What New Research Tells Us About Customer-Centric Sales


Originally published on Salesforce.com

With unprecedented access to information at their fingertips at all times, customers are now in complete control of their buying journeys — browsing, communicating, and purchasing wherever and whenever they desire. The sum of this shift doesn’t merely amount to a highly-informed customer base that knows the competitive landscape — it’s far more fundamental than that. In fact, according to the “State of the Connected Customer” report, fifty-eight percent of consumers and 77% of business buyers agree technology has significantly changed their expectations of how companies should interact with them. To survive, let alone thrive, in this new dynamic, businesses must not just keep up with these changing customer behaviors and demands, but stay a step ahead of them

So, how can sales teams, in particular, innovate to stay ahead of increasingly sophisticated customer expectations? It starts with elevating the sales role to one of a personalized consultant — a trusted advisor with the customer’s unique requirements at the forefront of all that they do. Seventy-six of consumers and 83% of business buyers say it’s very important or absolutely critical to work with someone focused on helping achieve their needs, not just on making a sale.

The need for change isn’t lost on sales teams. In the “Second Annual State of Sales” report, Salesforce Research discovered trends on how sales teams are taking steps to be more customer-centric. Here are some findings that stood out to me:

1. Understanding the Customer Journey Is Now a Top Priority

Today’s sales teams are taking action to truly understand their customers not just in the context of sales interactions, but also their interactions across different departments. Sixty-five percent of sales teams report increased focused over the past 12 to 18 months on being more informed about a customer’s history with the company, inside and outside of sales, and 74% are more focused on being a trusted advisor. What’s more, customer experience/success has been elevated to the top category of KPIs used by sales teams use to define success.

2. Performance Is Mapped to Organizational Alignment

While focusing on the customer experience is one thing, excelling at it is quite another. Paramount to conquering such a massive undertaking is obtaining buy-in from leadership. High-performing sales teams — those at companies with significantly increased revenue performance — are:

  • 2.4x more likely to be part of companies that are aligned on how to empower sales to exceed goals
  • 2.1x more likely to be part of companies that are aligned on changing customer expectations
  • 2.4x more likely to be part of companies that are aligned on the resources needed to engage customers

3. Top Teams Empower Reps with Advanced Capabilities

High-performing sales teams are on top of positioning their reps to understand, and exceed, changing customer demands. Successful teams leverage emerging technologies that empower customer-centric transformation, and train their reps on how to get the most out out of them. Advanced capabilities such as process automation and predictive intelligence, for example, can save reps time on manual tasks, help translate insights into action, and enable a focus on customer success. Compared to underperforming sales teams, high-performing teams are:

  • 2.1x more likely than to rate their single view of the customer capabilities as very good or outstanding
  • 2.7x more likely to rate their process automation capabilities as very good or outstanding
  • 2.4x more likely to rate their analytics and insights capabilities as very good or outstanding
  • 2.8x more likely to rate their predictive intelligence capabilities as very good or outstanding
  • 3.5x more likely to rate their mobile sales capabilities as very good or outstanding