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There are some who believe that B2B buying and selling have not changed over the last two decades. An unwillingness to face these changes head-on has caused sales organizations to continue using the legacy approach. The legacy approach has lost its effectiveness, and buyers complain about what they describe as a poor sales experience.

If there ever was a time to adopt a modern sales approach, one that is client-centric and focused on helping leaders improve their results, it is now.

Essential Skills for a Client-Centric Sales Professional

  1. Preparation through Reading and Research: To be a client-centric salesperson, you must do the work to prepare for conversations with your prospective clients. You should understand the client's external environment before sitting down with your contacts. By doing the reading and the research, you bring something to the table and don’t ask questions easily answered with a simple web search or two.
  2. Prioritizing Strategic Outcomes: Your prospective clients are not trying to buy what you sell. They are trying to buy the strategic outcome they need to succeed. Your obligation as a client-centric salesperson is to address the changes your client must make to acquire their most important outcomes.
  3. Developing Business Acumen: Both Bs in B2B stand for business. To be client-centric, you must have the business acumen that will allow you to advise your clients on how best to make the improvements they need. Without business acumen, you will not be client-centric.
  4. Implementing a Consultative Sales Approach: A consultative sales approach is one that provides the client with the insights, advice, and recommendations the client needs to be able to make sense of a rare decision, one they must get right the first time. By helping close the gaps in the client's knowledge and experience, the client is better prepared to move forward.
  5. Establishing Expertise and Authority: Your contacts need you to be an expert in helping them make change. They need you to have the authority that comes from having experience helping many other companies who needed to make a similar change to their business. We call this being One-Up, and you can find more about this approach in Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative.
  6. Facilitating the Buyer's Journey: Because you help your clients through their buyer's journey all the time, you know how to avoid the pitfalls that might cause problems that could harm the client's change initiative. Your obligation is to help ensure the client completes their buyer's journey successfully.
  7. Mastering the Art of Listening: There may not be anything more client-centric than being a great listener. Great listeners hear what is said, as well as what isn't being said. In The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need, you will find a recommendation to pause for a count of eight, as this pause allows the client to gather their thoughts, often sharing something they might not have shared without you practicing the art of listening.
  8. Leading the Client Effectively: If you are client-centric, you will lead the client. Your obligation as a client-centric salesperson is to ensure your prospective client succeeds by leading them. Those who don't recognize this obligation end up with stalled or stuck deals due to a lack of leadership from the salesperson.
  9. Building Consensus Skillfully: Your clients have a tough time building consensus. This important outcome is often political, messy, and involves a bit of conflict. Your obligation is to help your client build consensus, including inviting stakeholders to a meeting to mitigate anything that might make it more difficult to get enough people to move forward with something everyone can live with. See The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales.
  10. Exercising Time and Patience: Sales leaders often push their sales teams to close deals faster. This is a supplier-centric approach, serving your company instead of your client. Much of what you find on this list is about taking care of your client’s needs. You may be confident your client will succeed, but because they rarely make important decisions around change, they need time, and you need to be patient to be client-centric.
  11. Ensuring the Ability to Execute: Your obligation here is to ensure your client can execute after buying from you. Your client-centric approach must include the client being able to generate the results you promised.
  12. Providing Confidence and Certainty: Your responsibility to your client is to provide the confidence and the certainty to make the change that will provide the result they need to reach their goals. This is one of the more difficult outcomes of a client-centric sales approach. This is an increasingly important obligation of a B2B salesperson.

There have always been haves and have-nots in B2B sales. But more than ever, the haves have more, and the have-nots have even less. The legacy approaches are unable to create the value their clients need from them. When the client is not satisfied with their experience with a salesperson, they will find another salesperson who is client-centric enough to help them with what they need to be able to move forward.

Post by Anthony Iannarino on December 21, 2023

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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