After many years of being a Sales Trainer, I believe that most salespeople are not aware of how their customers define good selling. Without this insight sales organisations will be training and coaching the wrong skills. So, working closely with my Infoteam colleagues I have written a book about how to fix this problem, called Customerized Selling – Learn How Customers Want you to Sell.
This is what Christoph Seeger, Chief Editor of Harvard Business Manager, has to say about the book:
“Most vendors carefully research what customers expect of their products and services, but few, if any, ask customers what they expect of their salespeople. That’s a mistake.
Based on extensive research of customer and vendor organisations, this book uncovers a number of glaring gaps between customer expectations of salespeople and vendor performance. Moreover, it shows a considerable discrepancy between the capabilities that vendors think are important and those that customers actually want. Focusing on the latter, the book suggests ways to professionalise how you sell by incorporating customer expectations of salespeople into all aspects of sales engagements.
Customerized Selling targets all those involved in selling products or services in a business-to-business environment. The book is essential reading if you want to make your sales process a competitive advantage and stand out by selling in the way customers want.”
And this is what Jonathan Farrington, CEO of Top Sales World and Executive Editor of Top Sales Magazine has to say:
“Phil has provided any frontline sales professional, with ambitions to become a Top 5% player, with a route map. I urge you not to simply read this book, but to adopt the principles and watch your achievement levels soar.”
The first step in this 18 month project was to find out which skills and competencies customers expect from vendor salespeople and where they see need for improvement. Our research was carried out in conjunction with the Harvard Business Manager.
The problem with how salespeople are currently working
In cooperation with the Harvard Business Manager we conducted interviews with customer executives who regularly buy products or services for at least €75,000. The purpose of this research was to identify what is important to customers when selecting a vendor, solution or service, and highlight areas in which they feel there is need for improvement.
We then compared this with what vendors believe is important. Our latest international research shows a significant deterioration over the past years in how salespeople perform against customer expectations.
45% of customers are unhappy with the professionalism and responsiveness of the B2B salespeople who come to see them – up from 18 % in 2004.
52 % of customers are dissatisfied with the quality of vendor meetings.
Writing proposals that meet the needs and expectations of different stakeholders in the customer organisation appears to be a big challenge. The average degree of customer dissatisfaction is 50 %.
The degree of dissatisfaction with the management summary (the first thing that customers read in a proposal) is even higher – 62 %. This represents a staggering 44% increase in dissatisfaction since 2004 - perhaps indicating the increased scrutiny projects receive before being approved.
So, in summary, our research shows that there has been little progress in vendor performance measured against customer expectations in the past years, with significant decline in many areas.
How to fix it
In the book I set out a clear sales process – supported by tools and examples to support Customerized Selling in each step of the process. But rather than a prescriptive set of tasks, it is a toolkit you can use to optimise your own sales engagements. You can easily adapt it to different customer segments and new and existing customers.
There is a great deal to say about Customerized Selling, but you can reduce it to 10 key points.
The Customerized Selling Manifesto
Understand how your customers define good selling. The research-based evidence in the book shows what customers say good selling looks like. Reflect on it and improve the way you sell.
Be an expert in your customer’s business. Customers say they want vendors to know more. Research your customer’s business and use your knowledge to earn trust.
Know your subject and solutions thoroughly. Customers want to deal with thought leaders. Make sure you know more than they do.
Discover the needs of every stakeholder and speak their language. Make sure you know what the customer really needs and then talk to them about your solution in their language.
Help the customer sell internally. Selling the solution internally is a big challenge for customers. You need to find ways to support them.
Challenge customers who ask for the wrong solution. Apply your expertise and selling skills to shift the customer from what they say they want to what they really need.
Don’t claim – demonstrate. Anyone can present the strengths of their solution. But case studies, demos and doing a piece of work are far more persuasive.
Be responsive in terms of quality and speed. Customers want accurate answers fast. Everything you do in the sales process shows the customer what it will be like to work with you.
Under promise – over deliver. Work with your delivery team, exceed customer expectations and increase your chance of further sales and referrals.
Use customer feedback to improve. You have to find out what you did right and wrong, then learn from it.
As you can imagine, there is a lot to say and write about every aspect of the manifesto. But if all you do is refer to these 10 key points throughout the sales cycle you should begin to improve the way you sell and consequently your results. The more you incorporate how customers define good selling into your sales process, the more effective it will become.
If you would like to get hold of your own copy of the book, the links are below: