By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

This article is a continuation from the article, as part of the IIWII (“It Is What It Is”) series.

product developmentEarly in my sales career somebody told me it was easier to sell something buyers wanted to buy. At the time, I thought the comment displayed an amazing grasp of the obvious, but today I find wisdom in that simple statement that many organizations lack. Especially with technology companies, there have been instances of product announcements in search of markets. Over the years some vendors have been bailed out when early market buyers discovered business usages (applications) for new offerings.

Blatant “build it and they will buy” approaches are no longer the norm, largely due to an emerging awareness of the need to be (or appear to be) “customer-centric.” For existing siloed organizations it is a major undertaking to transition to “outside-in” approaches when developing new offerings.

Companies that are successful in adapting should enjoy significant advantages over their competition, as their offerings should better align with market and buyer needs.

A useful question with the CustomerCentric Selling® sales methodology is to ask buyers: “What are you hoping to accomplish?” It is an attempt to elicit the goal(s) the buyer (or organization) wants to achieve through the usage of the offering being considering. If a seller has established credibility and can get a meaningful response, our thought is that a buying cycle has begun and the seller can begin to do need development to determine if the offering is a fit and uncover potential value in the buyer’s mind.

To help Product Development (PD) better understand clients’ needs, there are several steps organizations can take:

  • Establish a common vocabulary with which to discuss the different levels of buyers within organizations and their needs.

  • Have PD understand the titles sellers are calling on and the business outcomes those buyers want to achieve.

  • When developing new offerings, make sure PD is asking: “What do our clients want to accomplish?”

  • Develop a formal approach to having PD staff have exposure to customers and prospects so they have a better understanding of market requirements and trends. These meetings or discussions should run the gamut from users up to the people making buying decisions.

An awareness of the realities customers face is a key component in allowing PD to create and enhance offerings that buyers need and therefore will want to buy. Giving them exposure to your customers and prospects will go a long way toward making their efforts more customer-centric. Starting with the end in mind means involving customers early in the process.

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