Conventional wisdom says sales is about a singular focus on closing the deal; the rest of the business is someone else’s responsibility.   Service and customer experience are for others: and as for feedback, well forget it: We’ll stay focused on the sale.

Whilst at the Callidus Cloud C3 conference in Las Vegas recently, I was therefore interested to read that one of the five focus areas for improving sales effectiveness identified by Accenture is improving the customer experience at each touch point.

Smart sales teams however recognise that customer experience and associated feedback are key tools for improving sales in a number of ways.

 Feedback is a great way of finding customer success case studies.  Several of our customers automatically alert marketing and sales when customers return high overall satisfaction scores so that they can request case studies or reference sites.  Favorable comments can be automatically tweeted to encourage leads.  The Accenture study suggests that customer referrals account for only 23.1% of sales leads.  Given the power of social media to amplify referrals and success stories, the techniques mentioned above can be used to drive this up.  Remember also that leads arising from referrals typically convert at a higher rate and more quickly; a value in its own right.

Even if a referral is not involved, customer feedback can be a powerful tool for the smart salesperson.  Using reviews and comments about the quality of the product, the support team or the add-value information the company provides all help convince the prospect that you are a good investment.  Smart companies make this information easy to find and use in the sales process.

Pointing out how good the company is at collecting and acting on feedback is a strong sales message of itself.  How many examples of poor service you are aware of make the news not because of poor service per se but the company’s failure to pick up and act on initial feedback?  Dave Carroll wrote ‘United break guitars’ only after numerous attempts to get United Airlines to recognize and act on his complaint.

Remember also that the sales process is an important part of the customer experience and should be measured.  In a business sale particularly, win/loss surveys have two important contributions.  First, they are a great way of understanding why the prospect did or did not buy, providing regular input into the company’s value proposition.  Good surveys show which factors are most important to customers and how well the company is doing: shorthand for key buying points and competitive differentiators.  A good salesperson will seek out this information and use it to improve their sales effectiveness.

Win/loss surveys also inform sales managers about the strengths and weaknesses of the sales process and the sales person.  I personally have seen several such surveys highlighting ineffective sales processes and, in a few cases, sales lost as a result of rude sales people or a failure to respond quickly to buyer’s questions.  Traditional pipeline metrics tell only part of the story: including feedback metrics adds the buyer’s perspective.  This feedback is also useful for effective sales coaching and, where issues are commonplace, for guiding the content of sales training programmes.

Feedback can also highlight a common sales issue – over-promising.  In an attempt to get the deal, some sales people over-promise.  Feedback further down the customer journey can highlight these issues and provide a trigger to address them.

The sales process is a customer’s first interaction with the company and will influence significantly their perspective of the company.  Efforts to upsell and cross sell are shaped by this first interaction.  Given the relative ease of selling to existing customers versus winning new ones, the first sale can be hugely influential in growing share of wallet.

Unlike most other business disciplines, customer experience involves every part of what the company does: it is a great integrator.  If they want to be successful, sales teams have to embrace and understand their role in delivering a winning customer experience and how they can exploit feedback for their advantage.