The traditional customer call once seemed indispensable to the selling process; the time and expense involved were just a basic cost of doing business. In recent years, however, the business community has come to regard the sales call as an expenditure for which there are substitutes.
For many companies telemarketing, video conferencing and direct email have made the sales call a choice not an inevitability. This is not surprising when various studies suggest that getting one sales person in front of one customer now costs $1500 - this cost has trebled since 1983. As a consequence professional salespeople have to be more effective than ever to justify the investment in a face to face effort.
What I can say (and often do) is that the one term which sets top performers apart is customer focus
Outstanding sales results depend on:
- The ability to think from the customer's point of view
- Understanding the customer's agenda, buying cycle and best interests
Beyond a superficial reading of immediate customer needs, salespeople must gain a deeper understanding of both the buyer's long-term goals and the overall business climate. Certainly at the heart of customer focus is the art of listening constructively - the best salespeople are masters at capturing information.
Customer focus also means taking the customer seriously - to-day the salesperson who clings to the product orientation of a decade ago is losing ground, because as client companies branch into new markets and unfamiliar territories, they are demanding unique, flexible solutions from their vendors - customised to support specific goals.
Another myth which can be exploded is that whilst customers value flexibility, being too flexible can undermine the sales relationship. On the whole salespeople imagine that customers value a vendor's responsiveness above all. However recent research shows that their primary concern is reliability.
In summary, in order to maintain customer focus the best salespeople become facilitators, creating a partnership that extends the selling relationship within the customer's company.
The motivation to achieve this should be strong - it now costs fifteen times as much to attract and sell to a new customer as it does to an existing one!