The importance of customer feedback can not be overstated in any business. Without it, how can you grow in the right direction, or maximise the productivity in what you do? For businesses that need to sell, customer feedback is absolutely vital as a part of the sales cycle. Without it your agents will be facing plenty of swiftly terminated calls and doors shut in their faces.

What, then, is the sales cycle? Well – every single sales operation has one. Quite simply, it’s the method through which a salesperson sells!  Of course, this can vary from enterprise to enterprise – a company that makes its living through cold calling people about PPI would need a different sort of salesperson to a company that sells top of the line BMWs. But regardless of the product, sales cycles have the same constituent parts.

The first is prospecting for leads – or in other words, finding people to sell to. This involves identifying who is the most likely customer to buy from you. For a business that manufactures and sells, for instance, women’s clothes, your leads will be women.  A business that sells walking canes will likely concentrate their market on the elderly. This quantifying of leads allows you to stop your agents from wasting time on leads that never really stood a chance of buying in the first place.

Once a lead is found, they are then added to the sales funnel. At the top of this funnel, the number is large, and as each stage is progressed through some customers drop out, and those that remain at the end are the ones that actually buy your product.  The form the stages take depends on the business, but you’ll reach out to the customer, find out if they are able and willing to buy your product, and then present your product or solution.  Perhaps the most important step is to next handle with any objections the customer may have, then close the sale, and last but not least try to get a referral or even a repeat sale from your lead.

Collecting feedback via SMS or email surveys about this stage, will ensure your prospecting and targeting methods and aimed correctly.

Naturally this process has a lot of factors which influence its success. A salesperson who doesn’t take no for an answer will do better than one who does. Selling face to face is more likely to lead to a successful sale than cold calling. But the most important factor which determines sales success is whether the salesperson is listening to the needs of the customer through their feedback. This feedback can come in two ways: either directly as the sales process is being run through, or afterwards in the form of feedback through surveys, complaints or enquiries. But however it comes to the salesperson, importance of customer feedback potentially gives them the opportunity to sell where they wouldn’t otherwise.

Post-sale and non-sale surveys are proven to drive conversion success rates higher in a ver short period of time.

It’s an interesting use of customer surveys – whilst many companies use them to improve customer support, at VIRTUATell we work with several market-leading companies who use our surveys to inform their sales process.

The most obvious example of the importance of customer feedback in the sales cycle is when managing objections. Managing objections is, in fact, impossible if it’s not tailored to the specific lead being sold to! One lead might think the product – let’s say for example a nice pair of blue jeans – is too expensive, since they have extra bills to pay this month. Another customer might only ever wear the finest Armani jeans, and think that the pair you’re trying to sell can’t be anywhere near as high quality, since they’re cheaper.

Both of these objections are legitimate concerns but can only be managed through listening to the customer and judging what they might think based on their personalities and potential responses. The easiest way to get this feedback is, believe it or not, the most obvious: press your lead for info on what’s making them hold out on buying ‘right here, right now’, and tailor an answer just for them. Customers appreciate when they feel listened to and are much more willing to listen to you if they believe they’re in a two way conversation, not listening to a sales pitch.

The next most important way in which a customer can influence the sales process is after the customer has been through the cycle, through giving written feedback like a review, or indeed, a complaint. Unfortunately in many companies using modern sales tactics like a formalised sales cycle, listening to customer feedback seems to stop once the sale is finalised and money has changed hands. That’s why you see a lot of businesses out there that have great sales figures and a healthy profit margin, but dozens of bad reviews – it doesn’t matter to them so long as they close that sale.

Using survey techniques such as Net Promoter or VIRTUATell’s Advocacy Index will give you a valuable “recommendation” benchmark that you can measure progress against.

But in businesses which actually respect and listen to feedback given after the fact of the sale, these reviews can have a great influence on the sales cycle, particularly in this online age. If a lot of reviews come in about how the product is completely irrelevant to them and their needs, the business can listen and adjust how they find their leads. If reviews point out how their salespeople are too pushy, management could discuss with their staff how a sales pitch can also be a two way conversation. If reviews say that the offer seemed great at first but they lost interest because the salesperson kept waffling on, then perhaps remind staff to Always Be Closing!

The take-away message from this post, then, is that feedback effects the sales cycle by improving, enhancing, and specifying the techniques a salesperson uses to sell – using customer feedback is absolutely vital to honing this process and maximising the potential of a sales team. A sales cycle can’t be implemented straight from a book, but has to be put in place, imperfect at first, and constantly improved upon. Customer feedback is how you can make those improvements.