Margo: 00:01 Welcome to Sales Leaders Talks brought to you by Callpage. This podcast is for sales and marketing leaders who want to lead their people to success, do more, better and faster each day. Our guests are experienced sales and marketing experts who share their secrets and strategies on everything from team coaching and leadership to marketing and sales tech solutions. Before we move forward, ask yourself this question, "Do you want to excel as a leader and help your company grow?" If your answer is yes, let's get started.
Margo: 00:02 Hi. Welcome to the Sales Leaders Talks. Today my guest is Sean Sherwin-Smith, an Operations Director from a SaaS company called Narvar. We're taking on an extremely important topic of customer retention and upselling for retail industry. In fact, 70 percent of retailers claimed their main challenge is still retention of their existing customers. And everyone knows about this shocking statistics presented in Harvard Business Review report saying it is five times more expensive to acquire a new customer instead of keeping an existing one. How to create the best possible experience for clients using technology? And what logic stands beyond customer loyalty? We will shed some light on this topic today with Sean. Let's get down to details.
Margo: 01:25 Hi, Sean.
Sean: 01:26 Hi.
Margo: 01:27 It's great to host you today on the Sales Leaders Show. I know that you have been engaging in sales, in retention, in a upselling, and basically you're working for the company that is improving lives of retailers to an extent that they can sell more products. So Sean, could you say several words about yourself, who you are, what you're doing, how did you happen to be in sales?
Sean: 01:52 Okay, so my name is Sean Sherwin-Smith. I'm currently an Operations Director for the job title is probably a little bit misleading because as well as running the operation, I also help to sell the product to carriers. So my background is associated with logistics, which I've had quite a varied journey through the career being in operation, being in sales, customer service, I've been an IT Director as well. I have gone back into operations because wanted to build the relationship with the carriers.
Margo: 02:31 So how basically did you start your journey in sales? What was your first job and how did you progress to the point that you are a director right now?
Sean: 02:41 So my journey really began in operations. I was running at the time that closed down, so the only option I had was to join the mobile customer service team and it was by almost by pure fluke it has the chance to upsell to those customers. Then I should take the opportunity to do that, so I started doing that. I'm actually found out that I could sell or have a certain affinity to sell to customers. Very quickly proved myself, got promoted to become a sales manager and then I think probably within about 12 months they decided they didn't want to keep paying me the commission anymore and moved me out to the position of the Sales Director without any commission package. So quite quickly uncovered that I have a, I suppose a natural ability to sell and I think that came through. I suppose one of the most important things about selling which is listening rather than talking.
Margo: 03:37 Yeah. Actually I read some statistics about listening ratio that says basically if you listen more to your potential customers, we want to sell something, then they are more prone to take a positive decision instead of this scenario when you are talking more, instead of giving a potential customer freedom to express themselves. So there's a lot of sense also beyond sales I guess. So Sean, could you tell about some particular features to believe sales representatives should have to progress so fast? Should they be competitive? Should they be just talented or should they be a good listeners in this respect?
Sean: 04:19 Um, I think there's a lot of value that a sales person can sit and listen to a customer. I don't think you can truly uncover the needs that the customer has if you're not listening. If you think about the more traditional sales environment where a customer will tell you what they believe the problems are, that there was usually a lot of implied needs that you'll pick up in a conversation. I think probably the best tool of sales person can have in their toolbox is silence because most people want to fill that silence. So if you're sitting in front of a customer and you let them do the talking, I want to fill the silence with as much detail as possible, which allows you to pick up on those employee needs and usually help build our solution that perhaps even the customer didn't realize they needed in the first instance.
Margo: 05:05 Okay. So this is something to consider for other sales leaders who are gonna listen to this podcast episode. Probably they will relate to your words and we'll see if it makes sense in, in their teams. So basically what I read in statistics and everyone knows about these statistics that it is five times more expensive to get new customers instead of retaining existing customers. So today we're gonna talk about retention and as you are engaged in, you are a great expert to talk to because you know the whole logic behind retention as your selling this tool for retailers. Could you say a few words about how this tool works and how it manages to solve market problems of retention for retailers?
Sean: 05:57 Yes. Narvar is a SaaS (software-as-a-service) platform. The way that we position the platform is it builds the bridge around what we call the post-purchase area, so when the customer's buying from from a website, clicks the buy button, what traditionally happens is that they'll get a notification email, and that sends them to the parcel carriers website, so you might have spent millions of euros or hundreds of thousands of euros on brand new website, building the journey to trust, to make that customer loyalty to your brand, but then if you were going to post them straight out to the carriers, breaks that whole that whole bond or the link that you have for that customer. So Narvar solution basically brings branded tracking solutions and solutions to the retailer and to the customers to help maintain and retain that loyalty around the whole post purchase journey.
