What is Customer-Centric Selling? Exploring The Sales Approach

Customer-Success-Explained

Sales is a game that is constantly changing. Yet one thing will always remain the same; the secret to success is putting your customers first. Luckily, for those looking to get ahead of the completion (like those reading this guide), most people are looking to emerging technology like AI for sales and prospecting. But you can start to elevate your customers, build resilient relationships and anchor down a sustainable revenue stream. All with a bit of help from a sales methodology known as Customer-Centric Selling. Discover what it is, why you should use it and how to get started below:

In this article, you can find the following answers to the following questions:

What is Customer-Centric Selling?

Customer-Centric Selling is a sales approach that sees salespeople actively putting customers’ needs ahead of their personal agenda. The sales model focuses solely on customers’ priorities, needs and wants. As such, the sales methodology allows salespeople to interact with customers (by consulting and offering advice) in a way that empowers them to solve problems and ultimately reach their goals.

First introduced in the 1980s by sales experts, best-selling author and sales trainer Michael Bosworth, John Holland and Frank Visgatis, Customer-Centric Selling focuses on creating a great customer experience to ensure you stand out from the competition.

Born from their sales consulting business called CustomerCentric Selling, the methodology concentrates on the idea that salespeople can no longer compete on having the best product.

What Does it Mean to Be Customer-Centric?

The average buyer today has a wealth of information at their fingertips and plenty of choices when they are ready to buy. As a result, traditional sales techniques like cold calling no longer work as effectively.

More importantly, though, when a salesperson focuses solely on the customer, they better understand what their prospects need to solve their problem. Thereby, salespeople view the sales approach as an open dialogue rather than a sales monologue or pitch. Particularly one that effectively encourages and enables prospects as they move through the sales and purchase process.

Customer Centric Selling Summary

In a world with thousands of competitors just a click away, businesses and salespeople need to be willing to identify and serve customer needs by any means.

As such, Customer Centric Selling by Michael Bosworth and John R. Holland outlines eight aspects of interacting with today’s digital-first buyers to achieve optimal outcomes:

  1. Having conversations instead of making presentations
  2. Asking relevant questions instead of offering opinions
  3. Focusing on solutions and not only relationships
  4. Targeting businesspeople instead of gravitating toward users
  5. Relating product usage instead of relying on features
  6. Competing to win―not just to stay busy
  7. Closing on the buyer’s timeline(instead of yours)
  8. Empowering buyers instead of trying to “sell” them

More so, the CustomerCentric Selling book helps reinforce these key tactics in a way that will help readers make the most of organisations’ resources.

Also read:

5 Benefits of Adopting a Customer-Centric Sales Approach

If the customer-centric selling approach isn’t new, why should you consider using it? Discover the benefits below:

  1. Capture Qualified Leads: As customer-centric selling focuses on spending time understanding the needs and wants of prospects. The practice means that salespeople are less likely to encounter obstacles or objections later in the sales process. Hence why more time spent on qualifying conversations leads to better-quality leads overall.
  2. Align the Sales Process with Customer Needs:
  3. Differentiate & Build a Competitive Advantage: For many technology companies, it’s hard to stand out – especially on features alone. So by giving customers high-quality interactions that focus on their needs and simplify complex information, you can differentiate yourself amongst competitors as the easiest to do business with.
  4. Create Unique, Fulfilling Interactions: No one likes feeling as if salespeople only interact with them for money. Yet we all love the feeling of appreciation and our time being valued by others -something that Customer-Centric Selling focuses on.
  5. Increase Revenue: It’s easy to make money when you have consistently high-quality leads, a short sales cycle and an extended customer lifetime.

What Does it Mean to Be ‘Customer-Centric’?

While most salespeople realise that the digital-first world is changing the sales process to be more customer-centric, many don’t understand what it means to be ‘customer-centric’.

The thing is, even though the world and its technology have since changed. Our goal as salespeople remains the same; to provide authentic, valuable and helpful customer interactions that help people solve problems.

Is the Customer Always Right?

The phrase “The Customer is Always Right” was pioneered by three majorly successful retailers in the 1900s, Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker and Marshall Field. They learnt early on that their success depended on the satisfaction of their customers.

We learn quite a lot if we examine the global variants of the phrase. For example:

  • In French, the phrase is Le client n’a jamais tort” (the customer is never wrong)
  • The phrase in german is “Der Kunde ist König” (the customer is king)
  • In Spanish, the phrase is “El cliente siempre tiene la razón.” (the customer always has a reason)
  • In Italian, it’s “il cliente ha sempre ragione.” (the customer always has a reason)

Regardless of where or who you are, the phrase reminds us that our role is customer-centric. Hence our success depends entirely on understanding and prioritising the customer experience. 

Customer-Centricity vs Product-Centricity: What’s the Difference?

In general, the primary difference between the Product-Centric and Customer-Centric sales models is the salesperson’s approach to the customer. 

While the product-centric approach relies on creating and selling the best products, the customer-centric approach aims to analyse the customers’ needs. To achieve this, salespeople collect valuable customer insights and feedback and use it to create the best solutions for them.

Customer-Centricity

Strategy: To create the best solution for customers

People: Look for new customer needs to fulfil

Processes: Solution development

Product-Centricity

Strategy: To create the best product

People: Look for new products or concepts to develop

Processes: Product development

How to Succeed Using Customer-Centric Selling: 8 Key Elements

1. Make Conversations, Not Pitches

Engage in conversations around situations that are relevant to the customer. Remember, this isn’t a sales presentation or pitch; it’s a conversation. So ensure you’re engaging prospects by asking them questions or getting feedback.

2. Use Deeper Questioning, Rather Than Giving Opinions

Always ask relevant questions to uncover pain points, problems and opinions. Offering an opinion when customers didn’t ask for one, can be off-putting and possibly risk the sale.

3. Prospect for Decision Makers, Not End-Users

Target decision-makers instead of end-users. A user may want your product, but you will be wasting time if they don’t have the authority to make purchases.

3. Speak The Customer’s Language

Customers don’t buy benefits, features, or advantages. They buy emotions. That’s why to sell your product or service effectively, you need to speak your customers lanaguage by telling your audience the benefits of your product vs telling them about the features.

5. Create an Open Dialogue for Solutions

When meeting with customers, it is critical to ask the right questions to uncover any problems they might be trying to solve. Use deeper questioning to cultivate a relationship built on trust and then open up solutions to their problems.

6. Provide a Customer-First Approach at Every Stage

Don’t try to convince customers to purchase your product or service. Instead, empower them to buy the solution that meets their needs.

7. Compete to Win Relationships

Instead of viewing prospects as transactional customers that you sell to once, you need to view them as partners in a long-term selling relationship.

8. Close on the Buyer’s Timeline

Every interaction in the sales process is critical to success. As such, teams must provide the best possible customer experience so that customers feel a sense of appreciation and value at every stage of the sales cycle.

Accelerate your sales career and master assessing the needs of customers

Sales is a skill that needs to be learnt, practised and mastered. In our Sales Accelerator pack, we teach you the skills all sales professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners need to sell effectively. Join us to master the sales process, starting with getting the right mindsetdifferentiating from the competitionbuilding strong relationships and delivering compelling sales presentations.

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