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Timing is Everything: The Next Step in Raising Your Customer Relationship IQ


As we continue through the series on how to more intelligently engage with your customer, we have covered vital areas you must address including making sure data is accessible, correct and consistent, and giving it context and meaning for the sales reps who need it.

The good news is, pretty much every company we have worked with has solved those essential elements for at least a portion of their relationships. Once. At one point.

Because customer relationships are not static, most companies have event based customer relationship intelligence. A sales team may do a detailed analysis of a single customer relationship before an upsell or the sales ops team may comb through contracts looking for a certain license structure or key upcoming dates.

But as soon as the project is over, things change. You sign a new deal or start amending old ones and all of that hard work instantly becomes stale. Soon, another project rolls around and you have to start from scratch.

This constant evolution makes it difficult for even the most sophisticated CRM or sales tool to offer intelligent insight into the current state of the customer relationship. Each time a sales rep interacts with a customer, it is possible and even probable that the parameters of the relationship have shifted. In fact, you want them to change!

The key question related to timing is, how long does it take you to understand your customer relationships as they stand today? If you have to wait too long, you will miss out on important opportunities to engage and grow your customers.

To solve this, a lot of companies look to 1) standardize the customer relationships, or 2) collect most of the key information during the contract drafting and negotiation.

Option #1 is a typically the right solution for very high volume, very low complexity deals. Think: “I’m calling AT&T and changing my cell phone plan.” Where it breaks down is in more complex B2B negotiations. IBM is not accepting your ‘standard terms’ no matter how many times you say please.

Option #2 sounds good, but in our experience it really breaks down once customer negotiations get serious. At some point, the deal team needs to negotiate on the fly with the customer and those changes don’t make it back into the data workflow. That creates gaps in the data. Closing those gaps would require controls that unnecessarily create friction in the deal process and potentially insert risk.

The ideal solution comes quickly after a deal is signed. By inserting a final check into the deal process post-signing, you can build and maintain an essential database of critical customer information. The investment in this capability will create a very significant return by enabling groups across the organization to proactively engage the customer and execute campaigns, rather than waiting for the next “event.”

Best in class companies don’t require their sales teams to wait for valuable data that has a direct impact on customer engagement. You shouldn’t either. Delays in collecting relevant customer details can delay upsell cycles and kill promising sales campaigns before they start. Because timing is everything.

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Five Keys to Making Your Sales Team Customer Relationship Intelligent. Stay tuned for our final post of this series where we’ll cover the last step in making your customer relationship intelligent: how to ensure the customer relationship trumps all.

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