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How’s Your Customer Focus Journey Going?


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If you don’t know what “being customer-focused” means or can’t measure it, you can’t know if you’re doing it.  Many company leaders desire customer focus. Fewer know exactly what that term means. Fewer still can describe specific behaviors to know how far they’ve progressed on a journey toward customer focus. Let’s fix that in this article.

The term “customer focus” is too vague to measure accurately.  Let’s correct our target term to customer-perceived value.  Perceived value is what drives customer decisions. Perceived isn’t just a throwaway word: value only exists in the customer’s mind, and elite organizations don’t take chances with what is/isn’t perceived by a prospect.  Thus, customer-perceived value (I often shorten it to just “value” because there isn’t any other kind) is the core idea — the essence — within the cruder “customer focus”.  Value is the axis around which everything in your organization should move.

Your first task in grading your company’s “customer focus” is to use a measurable target.

Refine your focus to “customer value”.

Value is the desirability of customer outcomes. Customers buy outcomes, not our products and services. What they are willing to pay – value — depends on the desirability of those outcomes. Desirability can be measured in dollars.

As you focus on value, your journey takes place in three domains, described below.

For starters, let’s grade your performance using three levels beyond “average”: Good, Great, and Elite. I’ll be detailing what Good, Great, and Elite look like in three upcoming articles, one for each domain.  If you can’t wait, contact me, because those articles are already (mostly) written.  I’m also developing an assessment tool, which will be on my new website (a shameless tease for coming attractions).

Below, I want to describe the three domains:

1. How well is your organization aligned around Value

Alignment between departments amounts to de-siloing your organization.  I’m all for developing robust expertise in many specialties, but it is an established anthropological fact that silos also create gaps for important stuff to fall through. There is a constant push-pull between specialization and holistic/systems thinking in any organization.  Alignment is the process of purposeful coordination between silos.

Companies usually start by aligning islands of functions…say, sales and marketing…then maybe customer service.  In elite value focus (aka Radical Value focus, the title of my upcoming book) everyone wants to uncover new/better customer outcomes to increase value.

Customer experience (aka CX) management follows a similar track.  Radical not only means everyone delivers value but is constantly seeking additional customer’s -mind insights

2. How Well Do Your People Build, Sell and Price customer value?

This is the domain of customer engagement.  As you progress from “good at sales” to “elite value-based seller”, the skills deepen, and the number of people in the organization participating widens.  I use three key components of the selling process to describe value-based selling:

  • Build: Uncovering and discovering value gaps, expanding them, and causing the customer to envision outcomes of having those gaps resolved.
  • Sell: Aligning the seller’s solution with desired customer outcomes.
  • Price: Facilitating the customer process of monetarily measuring the desirability of outcomes, then conducting a win-win pricing dialogue.

Elite performers, those who have radical focus, are able to execute sales at more profitable value-based pricing.

How Well Do You Enable Everyone in the Organization to Perform at an Elite Level?

Enablement consists of hiring, training, coaching, and content services.  Maturity level increases with the number of services, who is included, and breadth/depth of service. More importantly, maturity increases with transitioning from event focus, to process-focused, to closed-loop process.

  1. Event might mean train and coast, or coaching “burst”, then coast.
  2. Process looks like ongoing training; developing a coaching cadence.
  3. Loops close when coaching drives changed training when sales insights are captured for improved content and product innovation.  The more loops closed, the more elite.

One way the journey starts is when a company realizes that front line sales managers performing as “super salespeople” or “deal saviors” doesn’t scale — or build bench strength — nearly as well as coaching everyone to save their own deals. Another key indicator of maturity is the organization’s discounting process and behavior, from subjective/”squeaky wheel” management to objective, value-focused and tracked/analyzed

Research Backs This Up.

CSO Insights (CSOi) has defined 12 behaviors of great companies (their term: “world-class”). “Great” organizations practice all 12.   I’ve organized the 12 behaviors into these three domains.   (Source: CSO Insights’ 2019 Sales Best Practices Study)

The difference between CSOi’s results and the elite behaviors I’ll be sharing in coming articles: CSOi never even asked about elite behaviors, and thus never correlated elite behaviors to results.  The CSOi 12 behaviors figure prominently in the good and great levels of value focus, but are largely absent from the elite level.

  • Do you want to win more opportunities than most? CSOi’s results show that practicing these 12 behaviors correlates strongly to that type of outcome.
  • Do you want to win with higher customer preference?  CSOi didn’t ask; their results are silent here. It neither corroborates nor refutes that higher perceived value correlates with higher preference.  Other research (and common sense) will back this up, though.
  • How about winning with higher value, driving deeper customer relationships? CSOi didn’t ask.  Other research declares this a worthy pursuit, however.
  • Selling at higher win-win prices?  CSOi didn’t ask. There’s a sad story, here. Ask me about it sometime.

I Want More for You.  Radically Elite Value Focus.

These are the three domains for a journey to elite value focus.  In follow-on articles, I describe what makes up good, great, and elite performers.

