By Ryan Warren, Vice President of Market Development
In sales, there’s been a lot of hype about the importance of knowing your customers. While it’s easy to talk about, the truth of the matter is companies are struggling to gain insights into their clients’ realities. Although there are a number of tools available to help make sense of all the disparate data sources out there, many sales teams are still getting bogged down with complexity, and that can negatively impact sales productivity. With disrupters entering the market more frequently, businesses need to know their customers and their customers’ market conditions. While this sounds like a daunting task, making processes simpler can improve revenue gains and customer relationships. When you focus on customers, it’s easier to design processes with them in mind.
Stop Using Complexity as an Excuse
New sales methodologies crop up all the time, and it’s pretty clear that some organizations are agile enough to adapt. Despite this, firms need to put customers first. But if companies hide behind the excuse of tricky market conditions, difficult-to-know customers or internal operations, a competitor can easily enter the market and snatch business away, according to an article by Dave Brock for Salesforce. Many organizations default to doing the things the same way they always have.
In fact, organizational complexity can make it harder to solve problems because sales teams or other departments are trying to approach them the wrong way. Some companies have a set way of approaching issues and are afraid to diverge, even when there’s a new opportunity. Brock noted startups are often better at solving problems and addressing clients’ needs because they aren’t stuck in the same rut of taking an established route. Startups don’t necessarily experience less complexity, but they don’t rely on the same approaches all the time.
Simplifying sales methods, processes and organizational attitudes isn’t always an easy task. Past habits and beliefs can prevent team members from seeing the big picture and maximizing productivity. But if your sales reps are spending more time arguing in internal meetings than serving customers, something needs to change. You need to consider things from your customers’ perspectives to make adjustments.
Putting Your Customers—Not Your Pitches—First Will Improve Sales
They say you catch more flies with honey, and your sales team may land more deals by catering to customers’ needs and preferences, rather than having a pitch ready at all times. Although your reps should absolutely know your product or service offerings back and forth, this shouldn’t be the information they lead with. If you want to boost sales, you should address customers first. Talk about them—their companies, their markets—and ask questions rather than just speak, Tom Searcy wrote for Inc. magazine.
In the past, salespeople would go to meetings and talk about why their products were the best, but now your team needs to be more subtle. Don’t be caught selling. Your team can be a lot more successful by focusing on issues related to your clients’ businesses. You can then offer insights into these problems by placing the emphasis on the context of the business, rather than the context of products you are trying to tell. Reps that take this approach wait to be asked to solve the problem. They do not push their own solutions. But expressing this concern about customer pain points helps establish a deeper sense of trust. These salespeople transform themselves into strategic partners and advisors instead of just a contact after the sale.
Market Insight Is Key
Without a firm knowledge of the conditions, competitors and geopolitical events in a customer’s market, your team can’t deliver this kind of service to clients or prospects. Although your customers are more informed about their options, you need to know what they are facing to meet them on their own terms and sell without selling.