Boss: Did you get any orders today?
Salesman: Yes, I got two!
Boss: Congratulations! What were they?
Salesman: “Get out!” and “Stay out!”
To sell means ‘to persuade someone of the merits of.’ I want to advocate for NOT selling. Rather, I want to propose that we help customers buy.
A personal example
I don’t like door-to-door sales and I loathe tele-sales. These people are clearly there to sell me something. It’s all about them. I’m just the seller, the target, the prey. Naturally, I’m defensive - and I almost never buy.
But when I go to a store to buy a pair of shoes, I am often helped by a friendly assistant who helps me find the best possible shoes for the purpose (walking mostly). I appreciate them because they help me decide and buy what I need or want.
Selling is mostly perceived as bad
1. It’s self-serving. We all know that the seller benefits from the sale – whether we benefit or not.
2. It’s an interruption, a time-waster and a distraction from more important work.
3. The sales pitch is narrowly focused on the product or solution available to the exclusion of other options. We don’t trust sales-people.
4. It’s often ‘pushy’ and no-one likes to be pressurised into a purchase.
Disclosure: My training was in marketing, not sales, and I am a strong proponent of the Marketing Concept - the philosophy that firms should analyse the needs of their customers and then make decisions to satisfy those needs, better than the competition. It’s customer-first, not firm/company/organisation first. I firmly believe marketing, and sales, should be truly customer-centric.
Can sales ever be customer-centric?
The best sales methodologies do attempt to be customer-centric.
SNAP selling focuses on how customers make decisions and seeks to ‘help’ them through each stage of the buying process.
Solution selling is about listening and asking questions to find pain points and then helping the customer find the best solutions – hopefully solutions the seller can provide.
Challenger selling involves providing insights to the customer and helping them see their business in a new way and perceive problems and opportunities they didn’t know were there.
All these methodologies focus on the needs of the customers, but are they truly customer-centric? Maybe that depends on what we mean by customer centric.
What is customer-centric?
Customer-centric (or client-centric) is a business strategy that puts your customer first and at the core of your business.
But does this mean that
(a) The business exists to make money and it does that by being sensitive to the needs of the customers and creating great products (or services) with positive customer experiences so the customers will buy more.
(b) The business exists to help customers do what they do better - so the business is sensitive to their customers and create products, services and customer experiences that the customers need in order to achieve their objectives.
The issue is who is really at the core of your business – the shareholders or the customers. Whose needs really matters in a sale, those of the business, the sales-person or those of the buyer?
For me, customer-centric means focusing on what I can do for my customers as opposed to what I can get from my customers. It is being transparent and trustworthy and having my customer’s best interests at heart.
It’s the mind-set that makes what we do customer-centric.
Is customer-centric selling really selling?
If selling means persuading someone to buy, it doesn’t sound very customer-centric. Customer-centric selling seems like an oxymoron.
Maybe 71 years after Arthur Miller’s famous play, we should (figuratively) put the salesman to death. Let’s eliminate sales as a department and as a profession. Let’s stop selling and start helping customers buy what they need to achieve their goals.
At Magnetism, we’ve made a start. We don’t have salespeople. We don’t even have Account Managers. We have Client Success Managers who are tasked with helping existing clients and prospective clients succeed. It is working for us. Our clients seem to trust us and are happy to refer us to other prospective people and organisations they think we may be able to help.