3 ways to be more customer-centric when selling

Friday, September 14, 2018 - 13:15

Customer-centricity is one of the most overused terms in business today. One organisation may talk about being customer-centric in the way they service their customers, another in the way they design their products, and yet another in the way they make solutions available for purchase.

The same is true in sales. Most organisations take pride in being customer-centric, yet in almost all cases, this does not translate to frontline sellers and how they approach and engage clients.

As part of the Top-Performing Sales Organization (TPSO) research, RAIN Group studied 472 sellers and executives globally at mid-size and large companies. Of the 75 core factors studied, five focused on an organisation’s customer focus and value orientation:

  1. Our sales organisation focuses on driving maximum value for the customer
  2. Our sales force structure is aligned with the way our customers prefer to buy from us
  3. Our sales process is customer-focused and maps to our buyers’ buying processes
  4. Our sales process is flexible to apply to our buyers’ various roles and situations
  5. Our company leaders prioritise developing sellers to be as valuable to our buyers as possible

Only 16 per cent of respondents agreed with all five. While most companies say they are customer-centric, few are actually delivering. This signals a huge opportunity for individuals and organisations to differentiate and stand out.

If you’re a frontline salesperson, you may be thinking, “well, most of that falls on management and leadership. They’re the ones who define our structure, process, and flexibility.”

While that may be true, there are still plenty of things you can do that are well within your control to be more customer-centric. Here are three ways to ensure you’re thinking and acting with a customer-centric approach.

1. Think buying first, selling second

This is one of the hardest concepts for sellers to wrap their heads around. That’s because you’re likely proud and passionate about your products and services and can’t wait to tell your customers or prospects how great they are.

Guess what? They don’t care. Your customers are more concerned with how you can help them and the result you’ll achieve than the solutions you employ to get there.

First, you must take the time to understand your customers, their situation, their goals, and their aspirations. Hint: these are going to be different for each one of them.

In a recent study, What Sales Winners Do Differently, RAIN Group found that four of the 10 attributes with the greatest separation between sales winners and second-place finishers were that the sellers:

  1. Listened to me
  2. Connected with me personally
  3. Understood my needs
  4. Crafted a compelling solution

Listening, building relationships, understanding needs, crafting solutions — none of this is new. In fact, this is the basis of consultative selling, which has been around for more than 40 years. Yet, it’s not being done by the majority of sellers.

To be customer-centric, you must think from your customers’ perspective.

2. Share client success stories

This might be one of the greatest untapped gold mines within many organisations. Seventy-one per cent of buyers want to talk to sellers when they’re looking for new ideas and possibilities to drive stronger business results. A great way to share new ideas is through success stories.

One request frequently heard from sellers is the need for more case studies and customer testimonials from marketing. However, within your sales organisation, there are likely hundreds of stories you can collect and share. These mini-stories don’t need to be marketing approved or client endorsed (unless you’re using their name).

You can get started by having your team share one or two minutes of stories that answer three simple questions:

  1. What situation was your customer dealing with?
  2. What did you do? How did you help?
  3. What value did they get?

If you can share more stories about how you deliver value to clients, you’ll be more successful.

3. Collaborate and get creative

When considering the value you can bring customers, it’s important that you’re expansive in your thinking. This is even more important if you manage strategic accounts.

For instance, I recently participated in a “Value Lab” for a company where the account team explored additional ways to deliver value to a large, non-profit client. This company provided their staff with one volunteer day each year, but less than 10 per cent of their employees used it.

After a few rounds of discussion and brainstorming, the account team came up with the idea of actively encouraging their team and the teams around them to volunteer for this non-profit client, and to use the volunteer day for team building.

Another account team working for a large consumer and retail brand developed the idea of getting their CMO and head of retail to share their insights into consumer trends and retail best practices with a potential new client.

These are two great examples of big plays that were used to provide additional value to customers. Both were a result of team brainstorming. If you can get a group of people together and explore other ways to deliver value to a client, you’ll generate more ideas that go beyond just selling your customers more stuff.

The key to making these collaboration sessions effective is diversity. Look for it in age, gender, experience, seniority, and role/function to generate the best and most creative ideas.

Saying that you are customer-centric and actually being customer-centric are quite different things. If you’re a frontline salesperson (or a doer/seller), don’t abdicate this responsibility to your leaders or the organisation as a whole. These three tips will help you stand out in a crowd, deliver great value, and be more customer-centric.

Are you ready to become a more customer-centric salesperson? AIM is excited to be partnering with RAIN Group to introduce three new Sales short courses. Learn a proven process for leading masterful sales conversations, how to crack the code on what works and what doesn't, how to grow existing accounts and more…

Learn more about AIM Sales short courses in partnership with RAIN Group.

Dr David Paul

Jason Murray, Practice Director of RAIN Group Asia-Pacific

Jason Murray is Practice Director of RAIN Group Asia Pacific, a global sales training, and performance improvement company that has helped hundreds of thousands of salespeople, managers, and professionals in more than 62 countries improve sales results and unleash their sales potential.