‘Learning does not exhaust the mind’, says Leonardo Da Vinci. Nothing, exhilarates me more than learning.

This week I was at Gartner Technical Symposium in Orlando. Here, I was invited to a session for Technology CEOs in mid-size enterprise segment. As always, the Gartner speakers were excellent and shared great insights on building an impactful go-to-market strategy. We later had a roundtable discussion focused on the growth challenges faced by growth stage companies. Four CEOs shared their stories on how lack of customer centricity from sales team is impacting their overall growth. One of them actually had to replace his entire team!

The topic of customer centricity is very dear to me. It helped me foster enduring customer relationships and build a successful career in business development. I shared my experiences on the same and the group found it useful. Through this article I hope to reach more companies in similar situations.

In many ways, the sales team is the face of the company. They are always talking to the customers. Hence it is paramount to empower them with the right training, content and sales tools. I prefer using the word empowerment to enablement. Feeling empowered leads to extraordinary results.

This is what I shared at the Gartner conference. Three simple ways to empower sales teams:

1. Customer-centric Sales Training

More often than not, sales teams quickly jump to product demos. They fail to understand the harm they are doing to themselves. If I am a customer, this demonstrates lack of preparation to me. The sales executive is treating me like a commodity, wasting my team’s precious time with a stale presentation. So, he or she deserves to be treated similarly. Don’t you feel the same?

What do you think differentiates great sales executives from the rest? They are not afraid to ask the right questions to the right people in the customer organisation.

  • What are the key business goals the customer is pursuing?
  • What is stopping them from achieving them?
  • How does their current situation look?
  • What are the customer’s short term and long term aspirations?

Through these questions, sales teams can help customers quantify the pain they are enduring and challenge the status quo. Also, assist customers in exploring the solutions which solve their pain in the most optimal way.

Hence, the sales trainings should focus as much on understanding customer situations as on product functionalities.

As the famed Seth Godin, says – ‘Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers’

2. Customer-centric Content

As per a Gartner survey, customers spend 65% of the total buying time with co-workers, industry peers, independent third parties reviewing about the vendor and their content. Only 35% directly with the vendors. This demands for a relook at all the external facing content. Product marketers, are you asking these questions while devising the messaging strategy ?

  • Are we talking about customers and their journey or about our products?
  • To what type of customer profile is this content aimed at?
  • Which persona within the customer organisation will be benefited from this?
  • What customer use case should we target?
  • Is it consistent with overall positioning and messaging strategy of the organisation?

The last point needs special attention. Nothing turns off a customer more than inconsistent messaging. If the message from sales, customer success and product marketing is not aligned, it creates a serious trust deficit with customers.

3. Customer-centric Sales Processes

To reap the results of sales empowerment, the customer centric sales methodology adopted by the organisations should reflect in all the support systems – CRM, marketing automation tools and sales status calls. The leadership team should clearly define the expectations from the sales team. The weekly, monthly and quarterly sales calls should be centered around this.

While doing all this, leadership should never forget that empowering the sales team is their key goal. They should constantly communicate on how this alignment will contribute to the success of customers and in-turn the sales team. Else the sales executives may get demotivated with the change and perceive it as tighter scrutiny. Everyone in the sales organisation including the CEOs and regional sales heads should be relentlessly focused on this alignment.

To summarize, sales empowerment should be centered around customers. I have personally traversed this path and enjoyed significant success. I truly feel empowered, smart and confident in solving my customer problems. And my customers want more of it…

This article was originally published on LinkedIn and has been republished with the permission of the author.

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