I'd like you to think about your customers and prospects for a moment -- more specifically, about how they spend their time when going through the decision cycle for the solutions you offer.
How much time, as a percentage of the total time they have, do you think they actually spend evaluating YOUR solution?
In the last twenty years we've asked this same question of thousand of sales people. A few optimistic people will say five or 10 percent, but the sales veterans know better:
"If my customer spends one to two percent of his or her time thinking about my products," one person said recently, "I would consider that I've really got his or her attention."
Most believe their customers spend less than 1%.
Here's the problem, when most salespeople today talk about "focusing on the customer," their well-intentioned plan is to determine what the customer needs and how their solutions can address those needs.
Unfortunately, that's not enough any more -- and I don't really believe it ever has been. In fact, focusing on what your prospect or customer needs, or says she needs, can often take the salesperson on a long, slow ride to the land of missed opportunities; a land where well-meaning sales people work hard but deliver little value to their prospects and earn little for the time they spend.
How to Focus on the Customer
So what does it REALLY mean to focus on the customer? What's the right approach? When we say you should focus on the customer, we mean that you should focus on what the customer is focused on. That may or may not be the problems and solutions you've got your eye on. But one thing is certain: Whatever your customer is focused on, it is not -- I repeat not -- your products or solutions.
This is the painful but undeniable truth. As a B2B sales professional, you can't afford to forget that your prospects spend a minuscule portion of their time thinking about and evaluating your proposals. The only reason they spend any time at all doing this is that they believe there's at least the potential your products and/or services can have an impact on what they're really thinking about: Their business vision, goals, plans, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, processes, and people.
That's right. While your customers may be spending 1% of their time actually dedicated to evaluating your particular solution, you can be absolutely certain they're spending the other 99%+ of their time focused on their business and what they're trying to accomplish.
If you don't live where they live, know what keeps them awake at night, what new products they're launching, what competitors they're battling or the market conditions in which they operate, 1% of their attention is not only all you'll get, it's all you'll deserve.
The Bottom Line
So it's your choice to be a part of the 1% or the 99%. The truth is, the percentage of mindshare you get from your customers will be directly proportional to the percentage of time you spend dedicated to understanding their business and finding ways in which you can positively impact what they're trying to accomplish.
Ultimately, the more you know about your customer's business outside the realm of your products and services, and the greater the resulting impact, the more mindshare you'll earn.
In this case, you can be certain I want to be a part of the 99%.
Bob Nicols has 34 years of experience in sales, sales management, executive management and sales force development. He founded Burton Training Group, now AXIOM Sales Force Development, in 1990 after being a top and highly recognized performer in sales, sales management and executive positions within the technology sector. He has managed and mentored thousands of sales people, sales managers and senior managers and been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. For more than 21 years he has developed and delivered sales programs that have become the standard for many Fortune 100 companies including AT&T, BellSouth, Disney Enterprises, Alltel, Verizon and ESPN. AXIOM programs have been implemented in over 30 countries including Japan, the UK, Germany, Dubai, Brazil, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Slovakia, Sweden, and The Netherlands. Bob's highly energetic and insightful lectures and workshops have resulted in invitations to be a featured presenter at dozens of national and international sales meetings and conferences. He is a trusted advisor to the presidents and senior managers of multiple organizations, both large and small and has been a board member of a national technology company. Bob is the developer of AXIOM's “Selling Sciences ProgramTM” and co-author of the “Selling Sciences” CD series.