Ask people what they mean by customer experience, and you’ll get at least one answer per person you ask.
Like with digital transformation, I have spent a lot of time thinking about using “a customer experience perspective” as a way to drive sales pipeline.
I have recently written a post about Credit Card Fraud and it is exactly the sort of sales motion that can be used to drive pipeline because it tells a customer story (rather than a vendor-product story). I wrote that post with this meta-post in mind.
At CA I had responsibility for vertical solutions for the API product team (essentially defining how we go to market in different verticals) and for growing pipeline generation through presales for CA Agile Central. I successfully used this technique in both roles.
Purpose of using a Customer Experience Voice
I’m going to use an old product I used to work with to make a simple point. The product was called SOAPstation. It would connect into “any” back-end system: SAP, Salesforce, any SQL database, others, and convert the prioprietary interface into a SOAP interface (which is a general XML pre-REST API, making it simpler to access data from the source).
Keep in mind that we’re all busy. I want to communicate something to a busy, distracted audience. The best way to do that is in their language.
Using my example above, I could present the product and talk about each of the back-end systems, my product’s features, and examples for my product’s use. Or…
I could focus on one – say SAP. And talk only about SAP integration, examples, and so on. By focusing only on SAP, I could then get deeper into the impact I could have on the customer’s business, the problems they likely have, and how we could solve them (better than any of our competitors). Doing so would enable me to have a much better “conversation” with my audience, because we’re talking about their situation, their problems, and their business. And, doing so, I’m developing a voice as an authority that can help them (or in a leadership role, I’m enabling my team to become that authority about something specific that my customers care about).
The former is powerful. My product has all these features and capabilities. It’s flexible. It shows my team has experience with all these different environments. But it’s too general to be useful to any specific audience member (or any project) without the prospect putting thought into connecting what I’ve told them with what they know about their situation.
I’m asking them to do work, in order for me to sell something. That seems rude.
However, each person in the audience with a project* probably only has one or two data environments. If you’re running Salesforce and I’m taking about SAP, you’re probably checking email instead of thinking “hey, they’re talking about SAP but they probably can do the same thing with Salesforce.”
If I support 10 data sources (or broadly, 10 features to my product), and insist on talking about them all, but each person in the audience only has one or two in their projects (or only cares about a subset of all my features), I’m wasting between 50%-90% of their time while I talk about the things they don’t care about.
That’s inefficient. And, again, it’s rude.
What I really want to do is talk in the customer’s language about the customer’s problem, and then tell them where I can help them (using my product).
Our marketing team had already used the phrase “sales plays” for broad campaigns to take our solutions to market, so we coined the term “sales motion.”
The purpose of a sales motion is to define a specific situation in which our product can add value, and then provide all the tools necessary mapped into the sales cycle so that we can talk to a specific customer need. I’m trying to avoid the phrase ‘use case’ to define this because I suspect ‘use case’ is a loaded phrase, and I’m not sure all the associated meaning it carries is relevant to the use of a sales motion.
A sales motion can be about anything. It can be a vertical solution, but it can also be “just” something that the customer often does that makes for a good opportunity.
A sales motion might be produced by marketing, but it’s created by Presales — the people with the actual customer or industry expertise for which they have (or wish to have) developed authority.
An example of a non-vertical solution is in a situation where we had landed with Agile Central to help a development team “be agile”… the sales motion was to look for an SAP project within the organization to expand our footprint. There are some unique values we can provide in such a situation, which enable us to sell from a differentiated (more powerful) selling position.
You really should read my post on Credit Card Fraud. I didn’t really talk about technology in that post… but there are a bunch of technologies that could use my post as a way to present compelling value towards a customer project based upon gaps in their customers’ experience (based on my personal anecdote):
- Artificial Intelligence
- Data Lakes
- Complex Event Processing
- Mobile Notifications / Integration Middleware
- App Development
- Security / Identity
- Process Automation
In my post I talk about business drivers around credit card fraud, a lens through which the business looks at credit card customer acquisition, the jobs the bank’s customers hire the bank to do when it comes to credit card use/fraud, and other jobs the bank has internally to the bank (including addressing behavioral changes that come from the shift to digital payments/wallets).