Comment below, like, and/or share. As I said, reach out if you have more in-depth questions, or read the next three articles.

To your success!

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Five Sales Leader Blinds Spots

We all have blind spots, but not all of us make a point of trying to uncover and cure them.  When the blind spot belongs to a leader, an organization can pay the price.  I see several recurring blinds spots with sales leaders and wanted to share these five.

Not Realizing “After the Sale” is Really “Between Sales”.

This blind spot is driven by silo-limited thinking…or to use management-speak: staying in your swim lane.  Certainly, it’s unproductive to distract sales with all of the issues around service and installation.

That being said, the idea that a customer becomes 100% someone else’s problem when a sale closes is simplistic. It becomes downright dangerous for any industry involving repeat, renewal, cross or up-sales opportunities.  Your mindset in these industries should be one of growing your customer’s business, delivering outcomes so that “after the sale” evolves into a more natural “between sales” cadence.  This starts with making sure that the expected outcomes you discussed to win the sale actually materialize.

The sad thing is that sales groups using any good methodology already gather valuable information on outcomes desired by key personas.  Salespeople gather and use this intelligence to close deals, but don’t turn it over to the people responsible for ensuring those outcomes (installation, implementation, customer success, etc).  When I tell most service organizations this data already resides in their CRM, they are often flabbergasted.

Using Activity Metrics Instead of Predictive Behaviors

Sales leaders know they want their salespeople to be measured on quality, not quantity, but they often struggle with what quality looks like.  One of the traps people fall into is that the wrong activities (quantity measures) are so easy to measure and track, while many of the measures of quality are hard to quantify.  As a famous statistician said, “far better an approximate answer to the right question than a precise answer to the wrong question…”

Measuring meaningful conversations that advance a sale is hard to measure, but it’s what a sales leader is really seeking when they instinctively know they are after quality. Good selling behaviors predict and drive success. Activities, like phone dials, don’t.

There really are ways to measure the quality of selling conversations.  I favor analyzing what the salesperson learned about desired outcomes, new outcomes introduced and value…plus insights into the customer’s buying process.

Not Performing Actual Sales Coaching

Study after study shows that sales managers think that they coach well…while the salespeople they claim to coach don’t think any coaching takes place at all.  That result looks like more of a black hole than a blind spot.

The gold standard of coaching is coaching by questioning. Great coaches guide salespeople to think up selling behaviors through a Socratic (question-asking) approach.  This way, salespeople learn to self-diagnose, internalize, and solve sales problems for themselves over time.

Proper sales coaching like a sales process where the boss/subordinate relationship can get in the way. When it’s easy to direct a subordinate, a questioning approach seems like so much more work.  Additionally, it’s hard for a directive boss to communicate that they have the subordinate’s best interest at heart. This, in turn, makes it hard to influence sellers to expend discretionary effort.

Bottom line, coaching by telling isn’t as effective at changing those great predictive selling behaviors you’re really after.  Remember, telling a salesperson what they should do isn’t coaching any more than telling a customer what they buy is selling.

All Sellers, Not Just Sales

I’ve worked in companies who made sure everyone who touches a customer knows how to have a conversation about customer outcomes and value.  It’s radical, but I know it’s possible because I’ve seen it and led it.  It’s radical in the face of today’s highly structured (and highly turf-conscious) organizations. That’s why I call it “radical value focus”.

This blind spot is so widespread that even sales industry executives try to “widen” our definition of sellers to “everyone who touches revenue” (translation: everyone I can put into a silo led by me). Talk about silo-limited thinking. The standard should be “everyone who touches the customer”, even though this conversation is more difficult.  Even though the CEO needs to get involved in this – a culture change.

Again, I’ve seen it done.  It’s radically value-focused, and it works wonders.

Selling Profitably via Value-Based Pricing

I’ve met sales leaders who measure success by revenue rather than profit.  I’ve worked for them as well.  Unfortunately, I’ve managed too many P&Ls to accept a revenue mindset. In fact, a sales leader who chases profitless revenue will never have a seat at the corporate leadership table…and with good reason.

The purpose of business is to add more value for customers than it costs them to produce.  If sellers can’t capture that value (in the form of price), how can your company afford the costs to produce the value you’re so eager to offer your customers?

Learn how to price to value. When you do, you jointly determine an (almost always higher) win-win, value-based price in conjunction with your customer.  Value only exists in the customer’s mind, so a value-based price should be one that they’ve justified for themselves.


If these are blind spots for your organization, fill them.  They are intertwined in a radically value-focused culture.

  • Learn how to integrate those value-focused conversations by everyone who touches your customer. Create a more complete value-based picture of outcomes you deliver.
  • Teach value-focused conversations by every seller, not just sales.
  • Turn the teaching into long-term muscle memory through proper coaching.
  • Confirm the value your customer thought they were buying by giving your implementation teams each persona’s value/outcome goals.
  • Price to the value your entire company has learned to consistently deliver to customers.

Does this open any new vistas in your world?  Contact me if you’d like to discuss.  As always, please share and/or comment below.

To your success!