Click here to read Part Two.

sales meetingCustomerCentric Selling® emphasizes the need for meaningful conversation with the customer: Salespeople who tell customers what they need are perceived as presumptuous. Customers are only willing to explore new ideas if the salesperson can talk about subjects that have priority and matters that are meaningful to the customer. Trust grows to the degree a salesperson’s message resonates in the customer’s heart and mind.

Messages must match the market and the buyer’s interest.

Of course, it’s easier to meet your customers’ needs if you know what those needs are. CustomerCentric Selling® suggests that salespeople should first establish a certain amount of rapport with a potential client, using early conversations to gather information. The important thing is to get the buyer to state a goal or need. If he/she doesn’t offer it up front, the salesperson can suggest some potential goals that line up with the buyer’s job title. Maybe offer a menu: ‘I don’t know about you, Mr. VP of Sales, but the goals we hear most from other VPs of sales is that they’d like to be able to forecast more accurately or that they want to shorten the sales cycle.’ But as on the game show Jeopardy!, you’ll be penalized if you forget to phrase it in the form of a question. People don’t like to be told what they need. They want to be asked. But if you suggest possibilities, maybe the prospect can relate to one of those goals. He’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, our sales cycles are too long…’ He’s now admitted a goal. Once he’s gotten the client to state a goal, the salesperson can use messaging to create some usage scenarios. Each scenario would have an action built into it – a specific way the product or service being sold would help this VP of Sales shorten his sales cycle. It also helps to fine-tune the message depending on to whom you’re pitching your product. What attributes of the system are most helpful to a CFO? What would a CIO need? In a complex sale that will affect many layers of a company; each player has different needs. It’s not enough to simply show how the product can be used to solve a problem – you need to be able to say, “This is how the product can help you solve your problem.”

Salespeople have been trying to fine-tune and customize their messages for years – but today’s salesperson deals with a staggering amount of information.

Marketers often create messages that are exclusively focused on product features, not customer benefits. Clients don’t have an interest in product knowledge; they’re already swamped with work, and this is just something new they have to learn. To approach these people with a list of 21 things your product can do is counterproductive. Give them too much information and the buyer may conclude it is more trouble than it’s worth. “If you have different target customers within specific vertical markets, you need to be able to speak to all of them,” says Charles Orlando. “Whereas a CEO might want to talk about the actual payback and increased productivity, the CIO might want to talk about ease of integration.” A salesperson that delivers a targeted message for each contact is going to be far ahead of a competitor who is pitching the same boilerplate presentation to everybody. CustomerCentric Selling® emphasizes the need for value-added solutions. People will always listen to someone they think can help them solve their problems, so the most successful sales messages give concrete answers to that burning question ‘What’s in it for me?’

Customer message management systems

The idea of customizing sales presentations isn’t really new. John Henry Patterson of National Cash Register created a system in 1897 in which his salespeople had to follow a specific nine-step process for demonstrating a cash register. Patterson’s sales manual contained the 20 most likely objections salespeople might encounter and answered those objections by responding to the customer’s unique problems. At the end of the presentation, the salespeople showed a grocer a flyer that had printed testimonials from other grocers, a restaurant owner a testimonial letter from another restaurant owner, and so on. After all, Patterson reasoned, “A baker won’t believe a testimonial from a butcher.” So top-notch salespeople have been trying to fine-tune and customize their messages for years – but compared to the NCR salesman of 1897 with his single sales manual, today’s salesperson deals with a staggering amount of information. Lisa Gregg, the Director of Sales Development at American Express, says, “Our company had more than 100 different databases that we were asking our salespeople to master. The challenge was, ‘How can we take all these things, identify the good and necessary parts, fix the things that are broken, and then blend it up for the salesperson to drink?’” The man who turned out to have his finger on the blend button was Tim Riesterer, VP of Ventaso. While CustomerCentric Selling® originated the blueprint of the message-driven sales process, Ventaso provided the means to implement it, by developing a system called Customer Message Management that allows salespeople to tap into a sales and marketing intelligence center. The engine allows a company to inventory and organize a tremendous amount of sales and marketing content and serve up customized messages to its sales force.

Click here to read Part Four.

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