How do you sell in a downturn?

Be customer-centric


Published on: October 2022

Written by: Barbara Adey

Only 20 percent of salespeople are prepared to offer real value during a sales call. In a tough market, this won’t cut it. Sellers who prepare for sales calls with general industry knowledge are not able to demonstrate the unique value required to sell in today’s increasingly challenging environment.

To successfully close deals, sellers need to be customer-centric and develop a deep understanding of their customer’s business objectives and success metrics, aligned to the organization’s specific context. This approach builds sellers’ credibility, conversational agility, and their ability to adjust their talking points to address clients’ different motivations, which are critical when spending isn’t really on the table.

Customer centricity also allows sellers to engage with clients throughout all parts of the sales cycle, which enables them to find unexpected opportunities. A seller who can shift gears mid-conversation by listening for cues will be able to address business priorities that genuinely land with the client—and get them invited back for further meetings. When sellers can see things from the customer’s perspective, they become trusted advisors.

By leveraging a customer-centric mindset to position themselves and their organization as a true partner for success, sellers will demonstrate value and win business, even in a tough economy. To build your teams’ customer centricity, sales leaders should facilitate the following steps:

1. Gather deep industry knowledge

It’s not enough to have company-specific history and context in your back pocket; industry expertise and context is critical to build rapport and trust. Going beyond “show me you know me” and demonstrating exactly how a product or service provides value to your customer and represents an investment is crucial in today’s market.

Sellers also need to gather in-depth information about the people seated across the table—prospects and customers specifically. To prepare, sellers should comb through social channels, read 10-Ks, and keep up with industry press, and ask: What challenges are keeping your prospects up at night? What innovations do they have in progress? Who are their competitors? Are there any recent shifts in customers they’re targeting? The context allows the seller to speak directly to prospects’ pain points and develop custom, thoughtful solutions.

2. Develop the skills to secure a meeting

For salespeople, of all the skills to master, getting introductions tops the list. In fact, 70 percent of customers value “connected processes,” otherwise known as contextualized engagements. Think of this as a seamless hand-off between a person in the seller’s network and a decision maker at a company.

Introductions go beyond the introduction itself. They also require sellers to share a strong point of view and ask the right questions so that customers will open up about their businesses. It’s all about being relevant and bringing value to the conversation.

3. Understand customers’ metrics

Many salespeople enter the room with some understanding of their customer’s business challenges. Not as many come in with knowledge around the financials, initiatives, and KPIs used to measure success. Knowing how a client will measure success allows a seller to speak to those points specifically.

The seller must focus on the customer by providing insight, following up regularly, and even helping to strategize next steps. The goal is to ensure that customers see the value of the company’s products or services and seek to adopt them. Success will encourage additional purchases, and over time, generate steady revenue streams.

4. Pair the offer with the value proposition

Without a clear understanding of how the company’s products or services deliver value for clients and how to present this in a compelling way, sellers will consistently fail to close deals. Understanding and delivering the value proposition is so mission critical that it should be built into every organization’s training and enablement.

One way to prepare sellers is through simulations, which immerse customer-facing teams in their customer’s challenges. Being on the inside of their customers’ business allows sellers to become more intuitive and thoughtful about developing solutions. Furthermore, they get to practice having challenging conversations, whether with their manager or a professional coach, in a safe environment that helps them to develop confidence.

Developing a customer-centric mindset is ever more critical for sellers who need to close deals in a challenging economic environment. Knowledge, conversational agility, and consultative skills enable sellers to become strategic client partners, win new business, expand critical accounts, and foster successful long-term relationships with important stakeholders in the market.

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