What is customer centric selling?
Customer Centric Selling is not an new concept. However it has gained immense importance recently. In the ever-evolving landscape of business, one principle remains constant: the customer is king. As we navigate the complexities of the digital age, this principle takes on new dimensions, giving birth to the concept of customer centric selling.
Customer centric selling is not just a buzzword; it’s a strategic approach that places the customer’s needs and preferences at the heart of the sales process. It’s about shifting the focus from the product or service to the customer, understanding their unique challenges, and providing solutions that truly meet their needs.
This approach is more than just good business ethics; it’s a powerful strategy that can drive growth, foster customer loyalty, and set your business apart in a crowded marketplace. In a world where customers are more informed and have more options than ever before, customer centric selling can be the key to standing out and achieving sustainable success.
In this blog, we will delve into the intricacies of customer centric selling, exploring its benefits, principles, and how to effectively implement it in your business. Whether you’re a seasoned sales professional or a business owner looking to improve your sales strategy, this guide will provide valuable insights to help you navigate the customer centric selling landscape.
The History of Customer Centric Selling
The concept of customer centric selling has its roots in the broader shift towards customer centricity that has taken place over the past few decades. Let’s take a step back in time to understand how this approach has evolved.
In the early days of commerce, the focus was primarily on the product. Businesses manufactured goods and customers bought what was available – this was known as the ‘product-centric’ era. The power was largely in the hands of the businesses, and customers had little choice but to purchase what was offered.
As markets became more saturated and competition increased, businesses began to realize that simply having a good product was not enough. They needed to differentiate themselves, and they started to do this by focusing on selling techniques and strategies. This marked the beginning of the ‘sales-centric’ era.
However, as technology advanced and the internet became a part of everyday life, the balance of power began to shift towards the customer. Customers now had access to a wealth of information and a wider range of options. They could compare products, read reviews, and make more informed decisions. This led to the dawn of the ‘customer-centric’ era.
Customer centric selling emerged as a response to this shift. It was a way for businesses to adapt to the changing landscape and meet the evolving needs of their customers. The term was popularized by Michael Bosworth and John Holland, who published a book titled “Customer Centric Selling Book” in 2003. The book outlined a detailed methodology for implementing a customer centric approach to selling, and it has since become a widely accepted best practice in the sales industry.
Today, customer centric selling is more relevant than ever. In an age where customers have more power and choice, businesses that prioritize their customers’ needs and preferences are the ones that stand out and succeed.
How is Customer Centric Selling Different from Conventional Selling
- Conventional Selling: The focus is primarily on the product or service. Salespeople highlight the features and benefits of their offerings.
- Customer Centric Selling: The focus is on the customer. Salespeople seek to understand the customer’s needs and provide solutions that meet those needs.
- Conventional Selling: The sales pitch is often standardized and product-focused.
- Customer Centric Selling: The sales pitch is personalized and customer-focused.
- Conventional Selling: Communication is often one-way, with the salesperson doing most of the talking.
- Customer Centric Selling: Communication is two-way, with the salesperson listening as much as they talk.
- Conventional Selling: The goal is to convince the customer that their product or service is the best.
- Customer Centric Selling: The goal is to provide value to the customer and build a long-term relationship.
- Conventional Selling: The sales process is often linear, following a set sequence of steps.
- Customer Centric Selling: The sales process is flexible, adapting to the customer’s buying process.
- Conventional Selling: Success is measured by the number of sales or the revenue generated.
- Customer Centric Selling: Success is measured by customer satisfaction, loyalty, and lifetime value.
10 Characteristics of Customer Centric Selling
The primary focus is on the customer, their needs, and their preferences. The goal is to provide solutions that meet these needs rather than simply pushing a product or service.
Sales pitches and strategies are personalized to each customer. This involves understanding the customer’s unique challenges and tailoring the solution accordingly.
Salespeople engage in active listening, seeking to understand the customer’s perspective and needs before proposing a solution.
The goal is to create value for the customer, not just to make a sale. This involves providing solutions that genuinely improve the customer’s situation.
The focus is on building long-term relationships with customers, not just on making one-time sales. This involves providing ongoing support and service to customers even after the sale is made.
Customer Satisfaction: Success is measured by customer satisfaction, loyalty, and lifetime value, not just by the number of sales or the revenue generated.
Adaptive Sales Process: The sales process is flexible and adapts to the customer’s buying process. This involves understanding the customer’s decision-making process and aligning the sales process accordingly.
