Focus on customer relationships to increase sales wins
Strengthening customer relationships is a key way for sales organizations to improve sales performance and win more deals.
It’s a question that sales leaders ask every day: What separates the best performing sales organizations from the rest?
Fortunately, we have the answer. Our research over the years, using our Sales Relationship Process (SRP) Matrix, has shown that 3 main criteria mean the difference between stellar and average or poor performance:
The key criterion is culture.
High-performing organizations are about twice as likely to have a customer-centric culture compared to average and low performers. In the Korn Ferry Research 2018–2019 Sales Performance Study, more than half of the highest-performing organizations reported having a customer-centric culture, while only 26% of the medium performers and 20% of the low performers did.
Our SRP Matrix shows that having a customer-centric culture correlates with stronger, deeper relationships with buyers and higher levels of sales process maturity. And having a customer-centric culture allows high-performing organizations to move up and over on the matrix.
Customer-centric cultures show the biggest positive impact on performance compared to all other cultures. They improve win rates by 6.8%, compared to the study’s average win rate of 47.3%. No other culture achieves better win rates.
Other cultures lead to win rates below average performance. Sales cultures led to the lowest win rates with only 44.4%, which is 6.1% worse than the study’s average. Process-oriented cultures show the same tendency and led to win rates of only 45%.
Process cultures tend to be internally focused and forget the customer. If there’s too much focus on process rigor and not enough attention on the nature of the modern buyer’s buying behaviors — which are usually not linear but happening in iterations — the actual useful ideas of process maturity don’t pay off, and the risk of increasing seller and buyer misalignment increases.
If you’re working in a process-oriented culture, make sure that the customer’s path is always the primary design point of any sales process and sales enablement efforts. That requires ensuring that you dynamically align your internal selling processes to each step in the customer’s journey toward a sale, from awareness to buying and implementation. When you’ve aligned your processes, you ensure that you can quickly and flexibly adjust to changing buyer behaviors.
Similarly, sales cultures don’t always lead to the strongest customer relationships. Our research shows that sales cultures are more often associated with the weakest customer relationships in the SRP Matrix, Approved Vendor and Preferred Supplier. Only 13% of sales cultures were perceived to be at the top two levels of relationships, Strategic Contributor and Trusted Partner.
So, if a sales culture centers around aggressively pushing products rather than solving your customer’s business problems, it will be hard for you to deepen your customer relationships.
As a sales enablement leader, you can take steps to make your culture more customer-centric. Here are five steps to start taking today.
You could use your regular sales enablement advisory board to initiate this discussion. What’s the culture in your organization? How is it perceived? What’s the intention of your sales leaders, and why?
Develop ways to reinforce the desired culture and keep your leadership team accountable. Their behaviors matter most.
A formal sales enablement charter documents your sales strategy and sets expectations for senior executives. It should also outline how you expect enablement to affect your sales results, identify challenges that you expect to encounter as you develop your sales enablement practice and define how you will measure enablement success.
Developing a charter requires lots of senior executive conversations to align the sales enablement strategy to the business strategy. It also provides an opportunity to share the need to make customers the primary design point.
Educating your senior executives this way and including this principle in your charter allows you to adjust your priorities accordingly and impact the customer-centric culture.
If you haven’t yet mapped your customer’s path, meet with your customers and start charting their journey. This should be a joint effort with your sales operations, marketing and customer experience teams. Knowing your customer’s journey is essential for sales enablement success.
Ask yourself these two questions:
If the answer is no, focus on your customer’s path.
Work through different buying and selling scenarios with your customer and isolate the steps they would take. Then make sure your internal selling processes reflect each step of your customer’s path.
This is what we call dynamically aligning your processes with your customer’s path. Only one-fifth of organizations achieve dynamic alignment, but those that do improve their quota attainment by 9.9%.
This is the main scope of any sales enablement initiative. What enablement services do you provide to address selling challenges in the customer’s journey and to help your sellers achieve their goals?
If you need help assessing your sales organization’s culture and guidance on how it’s affecting your performance and growth, we can help.
We’ll walk you through these five steps so you can start building a customer-centric culture that helps you build lasting customer relationships and win more deals.