Margo: 06:54 The way we understand the customer journey now in 2018 is a bit different from the way we understood it two years ago, maybe even five years ago because of previously we thought about the customer journey as a sales funnel. That it started somewhere and it ended somewhere, but right now more and more companies think about sales funnel as about a kind of a loop that doesn't end, it's like a circle. So a potential customer is becoming problem-aware, starts looking for solutions, evaluates products, makes product comparison, then takes the final decision and after that there is this time, there is very critical for every company is the time when a customer buys a solution and this retention time, this, I mean the time when he is going to enter the post purchase period. So afterwards, like after some time he's gonna buy another item or another tool. And the reason why he's gonna buy that for the second time will be determined if he was happy for the first time. Right. So how would you describe this whole process of creating the best ever customer experience in the retail industry?
Sean: 08:14 And so I think the fact that when you were buying something on a website, I think psychologically you were in a very good place. You were in a happy place, so the more transparent and the more communication that you can make to the customer without over killing the communication and make them feel that your brand is looking after their delivery rather than being pushed out to a carrier company or to the post company. It gives, that customer the feeling of confidence that you'll literally personally taking over the delivery process and looking after it and giving them the information they need to be able to see where that delivery is coming from, but also plan their life as well. So it almost makes you a lifestyle brand, your, um, you're helping them to manage their lives. So giving them the information, giving them that feeling means that they are in the happy place and while they're in the happy place, if the solution that you're using to give them that information, allows you to market to them again.
Sean: 09:26 Then there's an optimal times to get into the, I suppose, the renewal process in the sales process to actually get the customer to want to upsell, cross sell to that customer. So it's a great opportunity is using the platform. When the customer is eager to get their goods and you take that opportunity to try and upsell them, so as an example, if you bought a pair of Levi's jeans as a perfect opportunity while I'm in a happy frame of mind to try and sell me a jacket or a belt or something else or it may be an incremental sale, but he's still an additional sale and then when you go to deliver the jacket, you're putting them back. We'll try and cross it out.
Margo: 10:10 I wonder how is that possible to measure customer success in this instance? How would we know that the customer is actually satisfied with what we've delivered previously and how do we know that he's going to buy next time? Can we, do we have any tools to predict this?
Sean: 10:27 Um, yeah, so that. I think there's plenty of tools out there in the market. You have standard CRM systems that can see characteristics in buying habits of customers. I think the real power the retailers now is around the whole joining the data. So not just the CRM data but the delivery dates as well. So if you look, if you look at returns of goods that you've been to track that through individual customers and the habits of those customers to see what sort of upsell you get. Working in Narvar for example, where we've seen retailers see a 57% decrease in the time to next purchase because that retailers tracking how often the customer was buying product from them before they implemented the Narvar solution and then comparing that to a solution to be implemented. So there's some very positive numbers and figures out there. Yeah, there's a lot of data out that retailers can really dig into and finding what initiatives will drive better loyalty with customers.
Margo: 11:44 Just referring to my personal experience with the buying something online. Basically the most difficult thing for me to go over every time I purchased from one retailer I liked is that basically I can't return the items that I purchase, let's say the size doesn't fit, it's too big or too small and I want to exchange that. Unfortunately the retailer imposes some restrictive measures on me as a customer because I'd have to first, first of all, pay for the return, the second one that I'd have to take over the whole process so I have to go to the post office or to the place where I can submit this package and then pay for it and it, that actually wait until the approval and money to come back on a bank account. So in many instances it seems to be quite dissatisfying for a lot of consumers, me included. Do you think about this aspect of sales in terms of returning packages? Should something be done here from the side of retailers?
Sean: 12:53 Yeah, so I think even more so when you're looking at e-commerce retail, gaining the trust of the customer is giving them the confidence to know that there is an option to return. The return policy is a fair one and an easy one to use. Um, I think that's really important. I mean, I suppose you could say there is a lot of conflicting, there is data out there saying how much basket abandonment there is on your website if you don't have a good, clear, concise and easy return policy. Um, I think if you compare to now you will see the ones that have the most successful, usually the ones that have very good return policy and usually allow for returns. And for the retailer or for the sales department of the retailer is really picking the right solution that fits the type of product we're shipping. And I think a well-run policy definitely does help to retain customers and give them the confidence to buy or even repeat buy from you.
