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Creating Customer Focused Salespeople

- Posted by Matt Nagler, Managing Partner  

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Sales leaders are people-people. Sales leaders are always working. Sales leaders are trend-hunters. Sales leaders are tough. Sales leaders have vision. Sales leaders are dreamers. Sales leaders are...

 

There are a lot of ways that people describe sales leaders, and while they’re not wrong, they’re only partly accurate. What these stereotypes all have in common is that they focus on the salesperson, not the customer. When new employees enter the sales field, this half-information that that focuses primarily on personal attributes and leaves out the skills that need to be developed and honed over time can be detrimental. After all, the “hows” of sales are the most important part of the job. No matter how good your product, if you can’t create unique value for each specific customer, you won’t be as successful as you want to be.

 

There are a lot of skills that are important, but making sure that you are customer-focused is what should drive your work. According to a recent Miller-Heiman “Best Practices” study, only half of sales organizations truly understand their customers’ business goals and the issues they grapple with. It’s imperative to understand not only your customer’s business but also their competitor’s offerings. Truly knowing your customer’s business not only gives you ability, but also credibility, while establishing a knowledge base that you will continue to grow.

 

Another key part of being customer focused is being able to understand where the customer is in their decision making process. Your timeline and your customer’s timeline may be different. Theirs is the one that will drive your work. According to John Hoskins, a corporate training consultant, “if you want to learn how to sell, learn how buyers buy.” It’s imperative that you know the markers of your customer’s behavior and how to create opportunities to move forward together. Notice patterns of behavior – while there are some that are universal, others are unique to each organization. Ask people who have worked on the account or with the company before what to look for. When you know what to look for, working together with your customer will become easier and more natural.

 

Having a great relationship with your customers is something that you’ll build with time, but beyond understanding their business and sales timeline, there’s more you can do to create ease. Rather than just presenting yourself as a supplier, become a “trusted advisor.”  That may start by not selling. Meeting without a sales agenda lets you really learn about your client, understand what they’re looking for and think together about issues that the customer hasn’t yet considered.

 

Salespeople are, of course, responsible not only to their customers, but to their own company.  When we think of the metrics that mark success, we generally think of the end goal. It may be useful to create “success metrics that mark progress, not just report results” for yourself, and possibly for your team. Being able to know what you’ve done already and what’s still in front of you will make the process both clearer and more streamlined. Likewise, you may notice that you’re stuck in one part of the process or that you may have moved backwards. Having this metric will help make sure that you can focus your energy where progress is being made and in ways that are useful for you and you customers.

 

Remember, the best you in sales is the you who answers your customers’ needs and brings value to their work. As long as this is always at the forefront of your relationships, you’ll already be a step ahead.