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As the modern business world is becoming increasingly customer-centric, companies are striving to learn as much as they can about their sales leads’ preferences and needs in order to provide the best service possible.

The most effective businesses gather information throughout the entire buying journey, tracking their prospects’ engagement and interaction at each stage of the sales cycle. This way, they can tailor sales and marketing strategies to match consumer preferences, target content to generate leads, and close more deals by understanding customer needs and pain points.

Although the buying journey is not as straightforward as it once was, technological advances such as CRM and data analysis tools allow companies to collect and analyse consumer data faster than ever before.

 

Knowing Your Customers Before They’re Your Customers

According to Salesforce’s 2017 Connected Shoppers Report, 79% of consumers research products prior to making a purchase in-store, and 85% do so for online purchases. This suggests that a large part of the buyer journey is already complete before the customer ever reaches your sales team.

However, it doesn’t mean that leads aren’t already engaging with your company from the start: much of this research is done through company websites, apps, social media, and a variety of other online channels. All of this interaction can be tracked and logged by your CRM, providing you with better insights into what your sales leads want and need.

 

The following tips will help you learn more about your potential customers and use that information to improve the customer experience:

 

Start with the basics and gather demographic data

The times may be changing, but that’s no reason to turn our backs on an old standby. Sales and marketing teams have long been using demographic data to target certain groups, locate the best opportunities, and develop effective strategies. This is step one in providing your customers with a more personalised experience.

In fact, Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report shows that 63% of millennials are prepared to share their data with companies in exchange for personalised offers and discounts. Demographic data can be gathered using questionnaires tied to downloads or information requests, analytics that track website visitors, and online research, such as public records.

 

Don’t limit your focus. Use cross-channel analytics

The Connected Shoppers Report also shows that consumers make service requests using wide variety of sources: while the top three channels are websites (52%), email (45%), and the phone (39%), a significant percentage of respondents also cited their use of everything from social media to video chat.

Customer service is just one of many ways that consumers now approach the buying journey across multiple channels. You can learn a lot about your prospects’ interests, needs, and motivations by tracking which web pages they visit, what referral source led them to you, how they interact on social media, and what kind of information they’re downloading.

It is important to use software that integrates cross-channel insights, rather than siloed systems that focus on one individual channel at a time. A good marketing automation system can collect all of that information and more, providing you with a 360 view of your prospects.

 

Use real-time data to give prospects what they need, when they need it

A Salesforce study shows that top employers are 3.9 times more likely to have over 80% of their company’s data available for users to make decisions in real time or near real-time. This is likely due to the fact that timing and context are major factors when it comes to decision making.

Real time analytics will show you customer behaviours as they are happening, enabling you to better anticipate their needs and provide a highly individualised service. For example, if you see that a certain lead is researching how to repair a broken boiler, it might be the perfect time to send information about your company’s high quality space heaters.

 

Continue Tracking their Progression After Contact

Once a sales lead contacts your company about a purchase, you might start feeling like your job is done. That is not the case: in order to make the sale and build lasting relationships, companies need an understanding of their customers that extends all the way through the end of the sales cycle and beyond.

That understanding can be achieved by tracking the user journey and continuing to gather data, ensuring that it’s shared across teams, and honing in on the most useful insights:

 

Continue gathering new data, but take note of existing insights

The first thing any sales rep should do when communicating with customers is to review the information gathered up to that point, and use it to tailor correspondence to their individual needs. Once a sales lead turns into an opportunity, demographic, cross-channel, and real time insights will still be useful to tell you when and how to stay in touch.

As new information is collected, make sure to consider it in the context of existing data. For example, you would respond differently to a customer who has frequently researched how to solve a specific problem, than to one who hasn’t. Continuing to collect customer data will be just as useful as tracking sales activities.

 

Integrate company data across teams

A 2016 Salesforce survey shows that 78% of service teams view every employee as an agent of customer service. Strong customer relations require a company to operate as a unified front, which means that members of different teams need access to comprehensive information about your customers.

Your marketing automation, CRM, and other data analysis tools should be integrated such that a complete overview of customer data is available in one place – and in real time. This will help ensure a consistent customer experience and make it easier to build lasting relationships.

 

Fine-tune opportunity tracking criteria

Once your opportunities are logged on your CRM, it’s important to ensure you’re tracking all of the relevant information. Here, you can track an opportunity’s location in the sales cycle, the type of opportunity at hand, points of contact, and a number of other factors. At this stage, it is crucial to take a close look at how you can adapt the criteria and metrics to match your company’s particular sales process and needs.  

 

Understanding Your Customers for a More Effective Sales Cycle

Data analysis tools and CRM can help companies gain more insight into their customers than ever before. Gathering and analysing demographic, behavioural, and real time data will help your company develop the most effective strategies for building strong customer relationships, provide a top-notch customer experience, and maximise your selling power.

 

This post is part of our Navigating the Sales Cycle series. Download the e-book and discover the 7 steps to sales success