Software companies hire User Experience (UX) pros to obsess over making their products usable and delightful. UXers merge multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical design, and product management to meet the exact needs of a customer. They fixate on every path a user might take and compose the software’s appropriate response.
Investing in UX affects a customer’s real and perceived value from the product, as well as customer satisfaction, retention, and their lifetime value to the company. As a result, the profession is expected to double the US job growth rate through 2020 (22.1% vs. 14.3%).
But, where are similar commitments to UX for a prospect’s experience, making sure the first exposure to a business is equally delightful? That attention doesn’t seem to translate to acquiring clients. In fact, most professionals with a “decision-maker” title find more delight in escaping vendors than connecting with them.
It’s easy to see why.
The relentless emails engineered to dodge your SPAM folder. Voicemails to remind you that you haven’t responded to those emails. LinkedIn friend requests that instantly devolve into elevator pitches. Faux Twitter and Facebook friends whose most thoughtful conversation starter is liking your recent posts, then pivoting to their talk track. Handfuls of mailer spam to line your recycling bin. Even tradeshow exhibitor floors are cattle chutes, corralling you through tradeshow booths just to get your breakfast!
Over time, buyers accepted this subtle harassment and inadvertently produced a backward, adversarial relationship with customers. Today’s tactics are all about the seller. Vendors are consumed with quotas instead of re-imagining the dull, and often aggressive, experiences they use to introduce their product or service. If retaining clients is won by care and attention, acquiring them is by submission.
But, fatigue has prospects tapping out from vendor interactions, altogether. Research company CEB Global concluded that 57% of the buying cycle occurs before any interaction with a vendor. This is not only because of greater transparency from the internet. It is also a response to the sales practices that bombard them every day. Think: over half of prospect’s evaluation of a business is actively avoiding it!
Unfortunately for all of us, the promise of future technologies to acquire clients only divide buyers and sellers further.
Here is first-hand experience of a salesperson’s time-saver tech driving me away from a purchase from last week:
A company recently emailed to offer me a membership. Contained in that email was a link to “sign up” for fifteen minutes on the sales rep’s calendar. I was curious, so I responded to the offer to learn more.
On that day, the rep called thirty-five minutes before our scheduled time, then followed up with an email requesting I reschedule our missed call. I called back at our originally scheduled time to no response. I resisted the urge to give up and found an alternate time that suited his calendar. He sent me a confirmation and “thank you” email shortly after that.
Two days later I received another email from that sales rep, again requesting that I sign up for an alternate time. Did he forget the email he sent me? I emailed him to remind him of our upcoming appointment, yet I received the same request again two days later.
It was only after my third outreach, explaining to the rep that his automated email campaigns and calendar were not syncing and thus sent me inappropriate meeting requests, that he apologized for my inconvenience.
It’s small but illustrates the larger issue.
The company hoped to drive greater efficiency from their sales teams by automating their prospecting emails. It worked, and I responded! But the message lost its luster after a technological fart exposed how artificial and devaluing the interactions were. It stunk, and it drove me out of the opportunity.
CEB Global’s data warns us that our profession has missed the mark. The constant, radioactive hum of marketing today demands that we think differently, and the clickbait subject lines and robo-sales experiences are asphyxiating our future customers. Buyers are seeking shelter from zombie sales folks that lurk around their professional activities. SPAM filters are getting better, and synthetic social outreach will continue to have diminishing returns as more people deploy these tactics. In short, the experience is simply too poor today to be sustainable.
We must implement UX principles into the process for a selling organization to succeed. Lose the canned emails and hollow friend requests. Instead, invest expertise into unifying your discovery channels, creating the same cohesion introducing products as when they use them. Make obvious and easy the next step the customer wants to take based on their evaluation process instead of emphasizing the next button you pray they click. And the easiest rule to start: let’s only interact with our prospects in ways that we, ourselves, find interesting and valuable.
Do you agree? Where else do you think sales need to go next to be successful?
W. K. Cash Forshee
Co-Founder & SVP, Product Management, Lucro