Developing a customer-centric approach to selling
Customer centricity is a way of doing business that places the customer at the centre of your sales approach. Instead of focusing on the products and services that you sell and defining your sales activity on that basis, it’s about placing your customer’s needs as the most important driver behind how your entire business approaches and interacts with them.
Even your end product or service will be shaped by customer needs. Customer centricity is a simple concept on paper but it’s much harder to implement in reality. Nonetheless, for those businesses that have done it well, customer centricity has led to a step change in the way the whole organisation is approaching the sales process.
There are a number of reasons why customer centricity is important, many of which are familiar to business strategists. The world is becoming smaller and as such, customers have access to more information about the products and services available than ever before. They have knowledge and they have choice. In order to stand out, businesses have to be able to differentiate themselves effectively from competitors. A fundamental way of doing this is by offering the best possible solution for the customer – by definition, a solution that is the result of customer centricity.
Changing the conversation to customer centricity
Customer centricity changes the way every function in the business operates, but of course, sales people are at the coal face. In order to become more customer centric, sales people will require more support from other business functions; critically they will need to be able to share information, progress and feedback with those functions in a continual dialogue and they will need to be empowered to act on the information they are given. On a day to day basis, they will need to transition their approach from transactional to solution based selling and they will need to be able to use their skills to position their solutions firmly in line with the customer’s needs.
Sales people will need a whole blend of skills in order to be truly effective, all of the usual ‘technical’ skills apply but the most critical ones are communication skills related to establishing the customer’s needs, prescribing a solution that is aligned to those needs, convincing the customer of the merit of the solution by communicating value in terms that mean something to the customer and their business. In addition, those same communication skills are essential when it comes to engaging and aligning activity internally.
Avoiding the pitfalls of organisational change
There are two key pitfalls when it comes to transitioning to a customer centric organisation. The first is that organisations only tend to focus on the sales function, missing the point that customer centricity is about how the whole organisation operates from product design, to installation to after sales support.
The second pitfall is that organisations tend to take a technical approach to equipping their sales people with the tools they think they need. In practical terms, they get swept up with digitalisation and they create all sorts of systems that provide very relevant and very useful data. In doing this, they overlook investing in the skills the sales people need to take the data and to use it in an intelligent way in relation to their customers.
Building sales training around customer centricity
The key to developing sales training that enables customer centricity is to focus on three core elements. The first element to focus on is how to work in partnership and communicate with the customer in order to gain a common understanding of the problem or need. The second is to work seamlessly with other departments to develop customer driven products and services. Thirdly, the sales team must learn how to interpret and apply the data and tools available to communicate value to the customer in a way that is meaningful to them.
By building a blended training programme that centres around each of these elements, but is divided into bitesize learning activities that can be completed throughout a sustained learning journey, the core skills and behaviours required for customer centricity can be instilled. A sustained learning journey should include individual online learning activities, face to face and group activities that include content tailored to your business with activities based on realistic interactions with your customers.
With the relevant skills and behaviours in place, your organisation can begin its journey towards offering customers the best possible product and service available.