional dialogue. The consistent implementation of long-term customer engagement practices will help your team build profitable and long-lasting customer relationships.