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Customer-centric selling by Jacco Vanderkooij: how small businesses can excel at sales

Customer-centric selling by Jacco Vanderkooij: how small businesses can excel at sales

Customer-centric selling is a key part of becoming a customer-centric organisation: your customer is at the forefront of everything you do. It boils down to making your customers successful and providing true added value.

If you want to build better, long-term customer relationships, this sales approach is the future. We already listed 7 tips to start with customer-centric selling. Now, we went ahead and talked with Jacco Vanderkooij, founder of Winning by Design, to find out what small businesses should avoid doing, and how tiny improvements can make them excel at sales and delight new customers.

Jacco Vanderkooij is the founder of Winning by Design, a company that designs, builds, and scales modern sales organisations. His business has helped over 100 organisations adopt a customer-centric sales approach. He regularly organises sales workshops, hosts inspiring talks and frequently blogs to provide insights into a modern sales approach and how every company can become more customer-centric.

How small businesses should avoid selling

1. Selling a product, instead of solving a problem and providing value

“Once you get a prospect on the phone or you meet them in person, small businesses have a tendency to immediately start pitching their product or service to show how great they are. You should really buy our product because it’s X and Y.”

Jacco explains that, instead of selling, you should step into your customer’s shoes, and diagnose their problem by asking the right questions. “Never forget that you’re trading value with your customer. When you do business with each other, it’s the start of a mutual agreement: both parties agree that they exchange value. Can you really make a customer successful? If not, you shouldn’t commit.”

2. Copying larger organisations’ sales tactics

customer-centric selling copy large organisations“Think about which emails you’re currently using to attract leads. Small businesses tend to copy what large organisations are doing and send out impersonal emails with little value to potential customers. I would advise not to do this; prospects consider this to be very intrusive, especially if they’ve never heard from your company before. Chances are you invest in your online presence and might have social media pages set up: a website, social media channels, and so on. Use these to your best advantage. Regardless whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, use these channels to really address your customers and their problems.”

So what should you write about? Here’s a simple blog post idea: Mary at company X struggled with this problem and here’s how they were able to solve it.

“Most of the times, it’s really hard for prospects to see the added value of your product right away. Think of Uber: people don’t know the concept unless they’ve experienced it. What’s the added value compared to a traditional taxi? People don’t really know. Unless they step into a perfectly clean Uber car for the first time. Small businesses should do this too: give a prospect a taste of your product or service, and you’ll get them hooked. Share plenty of visual material such as pictures and videos on the channels you’re using.”

Most of the time, it's hard for prospects to see the added value of your product or service right away. People don't know the concept 

2 ways to excel at sales you can start today

Make your customers the focus point of your website

The first thing customers see about your business is probably your website. “What’s often missing is a section on your website that explains why you’ve started a company. What’s really the reason you exist?” Jacco suggests to have the business owner clearly answer the following questions with a video or a small quote: Why did you create your product or service? Which need does your product or service help solve?

“Drop all the marketing fluff (such as meaningless statements or cliché taglines) on your website, show off your authentic side and just put your customers in the spotlight on your homepage: let them talk about how their business is going, how they’re using your product, and what their experience is. Nice-to-have: turn the customer testimonial into a video.”

Jacco’s brother, Eddy Vanderkooij, is the owner of a small renovation company. His website is injected with small, customer-centric elements you can easily implement yourself. A few takeaways:

  • Share pictures of your work so potential customers can get a feel of what you do.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your expertise. One of Eddy’s skills is installing electronics. In a short paragraph, he explains but also addresses common electronic issues and how he helps solve them. This immediately creates trust.
  • Manage customers’ expectations. By being very clear on how much Eddy charges for every type of chore or renovation, there’s no room for doubt or confusion.

Watch out for (online) reviews

customer centric selling online reviews“Before people do business with you, they will most likely find out about your business through the web. Don’t forget about the power of online reviews: you can find them both on your own channels (your Facebook page), as well as on external channels.” Some pointers:

  • Make sure you always respond (yes, even if they’re negative!)
  • Embrace them with kindness and authenticity. You can build on the positive reviews, and learn from the negative ones.
  • Think about sending a small personal note to customers that have submitted a review.

In short: to become a customer-centric businesses, you don’t need to make radical changes to your behavior, just amplify what you’re already doing. Focus on what you already have: make sure your website is in tiptop shape, showcase your happy customers, and change your mindset to the way you approach prospective customers: focus on value instead of selling.

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