5 Things Flying First Class Taught Me About B2B Sales Experiences
You communicate through two types of information during every sales interaction:
Most of us have our facts down cold. You can talk features and benefits all day. On the flip side, many of us are unaware of the feelings we communicate.
That's because communication isn't what you say. It's what your buyers hear. And buyers hear a whole lot more than what you say out loud.
A First Class Experience
I'm starting this post somewhere over the Atlantic. My wife and I are vacationing in Portugal, and when I checked us in, I saw a first class upgrade. For $260 / ticket.
It was a crazy good deal, so here we are. Flying in luxury.
We're no strangers to travel, but neither of us had flown first class before. We've survived on Southwest Wanna Get Away fares. Which means I'm used to that frazzled, selfish scramble for carryon space, and trying to balance a drink and laptop on a 10-inch tray.
I knew first class would be different. The upgrade page told me so. Roomier seats. Hot food. I expected these things. What I didn't expect is how I'm feeling.
Like I don't want this flight to end.
All feelings I don't typically associate with travel. That's no accident, either. It's the result of a thoughtful experience designed to communicate:
You're important. You deserve this.
Call me a nerd, but I'm fascinated by how our experiences as consumers (think airlines, Netflix, Amazon, etc.) set our expectations in B2B settings. So this flight got me thinking:
1. What should you ensure your buyers feel?
2. How do you design a sales experience that communicates through those feelings?
Your Buyer's (Emotional) Journey
Here’s a visual of your buyer's emotional journey, and below it, I’ll break down five steps you can follow this week to begin communicating through feelings, in addition to facts.
1) Begin With the Emotion in Mind
This travel experience has given me one overaching feeling: I deserve this.
Did I need to eat filet for dinner? No, but I deserve more than stale, uninspired economy calories! Did I need to eat with literal **silverware? **No, but I deserve the weight and shine of silver!
So what's the feeling you should aim for in your sales process?
Confidence. Buyer confidence is the emotion that’s most closely correlated with closed-won sales. When buyers feel confident, close rates jump by 3.6X.
In more specific moments, the most helpful emotion for a buyer will vary. So while you've heard the advice, "begin with the end in mind," it's even better to start by asking:
How do I want my buyer to feel after this meeting / call / email?
That's because feelings are sticky. People remember how you make them feel far longer than the facts you share. So don't leave emotions to chance. Plan them. Just like you’d research your facts.
2. Surprise and Delight in the First Minute
After we boarded, a smiling flight attendant called me by name, and brought me whiskey, mixed nuts, and a warm towel to relax with. From that moment on, I knew we were in for a good time.
In sales, you already know you're not **selling to businesses. You're selling to humans, who get bored, overwhelmed, lonely, and apathetic — just like you.
That's why you need to make sure buyers feel surprise and delight from the first minute of your meeting. For example, I've...
- Hosted a debate on whether or not a burrito is a sandwich.
- Streamed Justin Bieber's latest album as people logged into Zoom.
- Set a looping video of me walking into the room as my background.
...all based on what I could knew about my buyer, to break up the monotony of their workday.
When you do this, you create the expectation your meetings are something to look forward to.
That's particularly important if you're selling enterprise, which means lots of meetings. You need buyers looking for a reason to follow up with you. To bring others with. Not reasons to duck meetings.
(Of course, there's nuance here. If you eat 10 minutes of a 20 minute call with an executive, there's no delight in that. Generally, think about a 1 - 2 minute experience.)
3. Guard Against the Inevitable Dip
Ten hours is a long flight. There's a point when cabin fever sets in, even in first class. The attendants knew when we'd hit our low point, and they were ready with dark chocolate and refreshing facial mist.
There's an inevitable dip in your buyer's journey, too. You can spot it by looking at your funnel data.
Assuming your deal stages are well-defined, look for your lowest stage-to-stage conversation rate. Maybe it's when a security review starts. Or as soon as a demo, when your buyer hears pricing.
For one of my past sales team, our dip was so deep that only 13% of deals closed when the prospect didn't schedule a second meeting after the demo. But when we did get that second meeting, 47% closed. After we spotted this, we started asking our prospects:
Based on what you’ve seen, on a scale of 1 - 10, how excited do you feel about working together?
This way, we stepped in before the dip. We didn’t leave them to troubleshoot internal doubts alone.
4. Make Champions Look Good in Critical Moments
There was a point toward the end our flight when my wife was beaming, staring at me. "You're so good to me," she said. And that is why I'll always look at that upgrade option. Because when we fly first class, I'm not just Nate.
I become Nate, the proud, loving husband who makes his wife smile.
Your buyers have a personal vision for who they want to become, too. Maybe they want to be seen as intelligent. Someone with prescient insight about the future of their industry. Maybe they want a juicy bonus to pay down old debts, but they've got a major problem sitting in the way of their bonus target.
The next time you're facing a key moment in the buyer's journey, ask yourself:
Who does my buyer want to become? What can I do to help them get there?
While this is helpful for any deal contributor, it's critical for your champions. They're key to your mutual success, and you'll also have more intimate details on their personal needs. Remember, when your champion looks good, you do too.
5. Recognize You're Just the Start of the Journey
As we made our final approach into Lisbon, it was 7:30am local time. The cabin temperature started to warm, drawing us out of our blankets. Soothing music played, fresh orange juice was squeezed. This brought our flight to a close in a way that started off the rest of our trip on a high note.
In sales, you're always focused on the close. Hitting your number requires an insane amount of focus and perseverance. Which makes it easy to believe you're at the finish line with a signed contract.
But in reality, you've just brought the customer to their starting line. The best sellers know this, and end their sales process by asking:
Does Customer Success know this customer as well as I do?
Have I thoroughly documented any concerns or unique needs my buyer has?
Will the handoff I’m about to make keep the momentum I built in place?
Of course, ending the buyer's journey to begin the customer journey is a team sport. It requires input from both sales and success leadership, AEs and CSMs alike.
Feelings, Not Facts, Determine Our Actions
Before you close this post, consider this.
After the stock market dips, billionaires donate far less to nonprofits. Why? Because they feel poorer. They still have more money than they can spend, but they’re not as rich as they were before. Their feeling is what determines their action.
Facts communicate information, but feelings create influence. And since influence is in your job description, you'd be wise to design your buyer's journey in light of their feelings.
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