The Future of Customer Centricity
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Investing in a customer-centric way of operating a business is not new, but the way to approach customer-centricity has shifted. While “putting the customer first” has long been a mantra of business, the way sales teams nurture and ultimately grow relationships with customers is evolving in an increasingly digital-first environment. A recent study found that 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. A whopping 84% of business buyers reported that they are more likely to buy from sales reps that understand their goals.
The future of customer centricity may ultimately revolve around how the experience left the customer feeling — was the conversation empathetic and personalized, even amid a likely digital-first engagement? Enablement can play a significant role in ensuring the success of a customer-centric journey. The most recent Sales Enablement Analytics Report found that a third of companies are now tracking the level of personalization of customer engagement as a measure of sales effectiveness.
Whether an organization is reevaluating its customer-centric approach or looking to carve out new ones, these strategies will likely play a role in what customer-centricity of the future means for businesses.
Align Enablement Initiatives Through Every Stage of the Buyer’s Journey
Buyers often research on their own before speaking to a sales rep. This provides both a challenge and an opportunity for sellers. The challenge is to overcome any preconceived notions of the company and its product or service. The opportunity for sellers to add value immediately means digging even deeper into what the prospect may be seeking.
“Nowadays, if you look at any buying process, by the time that the potential buyer interacts with you, they’re already more than 50% in the entire sales process, which means that they have already done their research,” said Malvina EL-Sayegh, sales enablement lead at Reachdesk. “They know everything about your company, they have the facts, and often salespeople have to almost act as information checkers, or validating that the information that the prospect has found online is accurate.”
Enablement can help sales reps throughout the buyer’s journey by first matching where the buyer currently stands. For example, if buyers are not quite yet ready in the evaluation stage, jumping right into a demonstration may not be the most effective first step for a seller to take. If the buyer finds themselves more in the vendor categorization stage, sellers could adapt their approach and direct the prospective buyer to the right resources to help them through that process.
“The way sales enablement helps is to make sure that [reps] can practice having those relevant conversations in each stage and help them with their discovery conversation with the customer to ensure they know exactly where the buyer is on their journey,” said Beth Shuman, vice president of sales enablement at QAD.
Setting sellers up for success could mean ensuring that the sales process directly aligns with the customer’s buying process. For enablement practitioners, this helps put buying processes front of mind and ultimately helps to coach sales teams, managers, and leaders to think from the customer’s perspective in addition to their own goals.
“I think being customer-centric is really about understanding the customer process that they go through,” said James Marrable, senior manager of enablement at ServiceNow. “Invariably, I think salespeople, because of the way organizations are structured and because of the pressures they are under, tend to focus very much on the sales process and the things they need to do. They kind of forget about the things that the customer is going through, which is key to driving a deal through.”
Focus on Role-Based Enablement Strategies
When thinking about enhancing the customer’s end-to-end journey, it may be helpful to center enablement activities around the specific roles that a customer may interact with throughout the organization. For example, frontline salespeople will need different information than post-sale team members or employees from the technical or client services teams. Enablement can help ensure everyone is internally aligned for what they need to know to not just close a deal but follow through with an enduring customer relationship.
“I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating for a new customer to come on board and have to answer all of the questions that they just spent the previous six months answering,” said Kevin Casey, director of revenue enablement at Balto. “That’s a big area that we focus on; we’re ensuring that handoff is spotless and it’s seamless for our customers.”
Taking a role-based approach to each stage of the customer’s journey can help offer the right amount of support needed at just the right time and demonstrate the company’s understanding of customer needs on a more granular level.
“What we want to help [buyers] do is not only be competent in their purchasing decision but also make them the champion or the hero and what we have and what we know our products and services can do for them over the long run,” said Casey.
Building and Advocating for Deeper Customer Relationships
Gone are the days when sales quota was the only benchmark that mattered. As great as quotas are for measuring short-term goals, the real success lies in maintaining long-term relationships focused on helping the buyer succeed well beyond the closed deal.
“What salespeople have to do is really remember that ultimately, we’re in a human-to-human type business,” said EL-Sayegh. “What salespeople really have to do is just take a step back, listen, and actively listen, which is challenging in itself, but really take a step back and remember that we’re dealing with other individuals, and for them buying is just as challenging as selling is for us.”
Building trust and bringing out the more human elements of a customer conversation, like communication and empathy, will help organizations stand above and apart from competitors because the customer experience centers around the enjoyment of getting to know the other person, going beyond trying to reach a goal.
“The number one thing when you’re trying to build really good relationships with customers is to be interested,” said Marrable.
Buyers seek out the people who are inquisitive about their challenges and feel like their concerns are being heard and addressed. By actively listening, sellers can also help lay the foundation for a stronger relationship that takes a holistic approach to the customer experience, setting them up for success down the road.
Seeking out ways to increase customer-centricity as one of the core values across an entire revenue organization has the potential to create long-term, strategic impact.
“Customer-centricity spans all the way through the organization,” said Marrable. “If you’re in an organization that doesn’t put the customer at the heart of everything it does, I think you’re going to struggle.”
From that very first cold call to renewing that contract, prioritizing a customer-centric approach can ultimately help organizations scale faster, maintain consistent success, and build long-lasting relationships that bolster the overall health and reputation of the organization.