Customer-centric selling is based on the principle that reps must play a critical role in helping prospects discover and quantify their problems. This process naturally dovetails with assisting them in identifying the most appropriate solutions, and often from a rather complex array of choices. Customer Centricity is an overarching philosophy that puts the focus squarely on how to have critical one-on-one conversations—and not just what to say or how to say it. It also puts emphasis on exactly what to ask prospects in a way that brings value to everyone’s desired agenda, and bottom line.

It requires authentic, mutually beneficial, conversations. Conversations matter most, and the more meaningful the better. As my friend Jim Banks of Shadetree Technology likes to say, “Conversations are the ball-bearings that move deals through the sales process.” Well said Jim!

15390150_sIf customer-centric selling is about authentic, value-add sales conversations, how on earth could it be considered ‘dead’ . . . and is it?

The answer is—not yet. But it is hanging on by life-support, and here’s why. Studies show that on average, 35% of a B2B sales rep’s time is spent “selling.” Or, more specifically, it’s time spent having actual conversations with buyers. Therefore, the remaining 65% of their time is spent on non-selling tasks. In my judgment, that kind of math adds up to a rather obvious conclusion, You can’t be customer-centric if you’re not talking with customers.

 

The central question in today’s selling environment, and the very same question I pose in today’s blog is this, “what can we do to ensure that more of a rep’s time is spent in conversation with prospects?” What are reps doing when they aren’t talking with a prospect? What is consuming 65% of their time each day? and (pardon me for asking the even more necessary) why?

  • Is the problem that there aren’t enough prospects to occupy more than 35% of their time?
  • Is the problem that reps just can’t get enough prospects to have conversations with them?
  • Is the problem that reps are too busy doing “non-selling” tasks that it’s impossible to spend more time with prospects?

In order to keep customer-centric selling alive (and ultimately off life-support measures) we, as sales professionals, will need to perform some type of resuscitative therapy. To let customer-centric selling die, even a slow death, is to eventually turn us into reactionary order-takers who book deals at the whim of chance. From that point, it’s a short stretch to the ‘do-not-resuscitate’ order.

To keep this from happening, we need to adopt a more efficiency-centric attitude and approach. Efficiency-centric selling would be defined as the operational imperative that marketers, reps, and managers have the right tools and processes in place in order to be the most productive. Without being efficiency-centric, you’ll never optimize the number of opportunities you’ll have to be customer-centric. To improve on the previous, astonishing, stats answering this next question is critical. What can you do, today, to move the needle from 35% of time spent selling to 40%, or 45%, or more? That primary objective is only achievable through what I will now call efficiency-centric selling.

Let’s take a look at a ‘before and after’ example. What I’m about to describe is a real-life scenario illustrating how one company in the retail merchandising space added efficiency-centric selling to their process. They used a mobile CRM solution called Repsly to enable reps to zip through their day with unobstructed speed, allowing them to spend more time in quality conversations with prospects.

Here’s what the before and after scenarios look like.

Before Repsly

Reps carried laptops with them in the field. When they visited stores, they rarely used their laptops with customers; it took too much of their limited customer face-time to find a place to prop the machine and boot it up. Added to this ‘down-side’, each time they needed to get a piece of information, download a presentation, or upload an order, they had to log into their corporate network. Of course, they first had to make sure they had access to a wireless network, and so on. These are the simple though annoying realities of technological ‘progress’.

Next, reps used a traditional CRM system, like Salesforce, as their main interface to access prospect records, activity history, and contact information. This ate up a great deal of selling time that could’ve been spent (oh, just a shot-in-the-dark here) actually driving to and conducting one or more customer visits each day. Once a day, reps would sit for an hour or more, recalling the day’s activities, and dutifully type notes into separate CRM records, slogging their way through many multiple screens where the data must be entered. They usually did this work after-hours when the details of each call were either fading fast or already forgotten. Managers were often caught by surprise when orders began to drop or disappear entirely. They didn’t get the critical (and time-sensitive) insight they needed from the field regarding competitor promotions.

Managers also found themselves coaching blindly or by sheer instinct alone. They relied on the traditional CRM system for activity updates, which meant they had to sift through each one looking for relevant or timely insight on which to base their coaching strategy. No matter which way this is diagnosed, these are all efficiency-killers.

After Salespod

After implementing what could be called a mobile data collection solution, much more of the reps time was spent in conversation with prospects. What’s more, they were able to give presentations, and display catalog items in vivid color while using their tablet computers. They had instant access to the latest product and display information, and because of the clip-board form-factor, they could quickly present to the customer even while walking together through the store. In between visits, they use their smart phone or tablet—which again, is always on and always connected—to log activity and sales call dispositions just by tapping a few selections on mobile forms. As a direct result, managers receive more timely (and less intuitive) visibility into rep activities.

This company found that by focusing on emerging and more efficient ways for conducting non-selling tasks, they experienced several benefits.

Managers are able to:

  • See that reps are doing what they should do in order to grow business.
  • Get timely reporting of rep activities and visit details
  • Determine quickly whether a new hire is going to make it as a rep rather than waiting months to find out.
  • Document and verify reimbursable expenses
  • Hire more reps
  • Grow revenue

Reps are able to:

  • Spend more time with customers and prospects
  • Get relevant coaching when it’s most needed
  • Engage customers and prospects with relevant product information in a multi-media format.
  • Receive automatic notifications of price changes, new promotions, display suggestions and more.
  • Collaborate with others with in-app messaging
  • Make a lot more money (on average reps earned $1,000 more in commissions each month since using Repsly)

It’s clear that an efficiency-centric approach makes it possible to be more customer-centric because it frees up the time needed to engage with more prospects. Customer-centric selling is about being more effective with prospects within the time available. Efficiency-centric selling is about spending more time with those available prospects. Becoming skilled at utilizing both of these approaches will result in more meaningful and productive client engagement, while bringing that 35/65 ratio into more lucrative balance.

Conversations are indeed the ball-bearings that move deals through the sales process. Having more and better conversations will surely lubricate the sales pipeline even further. How will YOU ensure your reps can have the most conversations possible?

About the author

Nancy Nardin

Nancy Nardin is a recognized thought leader on sales technologies and building a sales stack. Smart Selling Tools reviews the latest sales and marketing software across multiple categories, including Inside Sales, Sales Intelligence, Sales Acceleration, Pipeline Management & Deal Flow, and Predictive Sales Analytics. It's been named a Top Sales Blog by HubSpot, and Nancy Nardin has been named alongside Forbes’ top 30 social sales influencers in the world. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools