You’ve read the literature; you’ve bought into the rewards. You want a customer centric organization. A lot of leaders with the same aspirations get stuck at this point, asking “so what does Customer Centric look like”? More importantly, they want to know how do I implement it? While it’s relatively easy to develop a sophisticated customer satisfaction measurement capability, that doesn’t illuminate the predictive behaviors your company needs to move those ratings. As most executives have learned, there’s a lot that goes into being customer focused.
Customer focus is not just a sales thing…
While you need to cusotmer-focus your sales organization, this isn’t even close to being the whole solution. Everyone in the company plays a part in gathering customer insights, and delivering value to customers. Sales methodology and sales skills help, because sellers have a lot of customer contact. Especially in today’s business-to-business complex selling world, sales represents only one element of the solution.
…but great sales tools are a great start.
Let’s examine an effort to transform your organization’s culture into one of continuous customer-value improvement. Every organization must develop a few levels of capability.
First, you must address the area of sales. “Sales process” often refers to a seller-centric process: progressive seller actions required during the course of a sale. There is another kind of “process”. For clarity, I’ll use the word methodology: “tools a seller uses to align themselves with a customer buying process“. Methodology and process are linked and parallel. “Process” currently enjoys increasing emphasis in CRM systems (and in a lot of other sales enablement investments), while methodology remains a relatively dark art.
Many companies hire and pray. Others think they are in the vanguard when they test for a certain personality type, then hire and pray. In contrast, there are providers who can help install a methodology (as defined here — the word is used more loosely by a lot of sales training organizations) into a sales organization. If you would like to discuss methodology and what it can do for customer focus, contact me.
The business of business: basic commercial literacy
Second, your people need broad “Customer Acumen”. You can’t be a trusted advisor to a customer/prospect/client until you become expert in their business. And, you can’t become expert in their business unless you know business. That is, sellers must come to the client with some basic business acumen, and should walk in the door having a strong feel for that company’s operational health. In my upcoming book, I describe what “business acumen for sellers” looks like (example: analyzing financial statements for operational health instead of the usual: financial health). If you’d like to preview a chapter on this topic, let me know.
With business acumen, your people understand how they can most effectively impact and grow your customers’ businesses. This will move your company beyond simple customer focus to a sharper focus on customer value.
Customer focus to align with marketing and product groups.
At a third level–maybe a combination of the first two — you align your offer (products and/or services) to the customer’s operation. There are many facets to understanding your differentiation and connecting that to each prospect’s unique situation: Augment product training with persona-based differentiation/value tools. Align marketing messages with these differentiators and their likely value. To execute fully on customer value focus, implement a selling methodology to help build consensus among all personas (I’m partial to those of the Miler Heiman Group). Bonus points for a methodology that drives the customer/prospect to engage the full value of your offer, not just “enough value to win the deal” (I’m partial to mine).
Implementing a culture of continuous value improvement.
In today’s (especially business-to-business) world, we have splintered customer touches among far more roles than sales: marketing, bizdev, sales, technical sales/sales engineering/application engineering, customer success, implementation/delivery, logistics, underwriting, customer service, tech support, billing, channel partners,,,you get the idea. Every one of these touch points has access to a different facet of the customer, and can gain unique insights.
Fourth, engage your entire customer-facing organization with the entire buying organization. The challenge is to have tools that are easy for all of your employees to learn and adopt, which dovetail well with your sales methodology, and which can be easily disseminated throughout your company.
Using these tools, every employee can contribute to a more holistic view of the customer. A closed loop system which integrates all of these levels is the result.
Simple tools for a complex job
Finally, your company must adopt a language of customer value, importantly, these tools must efficiently describe and communicate customer value throughout your company. To enable smooth adoption, make these tools simple to learn and use.
I’ve been refining such tools for decades. I am passionate about helping clients adopt them. I’ll be discussing them in more detail in my upcoming book. . Feel free to contact me to learn more….about either the tools or the book.
To your success!