Closure. Closing the deal. Completing a phase. These are all things that organizations look for. Many processes at vendors are all about closure. The MQL hand-off. The sales to customer success hand-off. We cling to the idea of clear phases and beginnings and ends. The funnel as a metaphor is about closure of “phases.”
But that is not the customer reality.
Customer relationships and interactions are continuous. And, as a vendor, we want that. We don’t want a relationship with a customer to end–unless the relationship is bad for both parties (then by all means, let it end).
The combination is challenging. Balancing closure and continuous. And metaphors, like the funnel can get in the way.
Our research shows that customers don’t care about many vendor “closures.” They don’t say, “Okay, you’ve decided we are an MQL, so we will now just interact with sales teams.” They keep using your Web site and leveraging other resources–whether the sales team recommends it or not. In fact, only ~10% of our 1464 respondents in a recent survey said they relied solely on sales teams to be their information conduit once they started working with them. Additionally, they may ignore your hand-off to customer service or success and keep asking their sales rep for help.
How can vendors deal with this (dis)continuous issue? The answers, as usual, are not black and white. But here are some ideas:
- Make sure that everyone embraces and understands the idea of Continuous Customers. They don’t care about internal hand-offs or phases. They see connections everywhere (experience with a current project impacts other buying efforts).
- Find ways to enable continuous understanding and visibility of customer behaviors.
- Don’t think of hand-offs as absolute “your problem/opportunity now” situations. We talk at Gartner about the concept of leadershift. Where employees fluidly shift into leadership roles, but stay continuously involved.
I understand that closure is important, particularly in a world of metric obsession. But embracing the reality of continuous is even more important. Move it to the forefront of your approach.
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