Educational Approach: Salespeople take an educational approach, providing customers with the information they need to make an informed decision. This involves providing clear, honest, and comprehensive information about the product or service.
Collaborative Decision Making: Salespeople collaborate with customers in the decision-making process, helping them to identify the best solution for their needs.
Customer Retention: A strong focus on customer retention, with strategies in place to keep customers satisfied and loyal over the long term.
The APPLE Strategy of Customer Centric Sales
Customer centric selling methodology
Apple’s retail stores are known for their high foot traffic and strong sales per square foot, often outperforming other retailers. The stores not only serve as a sales point but also as a showcase for Apple’s products and a service center for customers, which helps drive customer engagement and sales. In an age where sales focus is mostly digital these Apple stores are providing a unmatched “Phygital” experience which have earned them a very loyal and passionate customer base.
Approach (A): The first step in the APPLE strategy is to approach the customer with a personalized greeting. This aligns with the customer centric principle of personalization. It’s about making the customer feel valued and recognized as an individual, not just a sales opportunity.
Probe (P): The next step is to probe or ask questions to understand the customer’s needs. This is a key aspect of customer centric selling, which emphasizes the importance of understanding the customer’s unique challenges and needs before proposing a solution.
Present (P): Once the salesperson understands the customer’s needs, they present a solution that addresses those needs. This is the essence of customer centric selling – providing solutions that genuinely meet the customer’s needs, rather than just pushing a product or service.
Listen (L): The salesperson then listens to the customer’s questions and responds to them. This aligns with the customer centric principle of two-way communication. It’s about listening to the customer, understanding their concerns, and providing clear and honest answers.
End (E): Finally, the salesperson ends the transaction with a friendly goodbye and a call to action urging the customer to return. This aligns with the customer centric principle of building long-term relationships. It’s not just about making a sale; it’s about creating a positive experience that encourages the customer to come back.
7 Step Strategy of Customer Centric Selling
Understand Your Customers: The first step in creating a customer-centric sales strategy is to understand your customers. This involves researching your target market, creating customer personas, and understanding your customers’ needs, preferences, and buying behaviors.
Train Your Sales Team: Your sales team should be trained to focus on the customer. This involves training them to listen to the customer, understand their needs, and provide solutions that meet those needs. They should also be trained to communicate effectively, build relationships, and provide excellent customer service.
Personalize Your Sales Approach: Each customer is unique, and your sales approach should reflect this. This involves personalizing your sales pitches, offering personalized solutions, and communicating with customers in a way that resonates with them.
Provide Value: Your goal should be to provide value to the customer, not just to make a sale. This involves understanding what the customer values and finding ways to deliver that value.
Build Long-Term Relationships: A customer-centric sales strategy is about building long-term relationships with customers. This involves providing ongoing support and service, staying in touch with customers, and working to build loyalty and trust.
Measure Success by Customer Satisfaction: In a customer-centric sales strategy, success is measured by customer satisfaction, not just by sales numbers. This involves regularly seeking feedback from customers, measuring customer satisfaction, and making improvements based on this feedback.
Continuously Improve: A customer-centric sales strategy is not a one-time effort; it’s an ongoing process. This involves continuously monitoring your performance, seeking feedback, and making improvements to better serve your customers.
5 Long Term Benefits of Customer Centric Selling
Increased Customer Loyalty: When customers feel valued and understood, they are more likely to remain loyal to your brand. Customer-centric selling focuses on building strong relationships, which can lead to repeat business and increased customer retention.
Higher Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): By focusing on the customer’s needs and providing value over time, you can increase the total amount a customer is willing to spend on your products or services throughout their lifetime. This can significantly increase your revenue in the long run.
Improved Customer Satisfaction: Customer-centric selling often leads to higher levels of customer satisfaction. When customers’ needs are met and their expectations are exceeded, they are likely to have a more positive perception of your brand.
Positive Word-of-Mouth and Referrals: Satisfied customers often become advocates for your brand, sharing their positive experiences with others. This can lead to valuable word-of-mouth marketing and referrals, helping you attract new customers without significant advertising costs.
Competitive Advantage: In a crowded marketplace, being customer-centric can help your business stand out. By prioritizing customer needs and delivering exceptional service, you can differentiate your brand from competitors and position yourself as a leader in your industry.
Samrat is a Delhi-based MBA from the Indian Institute of Management. He is a Strategy, AI, and Marketing Enthusiast and passionately writes about core and emerging topics in Management studies. Reach out to his LinkedIn for a discussion or follow his Quora Page