What Is Customer-Centric Selling?

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In June 2007, in Aptos, California, 16 of CustomerThink’s global advisors gathered for our annual Retreat. Each year we get together to discuss the top industry issues, how we can collaborate with each other and how to add value to this wonderful community.

In one exercise, the advisors broke up into groups, based on their field of expertise, to define how leaders viewed customer-centricity, based on their job function.

Here’s an outline of how one advisor group at the Retreat defined customer-centric business, from the chief sales officer’s perspective.

First off, the team decided to change the name to Customer-Centric Buying Facilitation.

That’s because team members believe that, if you’re looking at it from the customer’s standpoint, the customer doesn’t want to be sold to. You should be making it easier for the customer to buy. With that in mind, here’s the team’s definition:

Definition:

Getting into the Heads of Buyers by asking directed questions to empower them to achieve their goals, solve problems, satisfy needs (with enthusiasm).
Activity Metrics

Vendor
Rep

Percentage of time planning
Percentage of planned
Percentage of first calls–>buy cycle
Percentage of wallet

Customer Advisory Board

Recommendations enacted
Number of recommendations made

Customer Satisfaction

Net Promoter Score
Referrals/add-on renewals

Sales Tools Use/relevance rating
Senior Management Calls Number of customer calls per month, quarter, period

This is just a draft, open for discussion in our community.

What’s your take on what customer-centric selling is, including the activities and measurements needed to be successful?

Please add your thoughts below, and together we’ll make this a meaningful and useful definition for business leaders.

Thanks!

Bob Thompson
CustomerThink Founder


Naras Eechambadi
July 16, 2007
Customer-Centric Buying Facilitation

One critical aspect of customer-centric selling (I will avoid the more cumbersome “buying facilitation” term here) is the exchange of relevant information. If you are truly customer centric and want to be regarded as a trusted advisor, it is critical that you share relevant information with your customer, even when it does not further your cause. In my experience, customers are often hungry for information about what is really going on in the market – particularly with regard to how their competitors or other companies of similar size may be using the services or tools that you provide – in our case in marketing automation performance management.

Providing this kind of information can generate a healthy dialog with your client regarding their needs, if they find the information to be useful. This dialog, in turn, can help you better understand their needs and serve them. This makes an eventual sale more likely and a little easier.

Naras Eechambadi (www.quaero.com)


djw334
October 2, 2007
What’s Relevant

It’s hard to argue that sharing relevant information with customers and prospects with a goal of initiating a “healthy dialog” is a bad sales strategy. The real question is what is relevant? In our business educating customers on the value of marketing automation solutions and related best practices, especially when framed in the context of real customer experiences, is a positive way to gain trust. At the same time I would question the sales effectiveness of sharing information, good or bad, about competitors.

I would say a key goal of customer-centric buyer facilitation (yes, it is cumbersome) is to help the customer find the intersection of their needs with the solutions and services you are offering. Education is certainly an important part of that process.


Graham Hill
October 2, 2007
More Than Just Needs Fulfilment

Don

I agree with you in principle, but don’t think you go far enough.

Recent research by Sundar Bharadwaj reported at [email protected] suggests that customers look more broadly at the value delivered by a product from a relational perspective, in particular, at how requirements are defined, how the product is customised, how additional services are integrated, how the product is implemented and what support is provided afterwards.

Many vendors see these relational items as reasons to charge customers extra, whilst customers clearly see them as part of what they bought in the first place.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

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