The Beauty and Beastliness of Customer Focus

 In Develop & Coach

The Beauty and Beastliness of Customer Focus

Ah, the beauty and beastliness of customer focus – sales team, this one’s for all of you!

Sales training comes in all shapes and sizes and it’s a continuous process that requires a lot of TLC. Many programs explain the technical aspect of the sales process, like how to overcome objections and close the sale. These are, of course, pretty important things to know, to understand, and to get really good at. And they do involve good listening skills and adaptability to anything the customer throws at you. But….there’s a whole lot more.

Q: My sales manager keeps harping on how we need to “focus on the customer”, “focus on the customer,” but I don’t get it. What does that really mean, and how do I get better at it? As long as I’m hitting my numbers and closing deals, isn’t that all that matters?

A: Sales managers hear their sellers saying this more often than they should…“Hey, Just make it stick! We’ll push it through!” Come on, I know you’ve all said that a time or two before when you had a last minute push to get your numbers in for the month. So, is just closing the deal what the sales manager is talking about when it comes to customer focus? I think not.

Figuring out the customer focus beast

But, let’s figure this out because it’s what makes the difference between a good seller and a GREAT seller. At the URG Conference in April 2013, Ryan Falco and Junior Catalano gave a presentation called, Good to Great, and they made several good points, around the beauty and beastliness of customer focus which I’m stealing for this article.

Here are just a few:

  • You gotta know your customer
  • If you listen to your customer, you can tell what they want
  • Follow up is key
  • Build relationships for the long term
  • Making the one-off quick sale that isn’t really what the customer needs can erode customer trust
  • Know your product or business
  • Build value

They also made another key point:

  • If you want to be great, you have to take it upon yourself

A great sales manager can spot an unskilled seller a mile away.

They look for the signs of someone who:

  • Doesn’t think of the customer first. That saying, “start with the end in mind” sure applies here
  • Thinks he or she already knows what the customer needs
  • Only thinks of the internal operation and then gets whammied by customer problems
  • May not make the first move—they just won’t reach out to the customer or get to know them
  • Is unwilling to handle complaints, criticisms or special requests
  • Doesn’t listen to the customer and becomes defensive

What to look for in a Great seller

On the other hand, a great seller looks like this:

  • Is dedicated to meeting the expectations and requirements of internal and external customers
  • Gets customer info first-hand and uses it for improvements in products or service
  • Acts with the customer in mind
  • Establishes and works hard on keeping effective relationships with customers and gains their trust and respect.

A deeper look at the beauty and beastliness of customer focus

If you think that just because you’re hitting your numbers you can’t improve or that you’re a great seller, reconsider for a moment.  Ask your sales manager to help you pinpoint behaviors that you can improve on.  To help you recognize and turnaround your own gaps, here are three (3) things you need to do to wrap your arms around the beauty and beastliness of customer focus, improve your customer focus, and finally move into the Great Seller mode:

  1. Teach your customers
  2. Tailor your pitch
  3. Take control of the sale

Let’s examine these three things one by one:

 1. How do you teach your customers?

You’ll notice that being a great seller means going beyond just building a good relationship with your customer.  To do that, it’s critical that you teach your customer by offering them unique perspectives and having strong two-way communication skills.

Push their thinking and pre-conceptions about your products and services by providing them with new and different ways to think about THEIR business and how to compete in THEIR marketplace.  When you hear industry leaders talk about standing out from the competition—this is how you do it.

Learn about your customers business as much as you can by asking questions, researching and listening.  Learn about your own products, interchanges, warranties, return issues, and how your internal company operates.  This allows you to begin to show your value to the customer; but it goes beyond focusing on your products or services.

It speaks to your customers and how they can compete more effectively in their market.  This is Customer Focus.

2. Tailoring your pitch also becomes more effective.

When you understand your customers economic and value drivers, you’re more able to tailor your pitch to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.  Now, one of the beauty and beastliness of customer focus is that you absolutely cannot use the same pitch to every customer.

Sure if you do enough pitches, you’ll have a certain amount of success.  But if you learn how to pick up on your customer’s deep-rooted needs and fears and you learn how to turn their preconceived negative beliefs about your products around, you will see real traction in your ability to close the sale.

This is the exact behavior that wins customers for the long term.

3. And speaking of closing the sale, you have to become comfortable talking about money.

Pinpoint the right moments to push your customer a bit so you take control of the sale.  This isn’t about being aggressive.  It’s about learning how to stand your ground when the customer pushes back.  When the customer jumps to price negotiation, it’s critical that you bring the conversation back to the discussion of the solution.

Push for agreement on value, rather than price.  Get the customer to rank the importance of each element of the product solution.  This often enables the customer to see the offering in a different light. Consequently, it sets the stage for you to tailor your pitch specifically to the customer and get your price “to stick” and to close the sale.

And don’t take my word for it!

Take time to listen to the Great Sellers in your company.  Notice how they talk to the customer, the questions they ask and how they take control of the closing phase.  You’ll begin to see the patterns and you can model your own conversations with customers after them.  Go for it!

For more insights into these three behaviors exhibited by Great sellers, check out The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.

And remember these famous words by Estee Lauder:

“Touch your customer, and you’re half way there”

We invite you to join our HR Coaching Inner Circle or our Grow Membership to learn more about creating a culture of Customer Focus.

Do you have great techniques you use to provide exceptional customer service? Do you have any stories about the beauty and beastliness of customer focus or horror stories about the worst customer service you’ve ever seen? Please share them on our Facebook page!

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