Remind me - what is a customer centered selling process?
A customer centered selling process is simply one in which everything the sales person does is done with the needs of the customer in mind. In a nutshell it is all about what is at the centre of the sales process.
In our previous sales post we looked at how to make a sales process customer centred. We even gave you some homework. Just in case the dog has eaten that homework
, here is a quick recap of the two rules for ensuring your process is actually customer centered:
- It must be based on the way customers buy
- It must be flexible - even though the psychology of buying is pretty consistent, customers need to be treated individually
The steps in customer centered selling
A sales person who is genuinely determined to get the best result for their customers will follow a process similar to this - remember that some of these steps may occur in the same discussion.
- Research to understand the prospect and identify a good reason to make contact
- Make contact
- Further research to prepare for a meeting
- A meeting focused on building rapport and trust and understanding the customers' needs
- Research while preparing a solution or proposal - rather than just picking something custom 'off the shelf'
- Meeting to present the solution or proposal and gain agreement from the customer
- Post sale
Let's look at each of these in more detail.
How many sales people does a prospect talk to in an average week? How excited are they about talking to another one? Not at all! If you can't give the prospect a very good reason to talk with you, it's game over.
The key message: if your research doesn't reveal a compelling reason that this person should talk to you, don't call them. Save your time and theirs. The good news is that, providing your research is focused on prospects who are likely to be in your target market, good reasons to call them can usually be found - as long as you take the time to research properly.
2. Make contact
If you are phoning the prospect, when they answer and realise it isn't someone they know, they have two burning questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you want?
Assuming you have the first one covered, the second question is the main reason for your research. Let them know that you believe you can meet a need and ask for some time to talk. If you sound like you can meet a need they care about, your chances of getting a meeting are much higher.
A warning: make the appointment and get off the phone before you start talking too much! If you get drawn into a long product dump, they don't need to meet you any more. One of our 'Real-isms' is that a sales person should arouse curiosity not satisfy it on this initial call
3. Research some more
It is too hard to get a meeting for you to walk in and blow it because you are unprepared. Find out everything you can about the person you are meeting and, if it is a B2B call, as much as you can about their organisation.
We recently had a sales person call us - he got an appointment because he discussed a need that was high priority for us. His first words when he walked into our offices were 'so what do you guys do?' Meeting over.
4. Meet with the customer
Whether this is face to face or by phone, there is some simple advice that will make this meeting much more effective. Stop talking. Your goals are to build rapport, understand the customer's needs and establish whether this is a prospect who is ready to move to the next stage.
A rule of thumb: listen twice as much as you talk. Your research should have you well prepared for this meeting - not with everything you want to say but with everything you want to ask.
5. Research and customise
It doesn't matter how excited you are about your latest package or off the shelf solution, customers want something that is created with their needs in mind. Take some time to look at how those needs will be met most effectively - even if you are using something off the shelf, take the time to customise the way you prepare it for the customer
6. Present your solution
It was their chance to talk at the first meeting, now it's your turn right? Wrong! Even though you will be presenting a product or service to them, make sure you are talking no more than 50% of the time and preferably less. If you talk too much they disengage, feel pushed and you miss the vital clues that they either are ready to buy or have an objection.
If your sales process means you have only one meeting or discussion with the client at which needs need to be understood and solutions presented (steps 4 and 6 together), make sure you 'divide' that meeting into two parts - and always discuss needs first.
7. Post sale
You may know what happens next but the customer doesn't. Keep in touch and keep them informed. Every sales person hates cancellations - and one cause is the customer feeling they have been 'sold and dropped'.
This is also the time at which the customer makes decisions about whether to deal with you again and whether to recommend and refer you to their associates and friends.
Hitting your new business targets
If you follow a genuinely customer centered selling process you will convert prospects into repeat customers - but it all starts with having enough prospects - if you need some help with prospecting download our free customer prospecting calculator.
Editor's note: This blog was originally published on March 2014 and has been revamped and updated for comprehensiveness and better readability.