Margo: 14:08 So to make a return in general, it's not the wrong thing to do. Right? That's basically they should happen and customers should have this option all the time in case they need that. But if we dig deeper and try to understand what are the main reasons of those returns, is that the quality of the product is bad, or let's say the customer was dissatisfied with the time of delivery because it was too long or some other aspects? Have you ever looked into these kind of study? So this kind of reports and what you can say about this topic?
Sean: 14:47 A lot of the return culture is built... it's purely culture. If you were a consumer in Germany, you expect to buy multiple items and return a lot of them. In the UK often when you're looking at clothes shopping, the sizes are so unreliable on websites. People would buy the small, medium and the large, try them on at home and then send it back those that don't fit. It's all about the convenience really. The whole idea of e-commerce is that I don't have to go to the shop – it gets delivered to my door or to a pickup point. I can try it on at home and at my own leisure. And then the ideal scenarios, I can send back what I don't want or drop it back into a store. So with the idea of convenient shopping you're going to build that loyalty with customers.
Sean: 15:45 And I suppose the other people to think about as well as the, you know, the, the carrier companies try to deliver perfectly and you're going to get damages to get possibly get damaged going round the conveyor belts with these big hubs because you know, you've got to move stuff around the network very, very quickly. So again, it's the peace of mind is knowing that there is a problem, you can return it. When Amazon had been very, very good at giving, the option of returning is basically there's a no-questions-asked return policy. But then having said that, I've recently read that Amazon now starting to clamp down on serial returns. So people continually buy lots of products and then keep sending them back with no real valid reason for wanting to send them back which kind of leads to... especially with the social media example... going on with a mode where in the US in the UK where people were actually buying clothes simply just to take a photograph on Instagram and then send it back. It costs them nothing. It gives them endorphin rush that they can be seen wearing the clothes, but they got no intention of buying it. The danger... The returns policies and processes and platforms have good positive things. But they have to be managed.
Margo: 17:09 Yeah. Actually it makes sense that if someone orders this clothes and makes the photo on Instagram, there's basically increases awareness about the brand because more people can have a look at the photo and have a look at the brand itself. So the brand doesn't lose. So you have returned this goods and didn't pay for that. I've actually heard about another new thing in retail is some companies experiment with that and the don't make customers to pay in advance. They, uh, allow them to pay only if this item, this piece of cloth fits them so they can order that without paying the money. They can have it and pay for that afterwards and if it doesn't fit them then they don't pay and can return. That's in seven days or something like that, but the fact is that the, the credit cards to be connected to the system to, to facilitate this operation, so in fact that a lot of research stays behind this, so retailers probably researched the needs, the needs that arise on the markets and more and more customers just want this process as more convenient.
Margo: 18:23 They don't want to pay for something that stay unsure about, especially if it's the first time they buy. So just coming a little bit beyond retention and just making a step back backwards and thinking about the first purchase, which really makes the customer take this risk of the first purchase on the site. How do you think?
Sean: 18:44 Oh, I think that comes down to strong marketing. Solid pricing as well. I think if especially online, where you basically have a ten second window to catch the customers and they'd go, as you mentioned earlier, they have so much choice. We had to compare prices. You could spend a little time on a website, lots of pictures of the product that they're giving, a very good description of what the product is doing. A really great job of selling that product only then to be undersold by website that was taken very little time to market and position that product, but simply just knock the price down to even encourage you to go out and buy that. So really in the new digital age, the whole piece about building loyalty to the brand so that even if you do pay a little bit more, you're still aligning your purchase to that particular brand and you become loyal to it and that that's really key.
Sean: 19:48 So I think it's money well spent, not just in the actual initial purchase process as in focusing on how can I get you to buy this product. It's all about the us to care, and the us of the sales afterwards, the whole journey that the customer goes through. Not just once, but again and again and again and again. If you look at companies like Mcdonald's or United Parcel service or any of the big brands, you know, you walk into any Mcdonald's and you know that you're in McDonald's and you know what the menu looks like, you know what the service is going to be like when you, when you get a parcel delivered by UPS, you know that it's going to be a guy in a clean brown uniform, and he's going to be polite, courteous, and deliver your parcel nicely. So it's all of those things that give you confidence to want to shop or use that service provider or that retailer. And I think retailers need to perhaps spend a little bit less worrying about the price of the product and thinking about the service that they provide around that.
Margo: 21:02 So just to sum up all of the things that you mentioned about this whole experience that comes after the first purchase. What are the key elements of the great customer experience? Is that only tracking the time and tracking your parcel, how it travels through the system or something else? Could you just give us a short summary of key aspects?
