How would you feel about buying a car with a best-in-class infotainment and driver-assistance tools, only to find out that four years later – when trying to sell it – that it is seriously outdated.
In order to combat this frustration and fear of product obsolescence, producers offer you over-the-air updates that upgrade your product’s software to perform new tasks and make your user experience, in general, more satisfying.
We all appreciate brands that give us more after we already purchased their products. We buy to enjoy the experience, and then come back for more. And yet, when we look at the transactions between companies, it seems that sometimes we sell to forget.
Last year, I met John, who is a marketing director in a medium-sized European company in Amsterdam. He works for an engineering company and covers most of the Northern European markets. He says that the biggest complaint voiced by his customers is that they feel disenchanted – at best, cheated – at worst.
John explains – during the purchasing phase, the client is attended – almost courted – by the experts and engineers who demonstrate the benefits and savings in the cost of ownership. Good points, data-driven, referral-proven. The deal is inked.
Then, using the actual product does not translate into entering a promised “solution-land”. Instead of assisting the client to do more in less time, the vendor’s communication is now aimed at teaching the features. The benefits will emerge later. So, the client only sees a steep learning curve, instead of value. I imagined for a moment becoming an owner of a beautiful and powerful smartphone. You open excitedly the package containing the phone only to find out on the welcome screen that now you have to create your own apps. We will teach you even our programming language for free. Let’s get started!
So, unless you are a developer, you are in for a big disappointment. John is now well aware of this snowballing frustration momentum – after all, clients already started to voice displeasure on social channels and names of competitors started to pop up. This made John monitor the sentiment of his clients more carefully and analyze possible results. He started to push for regular client review meetings, only to find out that almost 45% of the clients were considering switching to a new platform when the current contract winds up. Threat of future losses finally made John’s company listen.
It is not enough communicating the brand’s promise in a magnetic way, engaging the client, understanding his need and convincingly selling a solution. Some people think of doing deals as coffers with valuable content – locked, shipped, delivered and eventually properly applied by the client.
Things start to get challenging when we want to keep track of the value of this coffer that we sold, for the up-sell opportunity in the future. One of the problems is selecting a responsible person for this measurement and its analysis – should they come from marketing, sales, customer service, or account management?
Another problem is a lack of discipline. A recent study shows that only 56% of organizations conduct regular formal reviews with their clients. That means that in half of the cases we do not know how the client’s perception of value is changing during the existing contract.
In the end, the renewal or an up-sell offer turns up to be tragically generic, but accompanied by a stubborn hope that the value that we sold in that “coffer” two years ago is still there – somehow fresh and intact. Just listen to some salespeople before a renewal negotiation!
To change that, we need to manage what happens during the client reviews. Since we are responsible for investigating or ignoring client expectations, it’s ultimately a choice to invest in upgrading the value of our solution. Post-sell becomes pre-sell. That is how systematic analysis supports a concept of the client’s journey. Profitable to the client and to us.