Customer-centric selling for SMEs: what does it mean?

The way you sell to your customers is crucial, because it sets the standard for a potential long-term relationship. Using a customer-centric approach to selling makes the most out of every opportunity to get new customers on board. Here’s how.

Customer-centric selling is a key part of becoming a customer-centric organisation: customer satisfaction, not sales, should be at the forefront of everything you do. It’s all about the added value you provide to make the customer happy and/or successful - right from the get-go and throughout the buying process. Customer-centric selling will lead your customers to be more loyal, buy more, and spread their positive experience with your company to the world.

What are the advantages of becoming a customer-centric organisation? Learn more about why it should matter to your SME.

7 tips to adopt a customer-centric approach to sales

How can you provide a great customer experience, even before the sale? Below are 7 tips for SMEs to adopt a customer-centric selling approach from Winning By Design, an organisation specialised in coaching salespeople to adopt a customer-centric approach. Whether you’re selling a product or offering a service, the following small improvements illustrate what customer-centric selling truly entails.

1. Solve problems, don’t sell: customers really don’t like being sold to, so help them solve their pains. If it’s not immediately clear what the problem is, try to diagnose it, but don’t feed them the answer. It’s easy: don’t sell a customer shoes if all they want is a handbag.

2. Listen more, talk less: instead of offering (and sometimes even forcing) your opinion, ask meaningful questions such as “What is your biggest obstacle?” or “What are your concerns?”. Before you have a meeting, whether it’s in-person or online, make sure you come prepared: take a brief moment to write down some questions to get an understanding of their issues. When you ask a prospect a question your competition isn’t asking, you can build trust. The more you understand what makes businesses or customers tick, the better questions you can ask.

3. Educate, don’t close: educate your customers on the problem to show that you know what you’re talking about. The goal is to help a potential customer, not sell. Adding value for your customers means that you understand their problem. If you truly understand your customers and their struggles, deriving a solution will be easier.

4. Tell a story, don’t start a sales pitch: share your expertise through stories of happy customers. Tip: if you have a website, it could be a great idea to showcase happy customers on with quotes or short testimonials. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to start a meaningful conversation.

5. Choose wisely between online and in-person meetings: depending on what your customers expect and what you sell, try to meet your customers online where appropriate. Don’t get us wrong: face-to-face meetings are great, but usually also time-consuming - and not always necessary. Valuing your customers’ time is a win-win: it keeps the risk of frustration at bay, which can lead to improved customer retention for your business.

6. Do it now, not next week: this is an easy one: help your customers right now. Customers want a solution now, not in two days so make sure you can follow up quickly and can easily take it to the next step.

7. Make communication short & sweet: shorter meetings and to-the-point communication is another improvement potential customers will appreciate. Here’s a small mental trick to help you: before every sales meeting, think about what you want to do, and take a moment to ask “What will a prospect gain out of the time he or she spends with me?”

Unable to fulfil a customer’s need? Walk away from a sales deal.

Customer-centric selling can form a great long-term bond between your business and the customer. But every relationship requires a decent base for it to work. Meaning: you shouldn’t just try to sell anything to anyone. That will only prove detrimental in the long run.

A sale should result in one of these three things, at all times:

  • a customer achieves their goal (i.e. launching a new website)
  • you solve their problem (i.e. your website performance no longer lags)
  • you satisfy their need (i.e. create a more user-friendly website)

If you’re unable to fulfil any of these needs, you should simply walk away from the deal.

Want to get a second opinion before you start with customer-centric selling? Learn what you should avoid doing and how you can excel from Jacco Vanderkooij, founder of Winning by Design and seasoned expert who’s worked with dozens of sales teams.

  • 11/09/2017
  • Last modified on 13/03/2024

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