Customer Centricity : Why Your Numbers May Be Down

Nick Vaidya is the Managing Partner of The 8020Strategy Group, the President of the Global Alliance of CEO's, and the Managing Editor of The CEO Entrepreneur Magazine www.8020ceo.com. The magazine has been created and designed to promote collaboration among CEOs, and to inform and inspire the community towards making businesses more efficient.

For keynote addresses, workshops, and consulting engagements, Nick can be reached at nickvaidya@8020ceo.com or +1 512 257 7868.


Every activity, project, or goal is built upon certain basic or core elements.  If these elements are not working properly then no matter what you do, you will find yourself frequently coming across hurdles in doing that activity successfully, or even failing the task completely. Take your health for example, if you want to be healthy you need to maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, take adequate rest, and live in clean, healthy surroundings.

If you don’t do these things right, no amount of diets, supplements, medicines, or fads are going to work for you. You will develop a variety of health problems over time. Fads and programs would at best work as temporary fixes and never ensure a truly healthy body and mind.  Nor will simply focusing on one at the expense of the other provide you optimum benefits.

Sales can be approached from an identical perspective. Although there are hundreds of books that attempt to teach us how to master sales, and many of them offer truly effective tips, the fact remains, that there are some core requirements for successful selling which when not fulfilled, would invariably lead to sales failure, or at least create crippling inefficiencies in the process. When looking for the fundamental building blocks of sales interaction, there are three elements that stand out.  When you focus on these fundamentals, you would master the art of sales interaction:

 All sales interaction failures can be deconstructed to three basic reasons why people won’t buy from you-

  1. You are barking up the wrong tree
     
  2. You don’t have a bark
     
  3. You don’t know when to stop barking

Barking Up The Wrong Tree / Selling ICE to an Eskimo: This seems so foolish, but innumerable sales people are guilty of doing it at one level or another.  Either out of ignorance or desperation, but often they do not take the time to think whether the person they are pitching to is the right prospect, and worse, they may not even know the characteristics of their ideal customers. Successful selling needs comprehensive groundwork. One needs to assess the product/solution meticulously and objectively, and then create detailed profiles (customer archetypes) of your ideal customers from the perspective of serving their needs so that it becomes easy for you to identify them. Not doing so will result in inefficiency and an incredible waste of resources. 

On the face of it all CRM solutions are similar, but to the buyer they are not.  While there are many CRM solutions, users have clear preference for one over another, and yet most users are dissatisfied to some extent with their solutions.  This alone speaks volumes for the need to create customer archetypes.  You have not thought deeply enough if you say that your goal is to get 20% of F500 clients.  In fact, planning goals this way is downright bad strategy.  Not all F500 CIOs can make for your target market. You may have skipped a lot of steps by making such a pat identification of your goals.

Customer archetypes need to be defined carefully taking intricate details into account such that among all solution providers in your line of business your solution is the best fit for a select group of customers.  This means you may need to modify your solution and reduce the target population available for you to sell to. Yes, you would definitely be reducing the number of people you can pitch to, but at the same time you would also be dramatically improving your closing rate and enhancing your sales efficiency. The customer archetype creation is a fairly cumbersome task but is worth the reward. The CIO of AMD may have different needs from CIO of Intel.  It is your job to figure out the differences upfront.

Don't Have A Bark / Can’t light a spark if you aren’t kindled: It is imperative that you be sold on the product first before going out to sell it.  You must project total belief in the value of that which you are trying to sell. For those who can do it, faking is not only dishonest and unethical but also inefficient.  It does not always work and can be seen through by most, if not all.

The truth is if you don’t believe in it yourself how can you expect to convince your potential clients ? Different salespeople approach their jobs in varying styles, some might be pushy and aggressive, and others might take a gentle and caring approach. These are all fine but the core from which varying sales techniques flow should be the same, which is a strong, unshakable belief that the product or service you are offering will truly benefit your customers.

One can also say that you can’t sell a product/solution to a prospect, if you can’t sell it to your mother, father, spouse or any of your loved ones, if they share the characteristics of your ideal customer. If you are not able to, or willing to sell to them, then you do not really believe that your solution is beneficial. On the other hand when you truly believe in the value of what you are selling you can be incredibly persevering, rejections would not ruffle you, and you will keep pitching to your prospects doggedly, trying out, as they say, ‘every trick in the bag’.

