Three Steps to a Customer Centric Sales Process (Part One)

April 8, 2009 by  Filed under: Sales 

Have you ever notice that most sales training is focused on two things 1) The features of the products and 2) what phrases to use to try to manipulate the prospect into making a favorable decision now?  While I believe that it is very important for a sales person to know the features of her product, it is more important to understand the motivation of the prospect for buying a certain product. 

In today’s market place most sales people have more than one product line that they can sell.  Most have various alternatives to the same problem.  One of the first things we learn in economics or about the buying process is to gather information and to weigh our alternatives.  Yet in the sales process we seem to fail to address this step of the buying process.  I want to change that.

There are three basic steps a sales person needs to remember when implementing a customer-centric sales process: 1) To find out what the client’s interest is,in our product or service 2) To understand what the client’s desired outcome is, and 3) to present the possible solutions that will meet the client’s needs.  This article will be the first of three and will discuss uncovering our client’s interest in our product or service.

In a customer-centric approach we are not trying to manipulate the benefits of our product to meet the client’s needs, we are trying to determine what the client wants and match an appropriate solution to the problem.  In order to do this we must  know and understand our client.  We need to know  1) what they like and dislike, what initiated their interest in our product or service, and 2) how they envision our product and service fitting into their situation.   This may sound like a lot of work, but we can find this out by simply asking questions such as “how did you hear about us?” or  “what brings you here today?”  We want to be sure to ask open ended questions and to have the client talking.  We need to find out what is on the client’s mind.  Someone once told me, “if you let the client talk and ask enough questions, they will tell you what they want to buy.”  In my 10 years in sales, I have found this to be exactly the case.  Let’s further this step one of knowing your client in developing a customer centric sales process.

Sometimes we have to talk about something other than their problem, maybe it is their children or their work, or a hobby.  Once you establish a rapport, the attentive sales person will begin to understand what the client’s dominant buying motive is.   This may sound difficult but it is not.  Simply take a sincere interest in your client and listen to what they are telling you.  The hardest part about this is you have to stop selling! And listen.  Ask the questions, get them talking and listen.  Don’t be planning your retort or your answer to their perceived objection.  An objection is simply the client telling you that you have not yet built enough rapport and they don’t yet trust you.  Let them keep talking.

Some clients are difficult to get talking.  Ask a question and wait for  the answer.  This can create an uncomfortable silence, but if you speak first, unless you are restating the question, you lose.  The client has to do the talking.  I am not saying that one should just take orders, but that we need to listen and understand what is important to our clients.  We cannot do this if we are doing all the talking or just getting one word answers from our clients.  When we do this we have no better understanding of them  after the sale than before. 

We will not have any idea what need our product or service really met, because we will simply have stated to them all the features and benefits and won’t necessarily know which one made them buy.  We can save ourselves a lot of time by finding out the clients interest in our product in the first place.  In short this first step is building a true rapport, where you have a sincere interest and understanding of who your client is and what is causing them their pain.  In other words, they know and trust that you are trying to understand their needs and to provide real assistance in solving their problem.

Getting your client talking and understanding what it is they want from you and why they are interested in your product/service is the first step in a customer centric sales process.  In the next two articles we will look at the other two, 2) understanding the client’s desired outcome, and 3) presenting the possible solutions to meet the client’s needs and desires. 

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