Customer intelligence: the life of a salesperson is about to change

Seven critical elements for success

Now that the modern business world is becoming increasingly complex for sales representatives and sales managers, it's time for a new strategy. With consolidated customer data and a successful CI (Customer Intelligence) strategy, sales representatives can establish a closer connection with the customer in order to increase sales revenue. CI has quickly risen to prominence, and sales departments should adapt accordingly. This is one of the conclusions reached by Konstantinos Rigopoulos in his dissertation titled "Customer Intelligence and its Effect on Buyer-Seller Relationships in Business Markets", for which he will receive his doctorate from Nyenrode Business Universiteit on September 17 2018.

Rigopoulos chose the topic of his dissertation based on his own experience as a customer. He wondered why he was loyal to one company and not the other. His conclusion was that his favorite companies met his expectations through their highly personalized approach. These companies know him, his preferences and his considerations. As a result, a representative can close a deal, make a better offer and build a relationship with the customer that is pleasant and meaningful for both parties.

foto promotie Konstantinos Rigopoulos

Scientifically supported link

For a long time there has been doubt regarding whether CI strategies actually contribute to sales performance. With his research, Rigopoulos has scientifically shown that there is a link between the use of CI/CRM software and the sales results achieved. He additionally explains the circumstances in which this link is formed.

Different customers, different approaches

Rigopoulos uses a three-pronged sales strategy in his research, including a transactional, advisory and strategic approach.

In the transactional approach, value is only generated if the deal is closed. Success in this case depends largely on the extent to which the sales representative can get through to the customer.

The advisory sales strategy consists of a personalized approach in which knowledge about the client is a requirement. The seller must also possess good social skills, have charisma and be able to give advice that is just as valuable as the product or service.

Finally, the strategic approach calls for the largest investment in the relationship from both sides and is aimed at cultivating a strategic connection between buyer and seller. 

"Nowadays you have to use information to meet the modern customer's complex demands. This in turn enables you to achieve better results and keep the sales profession up to date – or even enhance its prestige," Rigopoulos explains.

Seven critical elements for success

The combination of sales representatives' experiences and a deep dive into the literature has resulted in seven hard requirements for success when using CI technology in B2B contact.

1. The image that the sales representative has of CI as a sales tool. In many cases, sales personnel themselves were not convinced that CI could lead to better results.
2. The support from the manufacturer when implementing CI. In many cases, this support is not efficiently monitored or included in training programs and business objectives.
3. The actual use of CI software, which is influenced by the way it is viewed and supported within the organization.
4. The sales representative's approach.
5. The reward system for sales representatives. 
6. Effectively solving serious problems for the customer.
7. Human relationships – and thus also business relationships – are based on gratitude. A feeling of gratitude can spur the customer to choose a specific provider.

Customers and gratitude

Rigopoulos's research shows that a customer's feeling of gratitude can be influenced. If the relationship with the customer is good, the sales representative can surprise the customer so that he or she will feel grateful and want to return the favor. One should not just assume that the connection with the customer will grow stronger automatically, however. Only gratitude-focused investments in the customer relationship are worthwhile in the end.

Critical Incident Resolution

The study also reveals that solving serious problems during any customer interaction is always equally effective, and therefore leads to better sales performance. "Many good, mutually beneficial relationships begin with a problem being solved. So always be sure to prioritize customers' problems, no matter how complicated they may initially seem," Rigopoulos recommends.

You can download Konstantinos Rigopoulos's here here or download the summary.

photo Konstantinos Rigopoulos