Customer-centric selling: your guide for nailing the approach

Posted March 26, 2021

headshot of lady smiling

By Cari Murray

Senior Editor at Outreach

In our current world of often unpredictable consumer behavior and fluctuating market trends, only one thing is absolute: the art of the sale has changed.

Companies must actively innovate new ways to reach today’s modern and well-informed buyer. Regardless of what it is you’re selling, traditional sales techniques may fall short as those that focus on providing an exceptional customer experience become more prominent.

What is Customer-Centric Selling?

Customer-centric selling is a sales strategy that forgoes traditional sales techniques that are concerned with promoting the product in favor of a more personal approach with customers. A customer-centric sales approach focuses more on listening, addressing the needs of customers, asking the right questions, identifying pain-points, and creating long-lasting relationships.

There are, of course, a variety of sales methods other than customer-centric sales: few of them, however, specifically target long-lasting bonds through a personal approach. The strategy of customer-centric sales was developed to meet the needs of customers, and companies have been perfecting the practice since its inception.

A Brief History of Customer-Centric Selling

The premise of customer-centric selling has been around forever. Businesses have always known that a customer’s experience mattered, but it wasn’t until sales trainer extraordinaire and author Michael Bosworth coined the term in the 1980’s that customer centric selling began to take proper shape.

Bosworth knew that an enhanced customer experience was key for success, and recent data continues to support him, as consumers say that trustworthiness and responsiveness in sales reps are the most important qualities they look for when considering a purchase.

Customer-centric selling was developed as a way to nurture a greater customer experience. The personal approach focuses on listening, asking key questions, shaping sales pitches in the form of an interview, uncovering customer needs, and strengthening personal relationships.

Schools of thought began to emerge, further dissecting customer-centric selling to perfect the practice and yield the best results. Many customer-centric selling techniques, such as Sandlr selling, SPIN selling, and more began popping up—each focusing on a certain area of the customer-centric selling spectrum.

Then came the use of modern tools to even better implement the approach: by leveraging technology and dedicated solutions, companies like Amazon, Apple, IBM, and more have transformed customer centric-selling from an art into a science. Data on consumer behavior, best practices, KPIs, relevant metrics, and more have evolved the process to become more comprehensive and efficient than ever.

Why Is Customer-Centric Selling Essential?

Statistics around the effects of customer-centric selling are certainly compelling: in fact, organizations who adopt the approach are on average 4-8% more profitable than those who don't, and 84% of companies that enhance their customer service process report an increase in revenue.

But to truly understand the impact of a customer-centric strategy, all you need to do is put yourself in the mindset of the consumer: when making a costly purchase—or any purchase, for that matter—what is it that drives you to choose one product, service, or even seller over another? Are you generally more willing to buy from a company who takes the time to understand your pain points, provide you with helpful resources, and establish trust?

From the seller’s perspective, customer-centric selling makes the sales process more effective. It creates a fulfilling process—on both the company’s side and the customer’s—that leads to landing better-qualified leads, higher levels of customer engagement, and, ultimately, increased revenue. There are other key benefits of a customer-centric approach, too:

  • Better understanding of customer needs - When you take the time to research what it is your customers are truly looking for, you can begin to better position sales messaging and overall process. Instead of simply pitching your product as better than the competitors, speaking your own corporate jargon, and touting the features of your latest product or service, you can provide valuable, tailored information about how your solution best remedies their specific needs.
  • Better alignment with customer priorities - Leading companies align their strategies, offerings, products, and processes with customer priorities. Strong, comprehensive, and well-crafted content that is aligned with customer's needs can go a long way in helping you achieve that same goal.
  • Stronger competitive edge - By establishing stronger relationships, an engaging customer experience, and addressing your customers’ needs in their own language, you gain a competitive advantage as a trusted leader in your space. When products are similar, customer experience can be an invaluable differentiator. Consumers will identify your approach as the deciding factor and your brand will reap the benefits.
  • Build stronger relationships & trust with customers - Most sales teams are aware of the huge impact that growth and expansion play on annual recurring revenue (ARR). By perfecting your customer-centric selling process, you’ll help develop customers into brand evangelists, which is one of the most effective ways to meet revenue targets and drive new pipeline growth. By listening to customer needs, addressing their concerns, and providing them with comprehensive information, you can elevate your customer experience and gain new opportunities, as word of mouth referrals are incredibly powerful.

How to Succeed in Customer-Centric Selling

Customer-centric selling is a complex and intricate process because of its heavy focus on the human element of sales. To really connect with clients on a personal level (especially in an increasingly digital world) and help foster a strong relationship in a short span of time can be a difficult task. To perfect your customer centric-selling skills, consider following some critical best practices:

Study and Understand Customer Pain Points

To fully connect with your clients, you first need to gain a deep understanding of how they think, what they want, and the key pain points that are driving their search for a solution.