Think about any of your loved ones, say your child, spouse, parent, sibling, doing or going to do something that might be dangerous, or harm them in some way. In all likelihood you will try your best to persuade them out of whatever it is they are doing, and even if they don’t listen, you will keep trying without being weighed down by continuous rejections. That in effect, is the hallmark of a great salesperson, the ability to persevere with passion, till you figure out whatever it takes to succeed. Unsuccessful sales people often get negatively affected by rejections. This wouldn’t happen if they have complete belief in the value of the product they are offering, and are passionate about having their prospects benefit from their solutions. They would not only not get ruffled by rejections, but also wouldn’t take no for an answer and keep persevering.

When you are passionate about what you are selling, you also exude that passionate energy in both conscious and subconscious ways. For example, the fact that you don’t give up easily, that is something your prospects can experience consciously. The subconscious effects would work out in the way you would talk about your product, your body language, tone of voice, twinkle in your eyes etc. You would be supercharged and overflowing with positive energy which would rub off on your prospects increasing their chances of conversion.

But, of course, you would need to back your passion with logical arguments which your prospects can appreciate. Most sales experts agree that ‘trust building’ is critical for success in sales. When you think about it, trust emanates from honesty and you cannot be honest if you sell a product which you don’t believe in yourself.

It may sound counter intuitive and even bogus to some, but a sense of serving others can elevate your sales efforts to unparalleled levels of success. Like a doctor, if you were to consider your job as a service to others for their benefit, you will realize that your self-perception and that of the prospect will change.   This changed attitude will result in better application of sales techniques.  Do not see your work as merely self serving. This by definition requires you to be knowledgeable and passionate about your service.

Don't Know When To Stop Barking /Stop Cranking A Revved-Up Engine : So you’ve identified the right customer, you got a powerful value proposition and you have tried every trick in the bag to convince him/her with no success, so where have you gone wrong ?... You’ve probably not allowed your prospects to air out their doubts or specific requirements. Have you ? Well then probably you’ve only gone through the motions of listening but not actually absorbed and understood individual cases. You could have also lost customers who were almost sold but needed your true attention. This is the most unfortunate scenario not only because it means you have lost customers who were closest to conversion, but also because you might never realize it.

Even when you have been meticulous in creating your customer archetypes and identifying your prospects, you need to keep in mind that every customer is an individual, and they might have specific needs and concerns. It might also happen that you are selling the product to the right person but at the wrong time. For example you may have a solution that promises 3 digit growth rates, but you are pitching it to a CEO who has encountered delivery problems recently. Your product is great and you are selling it to the right person, but your customer is not in the right mindset. In other words, your sales pitch would need some spontaneous fine-tuning on a case-by-case basis based on specific customer requirements.

How do you do that ?

The solution – Listen; your sales process should be an interactive two-way process, otherwise what would be the difference between you and a billboard ? You should build in strategic pauses within your sales pitch to allow your prospects to speak up, or ask them questions to get a feel of where you stand. And when you listen, you should try to see the situation from your customer’s perspective. This is easier said than done, because during a sales pitch, it is likely that you would be primed up to speak for your product. But keep in mind that listening to your prospect from his perspective would not only help you tailor your pitch for that particular individual, but also help you improve your pitch as well as product in the long run. This awareness would make the process of listening easier, and more effective.

Listen and understand before you try to sell, if you have already identified the prospect.  You still might not be successful but you would have put in your best effort. This may sound lame but as your self-awareness improves you will see how often you do not follow this basic requirement. Converting knowledge into practice takes dedicated effort and constant mirror checks. Most sales people can improve their listening skills but they also need to focus on serving the prospect rather than making a sale.

In short, there are three reasons why you may fail in a sales interaction :-

  1. You are selling to the wrong person
     
  2. You don’t believe in your product
     
  3. You failed to listen when trying to convert.

These are very basic rules which most people know but need to be reminded about.

In short, commit to serving your prospects and you will find improved performance.


  © Nick Vaidya 2010

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