Written by Rik Vera

I have three questions for you. Do you have a Sales Department? Does your Marketing Team respond to your Head of Sales? Are you incentivizing your sales reps on the basis of sales figures instead of customer metrics? If the answer is three times “yes”, you have missed an entire paradigm shift. If it is “yes”, you are NOT customer centric (even if you think you are). Worse, your focus on Sales is probably the real reason why your sales are plummeting. Oh, the irony of it all.

The reason why you are not selling (is not what you think it is)

The concept of Sales is firmly rooted in the presupposition of control. The underlying idea is that –  by pushing information to customers and securing their trust – they can be manipulated. Hence `Customer Relationship Management’ (CRM). As if your relationship with them could still be “managed” today. In case you haven’t noticed, the balance of power has long shifted. It is THEM controlling us. THEY have the information, sometimes more so than our own Sales reps. THEY pick the channels. THEY are the ones deciding when they want to start interacting. And yet, our sales departments are still behaving as if acting by “Push” and “Outbound” is still an option.

No wonder then that, since 2012, jobs for the traditional outside and direct sales reps have been declining at about 7% per year. The biggest drop in employment over the last 30 years has actually been amongst sales reps. If you realize that 65-69% of today’s prospects have completed their research before talking with a salesperson, you’ll understand that what comes before a Sales Conversation is what really matters.

Phase I: Sales is Dead. Long Live Marketing.

If we can no longer push `Sales’, we can only connect to customers and engage them. They will have to come to us. That is what extreme customer centricity is all about: making sure that our customers have what they want, when and where they want it. Without interrupting what they are doing. Without annoying them. Jeffrey Gitomer described it perfectly: “People don't like to be sold, but they love to buy.”

Of course, in order to give people what they want, you have to know them. Even better, be able to predict their behaviour. Enter Marketing and its nerdy twin Technology. Today, organisations need data and analytics to monitor social media, predict churn, optimise location information, recommend relevant products on the basis of smart algorithms, etc. There is no other way to uncover their customer’s DNA. In fact, technology has pulled your Marketing team closer to the customer than your Sales. It is no longer the Sales reps in the field who have the most information about customers. The real information lies in the hands of your digital marketing department.

So if your Sales Division is operating like an island and your Marketing team is directly reporting to it, you’re pretty much screwed. If the metrics of your Sales department are focused on pure Sales figures instead of the Customer, your situation is even worse than I imagined. (Read my blog about innovation and metrics for more information about that.) Because it means that your Marketing team is chasing and pushing sales, while it should be doing everything in its power to know and please customers in order to offer them a better retail experience. Let’s face it: Sales – as we know it - is dead. The gap in the value chain between Marketing and the Customer, where Sales used to operate has closed. For good.

Phase II: Marketing is Dying. Long Live The Customer!

But we are only at the very beginning of this huge paradigm shift in organisations. And every transformation goes hand in hand with conservatism bias. Many organisations fail to understand that changing behaviour has put the customer at the heart of their company. Not in a lovey-dovey marketing-speak kind of way. But literally. He (or she) is in charge. He is our ‘Chief Customer Officer’ now, and we all respond to him. Because he WILL fire your entire company if he is dissatisfied.

Sales, Marketing and even Customer Services are all OLD, outdated concepts. They are all (becoming) irrelevant. Each and every one of them starts with the company, with its products, with its services, with its employees. They may focus on the customer – more than they used to do anyway – but they are not truly LED by the customer. The answer will lie in a fluid connection with the customer, to and from each and every one of our departments – for lack of a better word, because thinking in separate siloed departments is exactly what is wrong with our companies. The answer lies in pulling back the customer from the peripheries of our organisations to the very heart of our processes. Customer IS King. So much more than we used to think.

Like to find out if nexxworks can help you put your customer at the heart of your processes? Contact booking@nexxworks.com.

Picture credits: jm3 on Flickr.