Through active listening, empathizing, and proactively tweaking your process that addresses the customer’s perspective, you can more effectively communicate the value of your product or service.

Hiring slick, fast-talking sales reps may work well for an elevator pitch, but customer-centric selling requires sales reps who ooze patience, understanding, and a thirst for knowledge about their prospects. You want people who are not only able to listen to your customers, but to help identify the root of the problem they want to solve. Customer-centric selling is all about prioritizing the needs of the customer above your own, and a sales rep adept at doing that can generate boundless success. Doing this well not only yields short-term success, but if/when a customer contact moves on to another company, you immediately generate a new warm lead with a potentially new logo.

Ask The Right Questions (and Lots of Them!)

It’s important to keep sales conversations going in the right direction, but, at the same time, you want to demonstrate your ability to be an accommodating solutions provider. This can be achieved by continuously asking the right questions.

Most people want to be listened to, so don’t be afraid to pack in as many questions as needed to gain a comprehensive understanding of your customers. Astute, well-planned questions can make a great impact on the conversation and the customer experience. Reps should always approach the first call having prepped ahead of time, a process which might include:

  • Identifying ATL managers and their previous employment
  • Conducting research into stock market filings
  • Reviewing investor reports
  • Researching board members and investors
  • Crafting your pain hypothesis
  • Determining what’s already in their tech stack

Imagine you went to a health insurance provider asking for coverage, and the sales rep simply handed you a brochure. You probably wouldn’t have a whole lot of confidence in that salesperson’s ability to understand what you need out of your coverage plan; nor would you feel that the insurance company cared about its customers’ concerns.

But imagine if that sales rep started asking you in-depth questions to determine why it is you’re seeking coverage, and what a provider could do to ensure that you feel supported by your insurance plan. These types of questions show that the company in which you’re investing is an active, trustworthy, and caring partner.

Empower Customers to Overcome Their Unique Obstacles

It’s rare for a customer to go into a sales meeting without raising their metaphorical shields. They know the person they are meeting wants them to pay money, and most of the time customers are hesitant about whether or not they should make an investment.

By approaching those meetings with a customer-centric mindset, you flip the ‘traditional’ script on its head and instead empower the customer to reach a decision on their own. Guiding clients gently through the process, highlighting specific features that directly target their challenges, and providing them with expertise and unfiltered advice help your customer feel confident in making a decision.

The customer-centric strategy advises that you walk away from an opportunity, if you know you will not be able to empower a client to make a decision. The key here is letting your customer reach the conclusion that their current condition will either improve, if they do buy the product from you, or that the world will remain the same if they don’t.

Align Yourself with The Customer’s Vision and Voice

A whopping 71% of customers prefer to buy from corporations whose values align with their own. You shouldn’t be afraid to talk about your customer’s company culture, values, vision, social efforts, and more during a meeting. Make sure you research as many of these traits in advance, too, which will demonstrate to the customer just how much you care. This helps to create a strong bond that’s built on details that are likely incredibly important to your customer’s perspective.

You can keep the conversation informal, steer away from using technical jargon, and always use a friendly tone that inspires trust. As you connect on multiple levels and get a rapport going, it becomes easier to ask the more intricate and delicate questions required to get a deal across the finish line.

Utilize a Customer-First Approach Every Step of the Way

The pathway to the ultimate customer-centric selling strategy relies on a consistent and streamlined customer experience throughout all of your processes. By aligning all your activities—such as pre-sales, post-sales followup, upselling, etc.—to become customer-centric, you can better optimize your entire sales process.

Keep in mind that a colossal 92% of people trust a word of mouth recommendation over any other type of referral. By referring your services to their peers, the client is putting their own reputation at risk. Maintaining a strong, customer-centric approach throughout all aspects of your sales process will instill confidence in customers at every stage of the journey.

Be sure to align and standardize your approach for every customer interaction and continue the strategy perpetually. The easiest way to upsell a customer is by up-serving them.

Perfecting Your Customer-Centric Approach

Customer-centric selling is one of the best methods to obtain, maintain, and upsell clients. Engaging in best practices that help you hone your skills can result in a stronger sales process and better-supported customers.

Outreach offers an intelligent platform that helps sellers genuinely engage customers based on emotive buyer signals. With AI-powered tools that capture buyer emotions and measure engagement versus activities (e.g. reply, click, and open rates), teams are empowered to better engage customers, collaborate at scale, and gain key insights—all of which can take your customer-centric selling approach to the next level.

Learn how Outreach’s unique capabilities and insights drive customer engagement, or request a demo today.


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