Why is “customer-centric sales” a misnomer for most organisations?

Why is “customer-centric sales” a misnomer for most organisations?

The vast majority of salespeople are simply not customer-centric enough and it’s costing millions!

“The problem is that it’s rare to find a sales head who will admit that, and even rarer to find a salesperson who believes he/she is anything other than completely customer-centric” explains David Feldman, Managing Director of Sandler Training London.

My riposte that “you would say that David, are you not a trainer promoting sales training?” was met with justified disdain. Apparently, Sandler Training is not a training company – at least not in the conventional sense.

So, what is the sales and business development function missing that is so vital? And can that claim that is costing companies millions every year be substantiated?

The problem is multi-faceted, and it starts with the company and how it identifies itself. Most companies identify themselves in the context of the product or service they build. Twenty years ago, sales people talked with customers about the features of the products they sold, which translated into advantages and therefore benefits. Most sales people would claim that this is now old hat and value-driven selling has now taken over. Numerous methods have emerged which define the impact of using a product or service versus the cost. If that can be believably quantified, then there is a compelling RoI and ongoing dollar impact to the bottom line.

Is this not a customer centric selling strategy that maximises impact in 2018?

Apparently not – this appears to be customer centric on the surface but it’s still a long way off!

Value-driven selling is still “selling” – and that is where the misnomer lies. People who “sell”, irrespective of the value attached to it, are trying to persuade people to adopt their preferred course of action. That may or may not be one that aligns with the customer and the issue that that creates – often never clearly articulated – is TRUST. The TRUST GAP is obvious if you think about it because, irrespective of how polished the salesperson is, there is a clash in agenda. Sales outcome and customer outcome are in 180-degree opposition.

Sales Heads and Practitioners often react quite defensively to that assertion. Of course, they are interested in their customer outcomes but ultimately they still have an over-riding objective “make sales and create revenue”.

Customer-centric selling is actually not selling at all. Creating an environment where companies buy value is a very different process. It takes time to develop and it requires the whole chain of command from CEO to salesman to think differently. It’s customer-centric problem-solving and it requires a very specific mentality to be good at it.

This raises a number of questions which challenge acknowledged best practice:

  • If companies are truly trying to solve their customers problems, why do they have a function that even mentions the word “sales” given it creates the basis for conflicting motivations and therefore behaviours?
  • Why do companies reward people who simply generate sales revenue? Is that not creating a basis for conflicting behaviours which restrict revenue in the longer term? Should they not focus on rewarding customer centric behaviours and resulting problems solved instead?

The customer-centric salesperson of 2018 who cares more about their customer than their wallet achieves considerably more than those driven solely by revenue targets and closes.

I remember reading a biography on Keith Richard of the Rolling Stones who once stated “if the Rolling Stones had set out to be rich we would never have made it. What we did was bring rhythm and blues and rock n roll together for the sake of our audience. The side effect was a billion GBP brand.” If a one-time drug-addled, albeit very talented musician can recognise that, why can’t the business brains driving tomorrow’s corporates do the same?

The answer is they can and will – it just requires a recognition that new ways are emerging, and the opportunity is right now.

Our thanks to David Feldman for his insight and input into this article



Charles Bennett

Founder & CEO. Charles is an acknowledged leader in customer-driven performance change using both best practice and emerging next practice perspectives. He leads, mentors and coaches in both strategic and operational initiatives. A strong believer is the potential for "supercompany performance" he innovates using next practice thinking and methods to enhance the business. He researches heavily to retain his reputation as a thought leader, which he has applied across 40 countries, multiple sectors and companies such as Citibank, Nielsen, Microsoft, Vodafone, Tracker and governments in Middle East and Asia. Contributes to business journals and often invited as a speaker or chairman to events all over the world.