B2B Buyers Journey

Enhance the B2B Sales Journey with Customer-Centric Selling 

In B2B sales, relationship building is one of the most important contributing factors to business success. By finding, developing, and maintaining strong relationships with B2B customers, sales reps open themselves up to a whole world of opportunities, including a steady string of referrals, an expanded business network, and long-term connections with industry professionals.

But while B2B buyers do appreciate reps’ ability to establish tight-knit relationships with them throughout the sales journey, there is one thing customers will always emphasize over business networking, fancy dinners, or a round of golf. And that’s value. 

B2B customers want to ensure sales reps not only understand their business, but also their strategic goals, both short- and long-term. More importantly, they also want to know how a company’s product or solution will help them alleviate operational challenges and encourage future growth.

In fact, Forbes Business Council member, Matt Darrow, says B2B customers no longer want to spend time building relationships with their sales reps. Instead, “buyers want to increasingly run the sales process themselves, seeking value to be demonstrated clearly at every stage and withholding any ‘sure thing’ until a deal is closed.” 

So, what does that mean for B2B sales organizations? It means sales teams must pivot to the more advantageous approach and put the customer’s perspective first. In doing so, they’ll develop a better understanding of buyers’ needs and provide the most value for their business. It’s a concept we like to call customer-centric selling. 

Why the Push for Customer-Centric Selling? 

 As the COVID pandemic forced companies to give additional scrutiny to business purchases, sales cycles grew subsequently longer, and B2B organizations had to recalibrate sales efforts to meet customers where they were: online.

Today, a majority of B2B customers remain digital, with more than 75% of buyers saying they prefer online self-service and remote human engagement over face-to-face interaction. It’s this very reason that’s convinced B2B sales reps to leverage digital communication along every point of the buyer’s journey

Customer-Centric Challenges

While this pivot to digital engagement has made it possible for B2B sellers to build strong relationships with customers, most B2B organizations still seem to struggle with this contemporary sales pitch. Case in point: even though 62% of B2B sellers believe it’s crucial to understand target customers’ needs and preferences, only 39% say they’ve been able to do it effectively.

Keys to Effective Customer-First B2B Selling 

Customer-centric selling puts the buyer's needs first.
Customer-centric selling puts the buyer’s needs first.

For B2B teams looking to develop a more customer-centric approach to their existing sales model, here are a few key things to remember: 

 1. Lead with ROI 

In the past, a traditional sales pitch would first highlight a product’s features, capabilities, and all the applicable bells and whistles, even if those details held little to no influence on a buyer’s purchase decision. 

With customer-centric selling, however, the sales pitch takes an entirely different approach. This time, sales reps base their pitch on the customer’s perspective. They may ask themselves: 

  • What’s most important to this buyer? 
  • How can I help solve this buyer’s problem? 
  • How can I help his or her business grow? 

Finding answers to these questions helps sales reps develop relevant conversations with prospective buyers, which drives home the crutch of the pitch itself: it’s not about how a product works; it’s about how that product can be a profitable resource for customers. 

2. Eliminate Risk 

After emphasizing the potential ROI of a product or solution, sales reps should also make sure to highlight how customers can reduce risk. If the product itself helps mitigate potential pitfalls, reps should be sure to point this out. Additionally, reps can also develop more risk-averse approaches for those prospects unsure of making any long-term commitment. 

How can they do that? Easy—start small.  

Allow buyers to move at their own pace. They might want to test a product on a short-term trial basis before expanding to a larger, lengthier contract. Aligning on a risk-reduction path and demonstrating value at the start of the conversation should open the door to upselling opportunities later down the line.  
 

3. Let the Customer Drive 

Another important facet of customer-centric selling is the ability to adapt the sales journey to the ever-shifting preferences of target buyers. This means different customer segments will each experience their own unique sales journey, alongside various methods of engagement, nurturing, and conversion. Not only do customers enjoy this personalized approach, but they’ve also come to expect it. McKinsey Research even shows 71% of customers anticipate companies to deliver personalized interactions throughout the course of the sales journey.  

Also, a recent survey from Gartner highlights some additional key findings on the significance of customer-centric selling, including: 

  • 65% of B2B buyers were able to land a high-quality deal after navigating their own purchase path. 
  • B2B buyers who experience a self-driven learning path are 174% more likely to make a purchase. 
  • 83% of B2B buyers prefer interacting with companies through digital channels. 

4. Be an Expert — Really 

The industry might call this sales approach a customer-centric one, but it should really be referred to as “customer counseling.” That’s because the ideal relationship between sales reps and customers should be based in trust, assurance, understanding, and acknowledgment. 

Even 84% of B2B executives now say it’s important that sales reps exist as proven resources for target audiences, prospects, and potential buyers alike. Sales reps, themselves, agree. When asked to rank the most significant deal makers for B2B sales, they answered with the following: 

  • A thorough understanding of a customer’s business 
  • A firm grasp of their existing challenges 
  • Insight into their business needs 

Summary 

Customer-centric selling exemplifies the natural evolution of the buyer-seller relationship in B2B sales. By honoring how customers prefer to navigate the sales journey, B2B sales organizations can enhance the buyer experience and build trust—easily and organically.  

***   

Want to learn how B2B sales teams forge new paths to success in a post-pandemic climate? Download our special report, “Post-Pandemic Culture and the impact on B2B Sales & Marketing.”