Buyer-Centric Selling Explained: Six Best Practices

Three weeks ago, I attended the Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference in Las Vegas – let me tell you why it was the ideal location.

In any major Las Vegas casino, you’re confronted with the strange dichotomy of human emotion and technology. The gambling experience is rooted in powerful human emotions – while the management of that experience is facilitated by advanced tech. And at a sales conference where AI-based technology was table stakes for vendors and a central theme of many conversations, human emotion carried the day.

As Gartner made clear in the keynote on day one – and as I’ve been saying for months – there’s one thing AI cannot do very well: instill confidence in buying decisions. Gartner calls this “value affirmation,” and it stems from all of the human-to-human interactions that buyers use to validate buying decisions.

Why should we care?

Because value affirmation increases the chance of a high-quality deal by 30%, and it’s more than twice as likely to occur when working with a human rep versus a purely digital buying experience – so the solution would seem to be to emphasize human-to-human interactions and adopt a buyer-centric mindset.

Here’s where us humans get in our own way.

As I mentioned in my last post, I can’t tell you how many people have told me they do buyer-centric selling through pitch decks or using ROI calculators.

Now, don’t get me wrong. A well-crafted presentation and an ROI calculator are tools that can be put to tremendous use, and they are merely that: tools. Instilling confidence in those tools depends on adopting a buyer-centric approach founded on human-to-human connection.

Except, what happens when different roles within your organization have different understandings of what buyer-centric selling truly means? It’s only natural, and yet the consequences on customer experience can be severe.

Using our recent research study, “From Selling to Solving: The Buyer-Centric Approach to Sales Success,” let’s look at how companies can avoid that fate and foster alignment on best practices.

Step 1: Use a Common Enterprise Language to Establish a Buyer-Centric Culture

To be truly buyer-centric, sales organizations need to adopt a common language. Training is a phenomenal way to jump-start this journey, and long-term success also comes down to how sales leaders and processes reinforce this language. Every aspect of the buying process should be designed with the customer in mind and as opportunities for knowledge collection. And it’s that common language that facilitates a revenue team’s ability to amass the knowledge to better understand buyers' needs and preferences and continuously improve their sales approach.

Step 2: Create Feedback Loops

As I mentioned last month, one of the more profound benefits of a common framework and language is the creation of efficient feedback loops. When all cross-functional roles contributing to revenue growth use the same criteria to evaluate and discuss opportunities, it speeds time to insight and enables teams to align on driving customer value and loyalty.
These feedback loops can also be harnessed to forge new dialogues with prospects and clients – and to help identify additional needs and expand opportunities for improved revenue growth and customer value.

Step 3: Address Contextual Challenges

Sales problems often appear as the tip of the iceberg. To be buyer-centric, you’ll need to address the underlying condition; begin by examining two categories of problems:

  • Issues with Tech – The proliferation of revenue tech has overloaded sellers and hindered productivity. However, tech can significantly impact selling behaviors, but its impact depends on how it is integrated into seller workflows and used to enhance buyer-centric behaviors. The right tech helps salespeople prepare and engage at the right moment, in the right way, to build buyer confidence.
  • Issues With Sales Skills – For salespeople to foster meaningful conversations and shape solutions that support client goals, training must support the facilitation and management of the buyer’s process.

Step 4: Measure and Reward Buyer-Centric Behaviors

Buyer-centric selling begins with top-down agreement on the behaviors that matter. Work with enablement to ensure you’re supporting and measuring the leading indicators that will drive revenue results. And to emphasize the importance of a buyer-centric approach, sales organizations should experiment with incentivizing customer-centric outcomes, such as providing performance-based incentives tied to account expansion and customer retention and incorporating customer feedback into evaluations.

Step 5: Leverage Data and Analytics

From qualification tools to marketing analytics, never underestimate the impact of an integrated tech stack that facilitates information sharing across cross-functional teams. The objective should be to understand how seemingly similar buyers are different and the ways in which a salesperson could adjust their behaviors and positioning to keep the buyer in the driver’s seat while simultaneously steering them toward the best outcomes.

Step 6: Provide Ongoing Sales Training and Support

Continuous learning and development are essential, and sales training is the crucial component in creating lasting behavioral change. This can include regular coaching sessions, ongoing instructor-led and online training programs, and access to just-in-time learning and industry resources. The key word is “continuous” since changing selling behaviors isn’t typically accomplished in a single, once-per-year training.

Once you successfully identify and develop the right sales behaviors, support can come through technology. For example, embedding on-demand learning inside of CRM and leveraging qualification tools, plan creation templates and account planning add-ons can expedite buyer-centric selling and enable frontline managers with advanced insight into measuring and cultivating buyer-centric behaviors.

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In the end, high-quality deals will always depend on building buyer confidence – and to do that, sales orgs must cultivate the behaviors that lead to credibility, trust and rapport, and the impactful business conversations that rest on these foundations.

For more selling advice, check out:

As always, Sell with Value,

Julie

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