Five Skills to Develop a Customer Driven Sales Team
Given the number of challenges sales organizations have encountered during the Covid pandemic, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of focusing on customers’ needs and priorities. While there are numerous distractions (personal and professional), organizations that are customer-driven have emerged stronger than ever.
As a starting point, it is important to recognize that satisfied, hopefully delighted, customers allow companies to succeed and grow their businesses. While this seems obvious, many companies overlook this fact as they deal with a myriad of internal issues. These include recruiting new hires in a wave of employee departures (i.e., “the great resignation”, dealing with supply chain disruptions, and managing a remote workforce.)
In thinking about these very real challenges, I’m reminded of a CEO who always promoted the message “overwhelming, absolute commitment to customer satisfaction.” What this statement conveys is a company philosophy where the traditional org chart is inverted so that customers are at the top of the pyramid and customer-facing employees are empowered to meet, and hopefully exceed, customer expectations.
To promote this type of empowerment, it is important to train the sales team with the skills and knowledge to become trusted advisors who customers appreciate and rely upon, as opposed to quota-chasing product pushers. As a starting point, here are five key skills sales professionals should learn and apply.
1. Do Your Research: Customers appreciate sales professionals who learn about them, their company, and their industry. While research takes time, it allows sales professionals to better understand their customers' perspectives, corporate priorities, and industry trends.
2. Practice Active Listening: Customers appreciate sales professionals who listen as opposed to “pitch”. This includes applying questioning skills that allow customers to not only express the problems they are trying to solve but also why it is important to solve these issues.
3. Propose Relevant Solutions: Based on an understanding of the customer’s needs, it is essential that the solutions presented align with and address the customer's problems. While it might be possible to “close a sell” with a solution that doesn’t quite align, this will usually end up backfiring when the customer realizes the limitations.
4. Respond in a Timely Manner: Customers value timely responses to their questions. While it may not always be possible to resolve a problem in real-time, keeping the customer informed is essential. There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than silence and one bad experience can destroy a lot of goodwill.
5. Professionally Resolve Issues: A customer-driven sales organization doesn’t mean making decisions that are uneconomic or not in your company’s best interest. Instead, it is important to listen to the customer and acknowledge their perspective. By diffusing the tension, you can then have a productive conversation where you can share your perspective and look for a “win-win” outcome.
A customer-driven sales organization not only results in more business from loyal customers but also leads to new account growth based on customer referrals and business reputation. Additionally, it fosters an empowered sales team that prides itself on customer success.
About Norman Behar
Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.