The information age is upon us, and it isn’t slowing down. Modern times call for the use of customer intelligence if one wishes to be successful in reaching customers. As the market becomes more and more competitive, and potential buyers become decreasingly loyal, sales people are going to need additional tools to reach their targets effectively. Fortunately, there is something called social media that provides heaps of current and reliable information on just about everyone… To unlock the potential of customer intelligence in sales, one simply needs to know how to gather and use it.
What is customer intelligence?
Customer intelligence is gathering and analyzing data on customers to gain useful insights with the goal of building better relationships with them. It is learning what they spend their time doing, what is most valuable to them, their interests and activities, and seeing the problems they face through their eyes. Customer intelligence is different from market intelligence in that it is much more about the human aspect of the buyer as opposed to graphs and charts on paper that depict market trends as a whole. It aims to further relationships by staying knowledgeable about your customer’s lives on both individual and collective levels.
How do I gather data to use, and what do I do with it?
Social media is a great (probably the best) avenue to find real life information on customers, as well as to start building relationships with them. To start, begin studying your target market on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Follow the pages that they do, and most importantly keep track of the topics they post about or comment on. Becoming familiar with the behaviors and interests of your customers (or potential customers) allows you to form relationships that are much more personal and trusting right off the bat. This will lead to an increase in sales over time. Here is an example of what the process might look like:
You are a representative at a financial advising firm where you talk to clients on a weekly basis about their financial circumstances and help them plan for the future. Unbeknown to you, Andy, one of your customers, is considering moving his business to a different firm for prices that are slightly lower than yours. Because you follow Andy on Twitter, you are aware that his sixteen-year-old son recently got accepted into the University of his dreams. The next time you speak with Andy, you congratulate him and ask more questions about his son. Additionally, you offer to meet Andy in the near future and go over his agenda to make sure he will be fully prepared when the tuition bills start rolling in. Andy immediately feels a more personal connection, and because of that relationship he decides to stick with your firm and keep you as his personal advisor.
Even though the above example is extremely simplified, it does represent what customer intelligence can do. Relationships with customers are most effective when you know something about the customer personally to leverage in the conversation. Being aware of what is happening in their lives, or simply the activities they are interested in, can be a powerful enzyme in the deepening of that relationship. Either way, having customer intelligence on hand when interacting with them is key.
How will customer intelligence increase sales?
Short answer: It allows for more meaningful relationships and better strategic decision making. Not only during the first interaction, but every time that same customer comes back.
Because this approach begins to focus more time and resources on the quality of sales versus the quantity alone (what a traditional selling style would teach you), it is understandable that there would be hesitations from some people. It’s a tough predicament on the surface. Why spend unnecessary time investing in a current customer when you could be attaining a new one? While attaining new customers is certainly not to be disregarded, it probably shouldn’t be the only priority of any sales-based business. What types of businesses should focus especially on fostering relationships using customer intelligence?
- If repeat business is important to their success and growth
- Businesses that wish to be around for a long time
- Firms that value providing the customer with what they really need
- Businesses that operate in an especially competitive or saturated market
It is important to note that this type of qualitative approach ultimately leads to a quantitative sales increases as well. Investing more time in your clients through the gathering and implementing of customer intelligence results in your company being the trusted, go-to brand in that field. You have a relational leg-up over your competitors, and this is possibly the most valuable type of advantage to have. Why? Because it is much harder for a customer to find reasons to break off a relationship with a warm, personal aspect to it than it is for them to do the same with a more impersonal dynamic. This means customer loyalty. Customer loyalty means more personal references and recommendations, in addition to repeat business. All of these mean more sales, and as we know, more sales can hardly lead to anything but a positive outcome.
Integrating customer intelligence into sales strategies doesn’t have to be an extensive remodeling of the entire selling process. Setting aside a little bit of time every day to interact with and observe your audience on social media has potential to make a meaningful difference. There are also some great digital selling tools out there to make doing exactly that much easier and more effective. Even though the internet has found its way into almost every aspect of daily life, our basic human need for meaningful relationships hasn’t diminished. When online resources are utilized to fulfill that need, a powerful tool for reaching people is created. Start considering ways you can further utilize customer intelligence in your own sales efforts.