It’s a rich example, but there are challenges to going in deep on a sales motion.
At CA marketing people would at times talk in terms of payload. Trying to make the most of few resources, each marketing resource needed to reach the broadest audience possible. Using my example above, that means if I talk about the importance of SOAP APIs for SAP data I have to let every data source owner know that I support their source as well (high payload)… rather than have to create 10 pieces of collateral, each for a specific audience (each with a low payload).
One could imagine that once this is done for credit card fraud, sales people would expect it for other areas of banking and wait/complain until it was developed for each individual bank use case. That could cause marketing to just use the same message with different words for other areas of banking, which waters down the result. An important part of doing this is doing what’s meaningful and saying no to what’s not.
One of my favorite examples on that last point has to do with the mobile platform wars. As an API team, data is data and an interface is an interface. In healthcare, getting data from a patient record system to a mobile device should be simple and platform agnostic. However, Apple has a huge push into healthcare with their Health App (and an associated news cycle to go along with it). It’s too easy to want to include an Android solution in any messaging… and maybe eventually you should. But to start, considering the momentum and awareness Apple has, it’s enough to just focus a sales motion on Apple’s solution to the exclusion of Android (and my point of view on this is controversial for traditional enterprise software thinkers).
Worse, marketing might find language to try to abstract the problem up. Using my example above… “use AI for KYC to reduce credit card fraud” could be a bullet. Yeah, but if that’s one bullet among ten, my point stands.
A second challenge has to do with sales. Especially around vertical solutions.
What do we do in banking?
Well, banking’s a pretty big space. There’s consumer banking. Commercial banking. Investment banking. Within those there’s sub-areas like credit cards, core banking, market-data distribution, compliance, and so on.
If I come up with a sales motion, as I have, around credit card fraud… that may do nothing for sales efforts into any other bank area. Which means, sales can’t just throw that motion against a bank (as they could with a broad message, like “API Security” or “Be Agile”) – sales has to be more deliberate and go after solving the problem of credit card fraud to the exclusion of other areas.
In fact, it’s not really to the exclusion because what it really means is that you just don’t have a vertical sales motion for other areas, you still have all the generic marketing materials, use cases, etc that you’d always have.
I’ve written a lot of these sorts of things. Dissecting business from the perspective of how technology can be used to improve the customer experience. Which reminds me of a funny story (it always comes back to that funny personal story, doesn’t it?).
After my car was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, my insurance company was great. They were communication kings… until they weren’t.
When I picked up my check for the claim, I talked to the people about it… and it turns out that while I wasn’t supposed to be able to cancel my policy after a claim was filed but before the claim was closed, I could. And I did (to save a pro-rated amount on my premium). While I was allowed to close the policy though I shouldn’t have been, some part of the business process knew… and stopped communicating with me.
I was literally documenting their business process while picking up a claim reimbursement. (I do stuff like that a lot… and often get asked to move from behind the counter at retail establishments, when I talk to cashiers about how their Point of Sale / Inventory Systems work.)
I think we see the results of technology all around us. And, if we pull on the thread of what we see, we can explore where the technology fails the customer process… and we can use what we learn to communicate value instead of solely focusing on features/functions of a product.
Doing so gets us closer to our customers, sets us up for success, and helps Presales develop authority around topics that make customers desire to build a relationship rather than just execute a transaction.
* I’m trying to exclude high-level executives, for whom have a Swiss-army knife tool could be useful across projects — remember, today, projects are smaller and more tactical than perhaps 10 years ago. People buy to solve a specific problem then aggregate up, rather than making a big investment in a product, and pushing it down to project teams as they used to.