The concept of customer centricity is nothing new. Indeed, it is almost impossible to hypothesize the existence of a company that does not aim to meet the needs of its customers. Because ultimately, customer centricity is exactly that: thinking about the customer and their needs first. Today, however, at the height of the 4.0 era, “putting the customer at the center” is no longer an abstract concept or an ideal to aim for. Instead, it is what differentiates a company capable of building a competitive advantage from one that is forced to look on from the sidelines.
Let’s think about it: what is the end of the Industry 4.0 paradigm, with sensors, intelligent machinery and analytics platforms? Obviously, that of efficient and automated production, but above personalized, that is, in line with customer needs and capable of adapting to new market trends. The same applies to the retail and logistics world, where the phenomenon of on-demand depends precisely on the need of companies to put their customers at the center of attention. Nowadays, in fact, the customer wants to choose where, when and how to have the goods delivered, something that just ten years ago would not even have been conceivable.
If this principle is to guide the work of companies, it is also reflected in the sales processes. Indeed, customer centricity starts right from the sales process. In fact, it is the sellers and sales managers who have direct contact with the market and have to build the relationship of trust with the customer which is a fundamental aspect for an important sale.
Developing a customer-centric sales process means, in practice, reviewing the order of priorities. First of all, it would be useful not to think only in terms of sales but in terms of customer lifetime value. With this in mind, it is vital to build a relationship of professional trust that goes well beyond the single supply of products or services. It is then necessary to give the customer’s knowledge the same (if not greater) weight than that relating to the product, the market and competitors.
All this on the basis of a simple reflection: in the B2B purchasing process, the seller is usually involved when the buyer already has a clear perception of the product that could be right for him. He may also have already consulted with competitors and other managers of the company, and have an idea of the possible bottlenecks he will face. In a similar situation, the value of the classic product presentation is scarce at the sales stage and, above all, it does not pursue the aforementioned customer centricity.
The seller, therefore, is no longer asked to think in terms of product but of solution. The buyer has a goal, he has a purpose, he has problems to face and, he might not able to solve them with internal resources. So he looks for a company that can manage them. To the technical knowledge of the product and the service, the seller must therefore combine great competence on business dynamics. But above all, he must be proactive, that is, a purchasing facilitator: he must know the customer’s problems and the obstacles he will have to face in order to complete the process. This puts the proactive seller on a level of advantage over all those who, again, think of the sale as a pure and simple proposal of a side-by-side product comparison at a (discounted) price.
There is a lot of work to do, also because customer centricity means building a long-term relationship. Furthermore, it is essential to give priority to the customer even after the sale. This is undoubtedly the correct path to achieving results. Developing a relationship of trust makes it much easier to make other sales in the future and to maintain a solid relationship with your customers. The secret therefore lies in changing approach, being proactive and thinking less in terms of products and more of solutions.
A big hand comes from technology, because it is essential for sellers, who usually do not follow a single buyer, to always have the customer’s story at hand. Also, you need to be extremely prepared and up-to-date on everything. On the product, of course, but also on prices and configuration possibilities, as well as on external elements such as the latest regulatory updates. All this can be concentrated in a portable device, which allows the seller to have everything under control. From product materials, up-to-date pricing, predefined configurations and more, serving as a point of contact between the customer and the company. In this way, it will be possible both to adopt a customer-centric approach to sales, and to demonstrate competence and reliability, which are fundamental to building trust.