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Customer Centric

Embracing Customer-Centric Sales

Aug. 9, 2021
Customers have come to expect more from suppliers, vendors, and service providers. Consultative selling offers ways to increase your value at every step of the sales process.

Market research shows that the web has changed B2B and B2C buying strategies and as online technology continues to evolve and diversify the customer’s purchasing journey. Today’s buyers are smarter than ever and have a better understanding of what they are looking for in suppliers. As customers become better informed, sellers need to be more agile and find new ways to personalize the sales process to adapt to customer needs.

For example, consider the changes in commercial and B2B selling. Research from Gartner shows that B2B buyers are doing more research to identify what they need and to find the best contractors and suppliers to meet those needs. B2B buyers spend 45 percent of their time doing online research, 22 percent of their time meeting with internal stakeholders, and only 17 percent of their time meeting with vendors.

Commercial customers want multiple digital touchpoints between themselves and the vendor. 

Commercial customers also want more of a digital buying experience. Gartner predicts that 80 percent of B2B sales will happen through digital channels. Customers expect to do more online research and, when they find the right supplier, they want multiple digital touchpoints between themselves and the vendor. Rather than actively selling prospects, today’s successful sales organization focuses on influencing multiple stakeholders to align on a recommendation and supporting the
implementation of those solutions.

 The Digital Buyers’ Journey

With customers looking for a richer digital experience, the goal of today’s sales team is to anticipate their informational needs and reduce the amount of friction in the sales process. Sales reps need to know how and when to inject themselves at pivotal decision points in the customer’s journey, offering information and insight curated to meet the customer’s needs.

Organizations that have been able to efficiently leverage the digital customer journey, adapting by providing the right information at the right time, have seen a marked increases in sales.

Since today’s customers are proactively seeking out information and conducting their own research, marketing has become more important than ever and organizations that have been able to efficiently leverage the digital customer journey, adapting by providing the right information at the right time, have seen a marked increases in sales. In fact, companies that successfully synchronized information through social media, advertising and email campaigns increased conversion rates by 64%.

As prospective buyers continue their online investigations and narrow their search for the right supplier or resource, the pool of prospective vendors becomes smaller. To stay in the running, the sales rep has to be prepared to step in at the strategic moment with recommendations tailored to meet the prospect’s needs. The challenge is knowing when to engage. For the buyer, using digital sales channels insulates them from sales calls, so when you approach prospects, they need to be far enough in their buying process that they are ready to receive more information, but not so far along that they are close to a decision.

Applying Consultative Selling

When you engage in customer-centric selling, you are acting as a sales consultant. That requires taking the time to understand the buyer’s needs and concerns and finding the right solution to that problem. Buyers are looking for solutions, and the sales rep who takes the time to review the prospect’s unique challenges and pain points and provide a complete solution will earn the business.

When you engage in customer-centric selling, you are acting as a sales consultant. That requires taking the time to understand the buyer’s needs and concerns and finding the right solution to that problem. 

In B2B sales, in particular, consultative selling requires building consensus. Too often a B2B purchasing journey leads to no decision and no purchase. That’s not because the buyer’s needs have changed but usually because the internal decision-making process becomes stalled. Each stakeholder in the process has different needs and expectations. Successfully managing those expectations is key to consultative selling,

Successful consultative selling also goes beyond the close of the sale. Research shows that fewer than 30% of sales reps stay involved after the contract is inked. Instead, companies rely on customer success and customer service teams to provide support and handle any onboarding needs. Delivering a positive, end-to-end customer experience is critical for customer repurchase. Only a 5% increase in customer retention can increase revenue from 25% to 95%, so having the sales team stay involved to manage the overall customer experience has a big impact on repurchase, as well as creating cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

Customers have come to expect more from suppliers, vendors, and service providers. They expect a positive customer experience from their first website visit to well after the deal is done. It is the new age of customer-centric selling, and the members of the sales team are the caretakers of customer experience. Those companies that invest in a consultative sales strategy that informs and helps customers solve their problem rather than just selling goods and services will be the winners in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Jeff Fordham is CEO and co-founder of OneSolutionmanufacturing representatives to suppliers in industrial/MRO, construction, safety, fire and rescue, utility, food processing, metalworking, and related industries. Jeff has more than 35 years of experience in industrial distribution and channel management.

About the Author

Jeff Fordham | CEO and co-founder

Jeff Fordham is CEO and co-founder of OneSolution, manufacturing representatives to suppliers in industrial/MRO, construction, safety, fire and rescue, utility, food processing, metalworking, and related industries. Jeff has more than 35 years of experience in industrial distribution and channel management.