I have been fortunate to hold a number of management positions in technology businesses over the past 18 years, giving me a great insight into how different companies interact with their customers.  For the last 10 years, I have been working for 4Projects,with a large part of that time as their Sales Director. In October 2010, I moved to Washington DC to expand 4Projects operations into the North American marketplace.

Whilst it was a fantastic role and a great experience, I’m delighted to be back in the UK and back with the Leighton Group, with an equally exciting project on my hands.

Naughty Sales

I once had a colleague – who worked in the operations side of the business – that used to refer to my sales team as “naughty sales” and while this was meant very much tongue in cheek, you can see why people can have a bad perception of salespeople.

There are lots of organisations out there that view their prospective customers purely as pound signs. They will be the customers new best friend and tell them anything they want to hear through the sales process until the contract is signed and then the customer never sees or hears from them again until it is time for a contract renewal (in other words – when they want more money).

In this post-sale period, it is quite typical at this stage for the customer to be dumped with a different team of people they have never met before and who know nothing about their business to take them through an implementation of a product or deliver a service.

Ultimately, when this happens, the customer is left with a bad experience right from the offset.

I believe in a different approach…

Knowing the customers issues and needs

It is hugely important to truly understand the customers’ business needs and issues to be able to give them a solution that works for them. As a commercial team, it’s vital to understand their day to day problems, what their goals are, understand what factors affect their day to day lives – internal issues and external forces.

Questioning and listening rather than “feature dumping” are key.

The benefits of a consultative approach

We have a large, incredibly talented team of people who are experts in their field. It is important to draw upon this experience to guide the customer in what will work best for them. Often customers have little or no experience in this area but ultimately need to make the end decisions.

It’s critical that they are well advised – being guided to reach the right conclusions for them.

Change doesn’t need to be scary

Deciding to make any sort of change to the status quo can be a daunting decision for customers. “Things seem to be working OK, why change it if it isn’t broken?”, rings round the head of a decision maker with even the simplest of purchasing decisions, never mind something as complex as selecting a digital partner or gaining support for the development of a digital strategy.

Clients often don’t understand how changes can help them or why they should make them. We put a large emphasis on educating the customers in how making changes has helped others and what improvements they have seen. Clients are rightly keen to understand what the return on investment is likely to be. It’s always very satisfying to exceed ROI targets, and with it the clients expectations.

Providing a consistent point of contact

It can be incredibly frustrating for a customer to have too many points of contact through the relationship process. While it is often a necessity to have multiple people involved with the customer throughout the initial sales process and beyond, it is key for them to have someone they have built a relationship with from day one, someone they can trust. This is the job of our Client Relationship Managers.

At Leighton, we have model that works – with an agile methodology adopted across all projects with our Project Managers and Client Relationship Managers working closely together throughout a client relationship to ensure we’re always adding value and enabling the client to move their business forward.

Long term relationships

Excellent customer experience is the biggest sales tool you can have. Put simply, the more a customer enjoys working with you and the more they get out of the relationship, the more they’ll want to work with you.

A happy customer has no reason to go elsewhere and will continue to use your services, truly seeing you as a partner or extension of their own business. Leighton’s biggest client has been with us for 15 years, which speaks volumes about our approach to customer experience and it’s importance to us.