There aren’t many companies today that sell a commodity, where price is the sole basis for a purchasing decision, or that have such a unique offering that they can name their own price.
That means most of us fall into the arena where the way we sell and how closely we connect with a customer will play a big role in whether that customer decides to purchase from us.
It also explains why every sales organization I meet with claims to be “customer focused.” But when I dig beneath the surface, it turns out their “focus” is more talk than action. That’s a shame because having a true customer focus can help your sales reps land more and bigger deals.
How can you tell if your team is truly customer focused? Answering the following three questions is a start:
1. How well do your reps understand their customer’s buying process?
Suppose I could take your place for a day. I talk to one of your reps and ask him or her to describe your company’s sales process. Then I ask them to describe a typical customer’s buying process. I’m betting they’ll have a much easier time describing their steps of selling than a customer’s steps of buying. Right?
Sales reps who do not understand customer buying are often out-of-sync with their prospects. They provide the wrong kinds of information at the wrong time. To be truly customer focused, your reps must understand how customers buy.
2. How easily do your reps connect with many decision makers, especially those higher up the food chain?
It is extremely rare in today’s environment where one person inside a customer organization makes a decision all on their own. That’s why a hallmark of a customer-focused sales organization is the ability of sales reps to make connections at multiple points in an organization. They know what levels of types of decision makers are typically involved in the purchasing decision. They know what questions to ask of their primary contact so they can get referred to those other decision makers.
How about your sale reps? Are they stuck selling a product or service to lower-level decision makers? Or do they have the customer savvy to sell solutions to higher-level decision makers?
3. Is your sales funnel or CRM based on the steps of selling or the steps of buying?
Even if your company does well on Questions 1 & 2, the message of “customer focus” can be completely undermined if you track the progress of deals based on the steps your rep has taken not what steps the customer has taken. For example, if your CRM or sales funnel has steps labeled “qualify” or “presentation,” “demo” or “proposal” for instance, then your reps know that you are primarily interested in what they have done, not what steps a customer has taken. They are going to make sure they check off all the steps in their sales process, regardless of what actions the customer is taking. That is surely not being customer focused!
How high does your company rate in these three areas? If you’re not doing well in all three, then you have some work to do. The payoff of developing a stronger customer focus is worth it, however. CSO Insights’ 2012 Sales Management Optimization report showed that “as buy-cycle tracking increased… so did win rates.” What more justification do you need?