Responding to customers sounds like one of the simpler components of a salesperson’s job, but there are actually many different factors that contribute to a rep’s ability to do it well. It’s not just about placating your customers; practicing proper responsiveness can help move your prospects through the sales cycle faster and improve the overall customer experience.
Be obsessive about organization
There’s a French term in the world of professional cooking called “mise-en-place.” Literally translated it means “putting into place,” and professional chefs use it to denote that they have all of their ingredients and equipment on hand for when they are ready to cook. That way, if something happens quickly, such as a dish about to burn, they don’t have to go scurrying for a solution and can respond instantly.
The same concept can apply in B2B sales. The more organized you are before an issue arises, the better equipped you’ll be to respond to it quickly and substantively. This includes having all of your data entry up to date and keeping your customer information segmented and easy to find.
Interact frequently at the top of the sales funnel
Of course B2B buyers need salespeople throughout their entire journey, but many salespeople underestimate the impact that they can have near the top of the buying funnel. This is the part of the process where buyers need a lot of information in order to make their decision, and they need it quickly. The faster you can be there to deliver value-added content and help them get what they need in order to proceed, the more likely it is they’ll come to view you as an integral resource they can trust. This can also help improve your sales and marketing alignment, which studies show can increase annual revenue growth by up to 20%.
Set aside dedicated time for correspondence
The daily to-do list for any B2B salesperson can look strikingly daunting at the beginning of every day: make cold calls, prospect through digital and social channels, prepare sales collateral and contracts, perform customer research, CRM data entry, completing coaching and professional development tasks, checking on the status of current accounts, and on and on. It’s understandable to feel like there isn’t enough time to engage in prospect correspondence, but it doesn’t make it any less necessary. Set aside a designated time in your schedule to focus only on responding to clients. Make it earlier in the day if possible so it won’t get pushed to another day when you are too busy.
Always keep learning and demonstrate your expertise
Making a commitment to responsiveness also means making a commitment to continual education — about both your customers, and your own company and industry. Responding quickly and accurately requires a certain level of expertise with the subject matter in question, and the more you know, the more reliably you’ll be able to accomplish this.
In a Harvard Business Review survey of 200 B2B buyers, 39% indicated that they were dissatisfied with the level of expertise about their industry or company shown by their salesperson. It’s clear that when customers have questions during the process they want fast answers that are right the first time. If you aren’t there to deliver them, they’ll start looking for someone who can.
Listen to what your customer is saying
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: you leave a detailed voicemail for a friend or family member, asking them to locate some helpful information. Then you receive a return call a bit later asking what you need. You ask, “Did you listen to my voicemail?” And they reply, “No, I just saw you called and wanted to get back to you as soon as I could.” It’s a gesture that’s nice on the surface, but now you have to explain the situation again and wait longer for them to locate what you need.
When you respond to a customer you need to understand specifically what they need, and you can only achieve this through listening or reading closely. If you reply quickly but don’t have what they were hoping for, it isn’t really a substantive response at all.
Prioritize and ask for help
Whether you’re a responsive salesperson or not really comes down to whether or not you prioritize responsiveness appropriately. If you train yourself to make it a habit then it will naturally become an important part of your regular schedule. Responding to clients is a vital responsibility — when they are working on developing a relationship with you they want to hear from you. If you need to prioritize client responsiveness over something else, don’t be too proud to ask your colleagues or sales leaders for help, and be prepared to reciprocate when they need to do the same.