I have a challenge for you. The next time you’re talking with your salespeople, ask them to describe the steps of your company’s sales process. Chances are, most of them will have an answer.

Then ask, “What are the steps of a customer’s buying process?” If your company is like many others, the odds are good all you’ll get back is what I call the “dead fish look.”

That’s because even though many sales organizations claim to be customer focused, their real focus is all internal, on what their salespeople are doing. They haven’t taken the time to help salespeople truly connect with customers’ buying processes.

And without that connection, sales reps have a hard time getting prospects to appreciate the full nature of their challenges and assign greater value to your solution. That means smaller deals and fewer wins.

Coaching strategies that build customer focus

As a manager, you have a power to reverse this situation so your reps can land bigger deals and have more wins. How? By reinforcing a customer perspective in your coaching conversations with them.

Here are three examples:

1) Ask questions that force the rep to think from the customer’s perspective. 

Sales reps must learn to appreciate the steps a customer goes through when making a buying decision. You can help create this perspective by asking reps questions like:

• “How does the prospect describe their problem?”

• “What steps has the customer taken so far in making their purchasing decision?”

• “What decision makers are involved? Why do you think those people are involved? What does each of them stand to gain if they make this purchase?

2) Make sure your reps do more listening and resist the urge to pitch prematurely.

Talking about features and benefits of a solution does no good if the prospect or customer has not even decided to buy yet. Pitching benefits too soon is one main way that reps get out of sync with customer buying.

To develop their customer-focus skills, you should be asking them:

• “Do you think the customer fully understands the size of the problem and what it’s costing their organization? How do you know?”

• “If your customer doesn’t fully understand their problem, they think of our solution as a commodity. What questions can you ask them to get them to think about the ripple effects you’re seeing that they haven’t noticed yet?”

• “Has your customer thought through the consequences of NOT taking action? How could you get them to do that?”

3) Help reps focus on actions they want the customer to take.

When a rep understands a customer’s buying process, their targets for any sales call or discussion becomes getting the customer to take the next step in that process.

Your role is to ask the rep questions such as:

• “Where is this prospect at in their decision-making process?”

• “What does this customer need to learn or understand in order to take their next buying step?”

• “What can you do to help them reach that point?”

More help for your reps

To help you develop a stronger customer focus in your reps, download my article, “Top 5 Reasons to Slow Down Your Sales Process.” That will help reps understand (1) the single biggest mistake salespeople make, (2) why slowing down each sales conversation helps customers buy faster, (3) ways the rep can differentiate your company’s sales approach and solutions from those of your competition.

Kevin F. Davis shares practical solutions to the most challenging issues that frontline sales managers struggle with every day. Kevin blogs on methods for everything from leading, coaching, and managing priorities, to hiring, forecasting, and driving rep accountability. Kevin is the president of TopLine Leadership, Inc., and the author of the new book, “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness.” Find his blogs and articles at TopLineLeadership.com/blog and kevinfdavis.com/blog

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