Customer-Centric Selling: What It Is and How to Use It (Free Checklist Included)
Today’s buyer is more informed than ever before. With quick access to information, resources, and input from their peers, most buyers have a strong understanding of their challenges and the solutions available to them before ever connecting with a sales representative. They’re less tolerant of flowery pitches and product-driven promotion — meaning traditional sales techniques can fall flat quickly with a modern buyer.
But this doesn’t mean the job of a salesperson is irrelevant — it just requires a new approach. Shifting to a customer-centric selling methodology can help sales professionals do their job well in our ever-complex and unpredictable world.
What is customer-centric selling?
Customer-centric selling emphasizes and addresses the customer’s unique needs at every stage of the sales process. Rather than highlighting a product or service’s benefits and features as traditional sales techniques do, customer-centric selling uses long-term relationship-building techniques to identify the right solution to a customer’s challenges.
With customer-centric selling, the salesperson takes on a supporting role. While in traditional sales approaches a salesperson might be seen as a gatekeeper to information and success, customer-centric sales recognize that the buyer is well-informed, but might need help making sense of all the information available to them. They need help breaking down their options and finding the right solution for them.
This means sales professionals need to be more than just be charismatic and persuasive and stay on top of the current sales trends — they need to know how to listen, empathize, and be patient as the customer works through the sales process on their own time.
What are the benefits of customer-centric selling?
Customer-centric selling involves more effort and heavy lifting from the sales team, and the process isn’t guaranteed to end in a deal. But this sales methodology can have long-term payoffs when done correctly.
Here are just some of the benefits of customer-centric selling:
- Long-term, sustainable customer relationships. Customer-centric selling requires personalized attention. There is no copy-and-paste strategy that works for the masses. But in getting to know the individual challenges each customer faces and delivering unique support to help them solve those problems, sales professionals can build long-term relationships that are both successful and sustainable.
- Higher customer retention. Acquiring new customers is expensive. When your business relies on pitch-first tactics aimed to just close the deal as quickly as possible, it’s likely those customers aren’t going to stick around for long. Taking the extra time to make sure buyers are getting the right solution for them can lead to happier customers who want to stick around.
- Customer experience as a competitive advantage. Customers talk. They share their experiences with friends, in social media groups, and on online review sites — and those reviews are influencing purchases. 93% of consumers say online reviews have influenced a purchasing decision. If a sales team is going above and beyond to make sure their prospects are heard, understood, and taken care of, it can help the company create a competitive advantage that’s hard to beat.
How to adopt a customer-centric sales approach
Here’s how your sales team can start putting customers first with a customer-centric approach to sales. (Or, download a free PDF checklist of the Customer Centric Selling process for your sales team!)
1. Shift your mindset
Traditional sales professionals view their job as a numbers game. They’ve built formulas and strategies to maximize their processes and close more deals — If I make X cold calls a day, I can close Y sales. But this outcome-focused approach treats leads and prospects like dollar signs, not people or companies with real problems they want to solve.
While a salesperson’s goal will always be to sell specific products or services, a customer-centric sales approach requires a complete mindset shift. Instead of looking for the quickest path to closing a deal, you need to position yourself as a problem solver — someone knowledgeable, supportive, and ready to make the best suggestion available, even if it means acknowledging when the product or service you’re trying to sell isn’t the right fit.
Instead of entering each sales conversation wondering “How can I convince this person to buy my product?” ask yourself the following questions:
- How can I improve this customer’s life?
- What knowledge can I share that will help this customer find the right solution for their problem?
- What can I learn about the industry or day-to-day life of the customer I’m speaking with?
- Am I focused on helping this customer find the solution they need, even if it means directing them to another product or service?
Remember — you’re here to listen, understand, and provide solutions, not blow them away with your presentation skills. Focus on solving, not showing.
2. Do your homework
Knowing who you’re talking to is crucial in any sales environment, but when you’re trying to build a long-lasting relationship with your prospect, you really need to show you care. If it seems like you don’t understand what the prospect is dealing with, it will be hard for them to feel like you’re actually capable of helping them.
A quick review of their LinkedIn profile before your meeting isn’t going to cut it — this means diving in deep. You need to know industry jargon, challenges and opportunities shaping the future of their industry, and what kind of competition they’re up against.
Research these questions before your first conversation with a prospect:
- How does this industry present itself?
- What terms do people within this industry use?
- What challenges or opportunities are unique to my prospect?
- What challenges or opportunities are impacting the industry as a whole?
