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Would Your Sales Training Earn Your Customer’s Seal of Approval?

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The Customer is KingThis is still true, right?  The phrase seems less than politically correct these days (with “king” versus “queen” or “royalty”), but if you conduct an internet search for “the customer is king,” you’ll find over 201 million returns in about 0.62 seconds.  It’s still a popular phrase.

I don’t find myself quoting the Urban Dictionary much in my business life, but I have to admit, I peeked at their search return for the phrase and thought it was interesting.

In part:

“A corporate cliché meaning that the direction of a business is ultimately determined by its customers. The business is compelled to sell products and services that customers want/need, at a price they are willing to pay, and provide an acceptable level of service, otherwise customers will look elsewhere and they [the business] will not make money.”

I also came across this SlideShare from’s Desk and enjoyed their presentation, “50 Customer Service Quotes You NEED to Hang in Your Office.”  Inspiring stuff.

The Royal Family Gets a Lot of Attention

We seem to spend a lot of energy around our customers and serving them well.  We have:

  • Customer research
  • Big data and customer analytics
  • Customer insights
  • Customer engagement management
  • Customer relationship management
  • Customer loyalty
  • Customer valuation
  • Lifetime value of a customer
  • Customer value proposition (CVP)
  • Voice of the customer
  • Customer-centric approaches
So with all of this attention devoted to the royal customer, one would think that our business lives revolve around them.  In some companies, I think this is true.  In others, there is more lip service than customer service.  I am not going to glorify or defile anyone in this post, though.  I want you to think about something else, specifically, about your sales training approach, at your company.

How Do You Walk the Talk with Your Sales Training?

I would like to tell you that I was always pure about following my own advice here, but I have developed an annoying habit of trying to be more transparent than average.  Twenty-five years ago, I used this script and plenty of others like it:

“Mr. Prospect, let me ask you something. If you stepped out your front door and $300 was lying on your front porch, would you bend down and pick it up?  Me, too. That’s all I’m really trying to do here today… help you put $300 back in your pocket each month. Wouldn’t it make sense to take 15 minutes and see if we can do that?”

I also spent a lot of time rehearsing product pitches, tie-downs, 101 ways to close the sale (the J. Douglas Edwards “door-knob close” and the Ben Franklin close were among them), and snappy phrases to overcome common objectives.  My heart was in the right place because I really did believe I was helping my customers, but I was a certainly a product of the sales training of the time.  Eventually, I came across Linda Richardson Sales Performance’s books, Mack Hanan’s work, and took a Dale Carnegie course, and got myself on a better track that felt right, too.  So I’m confident that in the past 18 years, people who have worked for me have seen me live by this principle:

The litmus test of your customer focus in sales training is the inverse of the panic you would feel if your sales training materials ended up in the hands of your customers.  

In other words:

  • If your panic level would be very low, your customer focus is likely high
  • If your panic or embarrassment would be off the charts, you might want to reconsider your approach.
So, go ahead, ask yourself.

The Customer Focus Reality Check

How would YOU feel if your internal sales training materials were shipped to your customers for their review or feedback?

  • Would you be proud, or concerned?
  • Would your customers see an open, transparent, authentic attempt at uncovering issues, challenges, opportunities and needs that you could address to help them?
  • Would they read about your attempts to foster a value-added dialogue that helps you earn real credibility and trust, and their business, of course, but through a focus on them, and solving their problems?
  • Or, would your customer see a series of techniques, tricks, phrases, and methods devised primarily to manipulate them?
  • Would the tone of the materials be “all about you?” – your company, products, and how to sell them? Or about your customers, their needs, and how to best meet or address them?
  • Would customers see their perspectives and feedback represented, from your own research with them and win-loss analysis, highlighting what was truly important to them?  Or would they only see sales “war stories” and hear how top reps used a special technique to “triumph over the customer” to win the sale?
  • Would the approach toward selling and negotiating be consultative, above-board and focused on creating win-win solutions, or be about winning at all costs?
  • Would they read all sorts of military or sports phrases about winning the battle, “overcoming” their objections, and other adversarial mindsets?
What would they think of your company after reading your sales training materials?  Would you earn their seal of approval?

Now What?

If you are pleased with your answers to the above questions, I tip my hat to you.  That doesn’t automatically mean your content is right or your materials will improve sales results, but it does mean you have the right focus.  You can always adjust the content to replicate what top-producers do, with the same focus.

If you are not comfortable with the answers inside your head, it is time to have an authentic dialogue inside your company.  Your customers will thank you for it, even if they never actually see your materials or know what happened.  Eventually, they will  feel the difference and do more business with you and that is the REAL seal of approval.

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