In the Age of the Customer, the Great Equalizers are Technology, Mobility and the Internet

“It’s not about the product, it’s about the customer experience and the people,” said Salesforce.com’s Tiffani Bova to a crowd gathered earlier this month for the closing keynote at the CompTIA ChannelCon 2016 Vendor Summit.

“We think we know what we are capable of doing and we think we know the customer experience but we don’t,” she said.

To be able to win in what she refers to as the “age of the customer,” Bova told the audience that you have to connect to customers in a whole new way, and that everything you need to succeed is here – technology, mobility and the Internet, which she calls the great equalizers.

One of the key takeaways from her closing keynote session was the need for partner-to-partner collaboration in building a high-performance sales organization. “It’s about taking a moment, sitting back and re-imaging the sales process,” she said. “Technology gives us the capability to make partner-to-partner collaboration happen, and through it, partners will increase their ability to successfully compete.”

Bova also advised attendees that the customer profile has changed and that they must think of the customer in broader terms. She said, “The customer is the ‘true north’ to everything we should be doing, product capabilities and partner enablement are all being driven by the customer experiences that are now shared.”

She also pointed out that the customer has more power than ever before – again, thanks to technology, mobility and the Internet. These innovations are changing the way products are purchased, and more and more customers are leveraging social channels to share their experiences, reach out to other customers and do their own research even before they call the vendor.

As such, today’s companies must adapt to this new reality. Customers expect a unified and relevant experience when working with their vendors and their vendor’s partners and it is becoming increasingly important that everyone – from sales to marketing to customer service – remain on the same page. The goal of any sales organization should be to move toward close alignment across the board.

Bova also told attendees, “It’s not who owns what, instead it’s about finding better ways to serve your customers.” To establish a “customer-centric” culture, companies need to start from the “outside-in” and redefine relationships, influence and engagement, she said.

Sales leaders must make a decision to either be rigorous or flexible in their sales, she said, and there are four paths for today’s sales organizations:

  1. Process Driven. This includes a defined series of steps, maximizes the use of tools, and is more science than art.
  2. Productivity Driven. This approach uses metrics to drive behavior, is all about numbers, volume trumps value and results are proportionate.
  3. Sales Driven. The pipeline is king in this scenario. focus is on the short-term, roles are well-defined and success is results based.
  4. Customer Driven. This approach leads to advocacy, is contextual and connected.

Bova closed the session with a slide that said, “In the future, customer driving sales organizations will completely reset value and meaningful engagement with customers.”

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Suzanne Collier is with WhiteFox Marketing Inc.