Sean: 21:25 Okay. So you can have what we call the happy journey, which is the one where you buy the goods, you get your notification email, you track you parcel, you can see the parcel coming towards you. It gets delivered. That's the happy part. But then you also have what we call the unhappy part. So you buy the, you buy the goods, I guess since you get the notification email but then the communication stops, the parcel is got lost, nobody knows where it is. So you have to be able to communicate not just the good news, but also bad news. Um, again, there's a lot of research out there that says the consumers will often buy again from the same retailer even when they have a bad experience because the retailers actually being very proactive in realizing that it's been a problem, whether that's through discount vouchers, a customer service person calling you directly, making it a more personal experience and apologizing. So you still retain that customer.
Sean: 22:27 Whereas other retailers will try to deny it happened or turn it back when he was a customer. And you know, especially in the digital world when you have a bad experience, she just didn't come back so you don't know you both the customer that you just never see them again. I don't think it's always good to have that happy part. Just service levels and what was your reputation, but I think a lot of reputations in the new digital arena are going to be build on how quickly you can resolve an issue. All you being proactive or can you even prevent that issue happening in the first place.
Margo: 23:04 So we have taken a look at how customers of those retailers who buy you a Narvar subscription of the are feeling, but in terms of your customers and your company. So if you are selling Narvar, let's say, how do you look after your customers? How do you measure their satisfaction and how do you collect their feedback?
Sean: 23:24 Obviously we're a software platform, so we are a service provider more than a retailer. Selling style that we apply is very much more around a lean style. You could sit there and do what we call a featured on and just tell them about all the great, fantastic things that the platform can do. But we actually find that the most successful way of selling a service is by actually asking what problems we can solve and then applying the features of the platform to that problem solving process. And so once you've managed it, once you've managed to align that solution to the customer's needs, we then also build out the whole confidence piece about how we deliver that. So we have quite a documented, and you could call it a process. So we within the process we go through, we have a number of tools that we shared with the customer so that they can see the progress and they don't have to keep chasing us for updates and we have project plans with them.
Sean: 24:31 We build out the whole project, it's scoped. We actually bring in what we call a manager whose job is actually project manage the delivery of the product, so they're learning about what's going into this solution for this customer. And it's the CSM or customer success managers job often the delivery of the product to insure the customer actually gets the maximum benefit out of what we deliver to them. When we first go live with the customer will have a weekly review, we should eventually basically breaks down into quarterly business reviews or QBRs, but the customer success manager will have data that they can share with the customer, show how much benefit the solution bringing so that we then try to equate, begins to be initial return on investment. The salesperson would have used to position the actual solution.
Margo: 25:20 And last question, what would you recommend to other sales leaders to stay happy sales leaders, how to still love their jobs for the next 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, and avoiding burnout. Also basing on your own experience?
Sean: 25:37 Yeah, so I think probably the most beneficial thing that I've learned while I've been at Narvar is making sure that your sales people are fully aware of all the new products in the in the arena or area that we'll break in, especially in software and in the retail market, products change so quickly and the changing need of not just the retail or the end customer, so the consumer. I think the one, the one real value that I've seen one of being here is having that product training, continually reviewing and reviewing sales processes and go with that. Having dummy sales course with fellow salespeople, product knowledge and teamwork and one sales person is not alone. You're not alone. Salesperson, you know, you run a sales team and you either read the old successful or none of you are successful, you're only as good as the weakest link in your team. So from my perspective, yeah, I think definitely making sure that your sales team understanding the product clearly knows how to position it and you know, shared. Get the team to share their ideas on how they positioned, positioned it with customers.
Margo: 26:55 This all makes sense and everything can be applied. In fact, it depends really on the niche and where the business operates and what is the composition of the sales team. It might be bigger or smaller, might be divorce or rather, let's say homogeneous so that there's interesting what is your perspective on diversity in sales teams and also cover their perspective on sales processes, changes when the team grows. I don't know how many team members are there in your team right now.
Sean: 27:26 So in in the UK we have four sales senior sales, a couple of account execs as well. In Germany we've got 4 people out there. We have also a couple of them in France as well at the moment. So we're a fairly small team, but we have quite a significant inquiry, respectable customer base, very big brands like Levi's, Nike, Pandora, so you don't necessarily have to have a very large team to be successful.
Margo: 27:58 Yeah, definitely selling to c-suite and selling to bigger brands might be another topic for discussion, so we will go much beyond that if we engaged in that topic. Thank you, Sean, for this talk today.
Sean: 28:12 That's fine. Thanks.
Podcast moments that will matter to you: