Customer-Centricity Is Key to Sales Success

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As sales leaders look to close out 2019 and get a jump start on 2020, expect them to concentrate on improving lead generation, landing new accounts, expanding penetration into existing accounts, and increasing win rates, according to a report from CSO Insights.

The three main characteristics of successful sales organizations, according to the report, “Selling in the Age of Ceaseless Change: The 2018-2019 Sales Performance Report,” are having a customer-centric culture; a sales process that is dynamically aligned with the customer’s sales path; and confidence in their sellers’ ability to provide insight and perspective to customers.

Companies displaying these successful sales characteristics had deeper customer relationships and more formal sales processes, according to Seleste Lunsford, CSO Insights’ chief research officer. “The most successful companies aligned everything they did to the way customers made decisions, looking at what the customer is doing and developing strategies to help them make the [purchasing] decision,” she states.

Focusing on the customer is a far different strategy than companies had years ago, Lunsford adds. Successful organizations in the past focused more on a sales culture. “Now, customers want to work with companies that see beyond the deal,” she says.

Successful organizations today also start to build customer relationships earlier in the sales process and attempt to continue the relationship with the customer after the completion of the initial sale, according to Lunsford.

Building a unified sales system that encompasses strategy, customer engagement, and performance support is a work in progress as cross-functional teams define and redefine their approach. But it remains a priority. Additionally, collaborative sales teams that go further down the customer’s path to determine how the customer uses their companies’ products and services add greater value throughout the engagement, the report suggests.

To improve lead generation, CSO Insights recommends that organizations focus on data-driven approaches, including establishing a common understanding of effective collaboration, using scoring models, integrating prospecting, and getting prospecting right.

Leading companies are also using Big Data to drive lead generation, but that strategy has yet to be adopted by the market as a whole, Lunsford says. “Pockets of people are using leading-edge analytics, taking data from marketing and CRM systems, and using algorithms to help them recognize key characteristics. Those people are having tremendous success. Others are lacking the core data and the AI on top of it.”

To best win new accounts, CSO Insights says, organizations should focus on more comprehensive marketing/sales cycles. Selling to new accounts is more time-consuming now, so organizations need to prioritize those who are more likely to buy, the report argues.

Bridging the gap between customer service and sales and focusing on the entire customer experience rather than on the traditional sales process are critical in expanding business with existing customers, which CSO Insights identifies as the cause of “the most heartburn” for C-suite executives. The report recommends that companies explore new technologies for collecting internal and external data, including ones that employ artificial intelligence and automation. According to the report, a major financial institution tripled its sales opportunities from its existing customer base by deploying artificial intelligence.

Lunsford admits that improving lead generation, capturing new accounts, expanding penetration into existing accounts, and increasing win rates within the next year will be beyond the budget and personnel capabilities of some organizations, so she recommends that companies start by focusing on one of those elements, depending on where they are as organizations. Younger start-ups, for example, will need to concentrate on lead generation, while more mature organizations will want to concentrate on expanding penetration into existing accounts. Increasing win rates will be important for firms that seem to have plenty of leads but have poor or declining close rates. 

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