3 Tips to Balance Sales Targets and Customer Experience

CRM projects are initiated by forward thinking companies for many reasons. Some initiate CRM implementation projects so they can increase revenue by better understanding their customers, some so they can gain insight into target market segments and some to optimize their business performance. The core of customer relationship management is:
  • The ability to increase revenue through the differentiation of products and services. 
  • Decrease the cost of sales, marketing and service by increasing the execution of these areas. 
  • Build customer loyalty by enhancing and improving the customer’s overall experience.
However, for myriad reasons, the goals of customer relationship management and customer centricity are not always achieved. While a customer centric approach may be what management desires, this does not always translate to the salespeople, they are often under the impression that the goal is to close sales at all costs.

Customer centricity and sales goals do not, however, have to be disproportionate. Customers buy products and services which fill a specific need, and that need must be central to each sale the company makes. By recognizing and capitalizing on these needs companies develop brand loyalty. However, if the sales force does not recognize or circumvents these needs in a desire to close a sale, the relationship with the customer is not established. It is this lack of relationship that can and will damage a company’s desire to become truly customer-centric.

Managing the balance between sales goals and customer-centricity through CRM best practices

1. Understand the needs of the customer
The sales force must optimize the experience of the customer, developing strategic account plans across all departments based on quantitative goals that can be evaluated against company goals. The sales force must be able to assist the customer in determining their exact needs and the exact product that will fulfill those needs. By understanding the customers’ needs they are also in an improved position to cross sell their company’s products. The sales force must also have the ability to adjust their account plan according to changing customer needs. Adjustment of the account plan, while continuing to support the quantitative goals set, will enable them to enhance the customer experience by providing differentiated products and services.

2. Communicate with the sales force effectively
Management must become effective communicators, reducing the “push to profit” with the “push to return.” While the sales force may believe they are accomplishing the corporate goals with each sale they close, if the sale is limited to a single time, then the return on that customer to the company is reduced. The sales force must be convinced and comprehend that a long term customer relationship provides greater value, or return, to the company than a single sale. Many companies opt for an outside trainer or the use of an internal training staff to communicate the company policy. While this type of training scenario can be effective, it remains critical that top management support and communicate their desire for customer centricity at all times.

3. Reward the desired behavior
While every company determines their compensation mix for their particular sales force, compensation can be both the carrot and the stick. In a straight commission environment the sales force may negate the company’s desire to become customer centric. This singular compensation may result in the sales force being focused on reaching their identifiable financial goals or quotas. This self-directed focus will often supersede the goals and desires of the company. Rewarding the desired behaviour can take multiple forms:
  • Reward employees that are named in customer surveys or specifically mentioned in customer feedback.
  • Recognize the people behind the sales force, that may not have direct customer contact but that support those who do.
  • Allow employees to recognize each other’s outstanding performance for customer-centric behaviour.
  • Align the rewards with the corporate goals.
Management needs to recognize that not all rewards must be financial – gift certificates, additional time off, even simple recognition among peers can have lasting benefit in driving customer-centric behavior.

In a nut shell
Companies who choose not to practice customer-centricity will eventually see a negative impact on their overall corporate performance. They will begin to see-
  • Increased customer churn 
  • Decreased customer satisfaction 
  • High turnover of the employee base 
  • Rising costs of doing business 
A company can never underestimate the impact of customer satisfaction and it is only through a culture of customer-centricity that progressively generates a positive experience that this importance will rise to the top. A effective CRM software solution and high impact implementation can prove critical in achieving this.