- What challenges or opportunities can we predict about the future of this industry?
Stay current on changes or developments by subscribing to industry news publications or setting alerts for specific keywords. Being informed can show prospects you care and also give you an opportunity to proactively address new problems that might arise.
3. Ask the right questions
When a customer comes to you, they have a direct problem they need to solve. But most of the time there are a dozen other concerns impacting what they decide to buy. Budget constraints, other decision-makers’ opinions, external threats, or concerns about the future can all impact a buyer’s final decision.
It’s your job as a customer-centric salesperson to ask the right questions to better understand the initial problem that needs to be solved and the circumstances impacting the buyer’s decision.
But even with the mass amounts of information available to buyers, sometimes they’re not always clear what their challenges are or the solution that will best solve that problem. They might come to you believing they need a certain type of product or service, but upon further digging, you discover that they might actually need something entirely different.
Here’s an example. Say you sell team communication software. You connect with a prospect who claims the tool they’re using just isn’t working for them — messages are getting lost, teams are struggling to work together, and collaboration is challenging. They’re ready to try something new.
In traditional selling, this would be the perfect time for a pitch. You’d compare what your tool does that their existing software can’t, explain why it’s better, and close an easy deal. But with customer-centric selling, you want to get to the root of the problem. Why isn’t the software they’re using working? Where is their team struggling to connect? What are the deeper pain points that need to be addressed?
After a few conversations with the prospect, you learn that communication actually isn’t the issue at all — it’s project management. The surface-level issues of lack of teamwork and collaboration were actually symptoms of a bigger problem — one that would still exist if the customer’s only change was to their internal communication platform.
While this knowledge might not end in a sale on your end, you’ve helped the customer find the solution that will actually fix their problem.
Take the time to really get to know your customer and the issues they’re dealing with. Open-ended, insightful questions are the best way to gather that information. Here are some important questions you should be asking your customer:
- What is the biggest pain point you’re struggling to solve?
- What needs are currently going unmet?
- How are these unmet needs impacting your life or business?
- What solutions have you tried? Where have they met your expectations? Where have they fallen short?
- What other decision-makers are involved in the buying process? Do their needs or goals differ from your own?
- What does your dream solution look like?
- What outcomes are most important to you?
- What does a “successful” solution look like for you?
- How does this problem impact other areas of your life or business?
- What outside factors could change your needs? How might they change?
Be ready with follow-up questions. While it’s always a good idea to go into a meeting with a list of questions you want to ask, let the conversation flow as naturally as possible. You want your prospects to feel comfortable opening up to you — and sometimes the most helpful information is discovered after some digging.
4. Show uses — not features
Features are cool. They can be flashy and exciting, and when head-to-head against certain competitors, it can be a buyer’s deciding factor. But until the buyer understands how it works in their environment (i.e. how it will improve their life), features aren’t going to win them over.
Ditch the presentations for customer use cases. Highlighting how your product or service has improved the lives of past or existing customers can help your current prospect envision what life would be like if they choose to buy. Real-user testimonials or stories add a personalized view of using your product or service beyond all the bells and whistles.
Want to take it one step further? Offer a free demo, trial, or sample whenever possible. Giving your buyer an opportunity to take a test run before committing can help them calm any nerves or answer any questions (or even come up with new questions they need answering before they buy).
5. Be comfortable with giving up control
Traditional selling can lean heavily on automated sales funnels. You reach out after X amount of time, send a specific presentation after X meetings, hope to close a deal X weeks after your first connection. But customer-centric selling doesn’t work like that.
Customer-centric selling can take some time, and it’s not always a straightforward process. You might lead a prospect to a conclusion they weren’t prepared for, or they might find that the right solution for them is with another solution. A prospect might reappear ready to buy months (or even years) after you started the sales process.
Don’t try and force customers onto a schedule. Give them space to find the right solution for them on their own time — but make sure to stay available and ready in the background should they need your support.
Sometimes, customer-centric selling can feel like a lot of waiting. But remember — this methodology focuses on the long-term gains of acting as a resource and support to your leads and prospects. The goal isn’t to land quick deals, it’s to build lasting, sustainable relationships with loyal, trusting customers. With a customer-centric sales approach, you’re investing in your future success.
Use Weflow to implement Customer-Centric Selling Methodology
You can easily create your own Customer Centric Selling (or even MEDDIC) note templates with Weflow’s powerful notepad. Once you sign up, simply head to the note section and follow our step-by-step guide.