How much customer focus is the right amount when selling?

In today’s business environment, companies are focused on becoming more customer-centric. This must include the way we sell.

The solutions and products are designed to enhance the customer’s success, interface seamlessly into the customer’s business processes and be easy to use.

Marketing materials are designed to educate, inform, and illuminate new possibilities for buyers that will enhance their businesses and advance their success.

So, how many salespeople make it easy for customers to purchase by providing a customer-centric buying experience?

Are all salespeople equally customer focused when they sell? No.

When the highly customer focused salesperson encounters the customer for the first face to face meeting, the best ones engage by focusing almost exclusively on their customer. They do it by asking tough questions, learning about their customer, entering their world, proving their commitment to their customer’s success, and then adding value early on by asking even more challenging questions forcing the buyer to think in new ways. The customer does most of the talking.

The pitfalls of Self-Focused Selling

Self-focused salespeople’s #1 mistake: They short-change this first step in the sales process by talking way too soon about their products and solutions. Big mistake. But, an all too common one. Customers set salespeople up when they ask, “So, what can you do for us?” By taking the bait, and talking about their products/services before learning about their customer, the self-focused salesperson, eagerly thinking they are moving toward a sale, become a commodity in the mind of the buyer – and often loses the opportunity to become a trusted advisor.

There’s another reason this happens. Companies today are not spending money providing selling skills and teaching salespeople to follow a process when they sell. They’re training on products and solutions and hoping the salesperson already has the skills to sell.

But, once the customer is authentically interested in knowing more about the product or solution, what separates the customer focused and self-focused salesperson?

Self-focused salespeople’s #2 mistake: Customer focused salespeople speak about their products and services only as it relates to the buyers’ interests and needs. Self-focused salespeople drone on and on with scripted or routine presentations, risking boredom and losing the buyer’s interest.

The pitfalls of being too Customer-Focused when selling

Can salespeople be too customer focused? Yes, if they are unwilling to assert themselves in the buying process at critical times when it is important to make sure there is an even exchange taking place. The most common junctures in the sales process when this can happen are when the salesperson must qualify the buyer, when buying commitments must be made, and when negotiating the deal.

Once the buyer is authentically interested, the salesperson must then begin to ask some tough questions on behalf of their own interests and the interests of their company. They must make sure the customer is a good fit, is able and willing to purchase, has the authority, and most importantly, the urgency to make a decision. Without the self-interest to uncover these things, salespeople who are not courageous enough to ask these difficult questions waste time.

Salespeople who allow customers to purchase, ‘when they are ready’ often think they are being customer focused, but in actuality are often allowing buyers to avoid making decisions and enabling the buyer to delay achieving their goals, thus enabling procrastination and inaction.

Salespeople who fail to command the full value of what they sell often ‘give in’ to buyers in order to achieve a sale, but fail to achieve the profit and margin their company needs to thrive. They appear customer focused, but instead are lowering the value of their products and themselves by accommodating the buyer.

Finding the balance between Customer-Focus and Self-Focus when selling

Professional salespeople understand that their overall focus is to help the buyer achieve their goals. They understand they must begin the sales process by exclusively focusing on the buyer by asking questions and remaining patient. But at critical points in the sales process, sales professionals also assert their own interests by effectively qualifying, negotiating and closing deals.

Too much customer focus leads to ‘yielding’ behavior, one form of Sales Reluctance® identified by researchers George Dudley and Shannon Goodson of Behavioral Research Science Press, Dallas TX. Too much self-focus fails to establish ‘trusted advisor’ status and, in today’s customer-centric business environment, results in lost sales.

Achieving the right balance between customer focus and self-focus when selling sets up salespeople and companies to not only be successful in this customer-centric business climate, but also prevents failure to maintain critical margins and profitability to sustain their own future success.