How to Build a Customer-Centric Sales Process

New customers are a tough crowd. You probably won't get another shot if you fumble on that first impression. 

The reality is that most customers care a lot less about finding the perfect product or buying from well-known brands. Seventy-three percent of customers now say the number one thing they consider when deciding where to spend their money is whether they have had a good experience. 

If a customer has a bad experience… they're going to your competitor.

These numbers would keep me up at night if I didn't spend the last decade building a watertight customer-centric approach at Close. Everything we do, from the start of the sales process to post-sales nurturing, is focused on one goal: whatever our customers want. 

I'm ready to reveal our sales process so that teams like yours can take a bigger share of the customer-centric pie.

Being Customer Centric: What Does it Mean?

Being customer-centric means focusing every aspect of your business on what your customers need and want. This starts from product design and bleeds into marketing campaigns, sales tactics, and the customer success stage. 

Being Customer Centric - What Does it Mean

The aim of your business should be to make your customer your North Star. Whoever understands the customer best will ultimately end up owning them. The bottom line is that your sales teams need to care. You need to give a shit about customers. It doesn't matter what strategies or tactics you use. If you don't do this, it'll fail.

6 Strategies to Make Your Business More Customer-Centric

Customer-centric selling isn't a complex strategy. 

Talk to your customers. Listen to what they have to say. Adapt processes to meet their challenges. It sounds simple, but most businesses don't put their customers first and forget who they are selling to. 

I want to walk you through some of the winning strategies I've used over the years and how they can help you build a customer-centric approach 👇

1. Create Marketing Content that Actually Helps Your Audience

Content is the foundation of any customer-centric sales process. 

It's how customers first notice your brand. It's how you educate them. It's how you win their trust. 

This strategy is simple. Teach people how to run their businesses more effectively, and your company will be at the top of their list when they need a product or service like yours.

If your team is starting to pivot to a customer-centric strategy, start with the basics: 

  • Craft an ideal customer profile (ICP). If you try to create content for everyone, you will end up writing to no one. Build out an ICP to hash out your audience's pain points, demographics, goals, and—most importantly—what they need. This will give you a "north star" to aim for when crafting content. 
  • Think about your customer's journey. Every time a lead or prospect comes into contact with your brand, it's a chance to turn them into a paying customer. Marketers call these "touchpoints." However, a lead who just found you on LinkedIn is at a very different stage in their decision-making process from someone who signed up for a demo. This is why content must focus on education and being genuinely helpful to build trust early—not just pushing your product. 
  • Don't try to do everything at once. You don't need a podcast, a YouTube channel, TikTok, or a library of eBooks to win over your audience. It's better to focus on quality over quantity. Figure out your audience's challenges and create content to help solve them. If that's writing blog posts about how to build a better sales process—great. If it's a template for forecasting sales numbers—great. Just make sure it's useful!

Here's an inside look at what we do 👇

Example: Close's Content Marketing Machine

Over the years, I've discussed how we created our content marketing machine at Close. Nearly 60 percent of our trials come to us through this machine. We don't just write blog posts or eBooks. Our content stretches further into what our audience wants to read.  

I'm talkin' emails, playbooks, selling guides… even free tools. If our customers want it—we produce it. 

7 Strategies to Make Your Business More Customer-Centric - Create Marketing Content like Close

The Follow-Up Formula is just one of the (many) customer-centric guides I've written for our audience. Close's guides have been downloaded thousands of times to empower our audience to improve its sales game. 

But with one (huge) caveat: it must add value. We go straight to the source to figure this one out. Our customers tell us a shitload more than data and analytics about what they want: 

  • Unsure how your audience feels about cold emails? Ask them. 
  • What's your best marketing channel? Ask new customers how they found you and where they want you to show up. 
  • Want to know what content and materials your audience wants? ASK THEM. 

As Ezra Fishman says in my book Talk To Your F*cking Customers, people should drive your content and marketing efforts—not data. 

"When we let data drive our marketing, we all too often optimize for things that are easy to measure, not necessarily what matters most."

2. Adapt Your Sales Process to What the Customer Needs

A successful relationship with a client is a two-way street. To build a truly customer-centric approach, check in with customers before, during, and after the sales process to ensure you're both on the same page. 

The days of sales reps using pushy sales calls and rhetoric to pressure somebody to buy something are over. These tactics are giving Wolf of Wall Street. And not in a good way. 

Instead, focus the entire sales process on the customer's needs:

  • Start conversations. Ask questions and open up dialogue with your audience. Whether you share a LinkedIn post to ask about common issues in their industry or share content to spark a discussion, getting on your audience's radar is half the battle. The more you learn about your audience, the easier it is to prepare for any questions and objections that come your way. 
  • Ask for feedback. Actively listen to your prospects during the sales process. This means taking objections and concerns seriously. If they tell you a part of your product sucks, don't argue with them. Go into full therapist mode and listen to every single juicy detail they throw on the table. The good, bad, and the ugly. This is the best way to understand your customer's needs and adapt your process to meet them from that moment in the deal. 
  • Be responsive (but don't be a spammer). Prospects will have a lot of questions, especially if the deal is expensive. Respond quickly and always ask what else they need from you to keep the deal moving forward. But please, don't spam them. Your prospects are busy, and it may take a day or two to get back to you. Constant follow-ups are a quick way to sink a deal. 

There is a caveat to the feedback point I want to touch on 👇

Example: Make Sure You Talk to the "Right" Customers

I wrote a whole damn book about how important customer conversations are. They are the bread and butter of any successful company. 

However, there is a caveat to adapting your sales process based on customer feedback. I know because listening to customer feedback nearly sunk Close when we started the company.

The problem? 🤔

We were asking for feedback from the people buying our software (the managers, CXOs, the bigwigs). But these folks aren't necessarily using Close Daily to close deals. In hindsight, this was really stupid. The whole reason we started Close was to get away from the archaic way the industry operated and make a product for salespeople, not managers. 

My point is 100 percent use customer feedback to improve your sales process. Just make sure the feedback comes from people who use your product! 

3. Bring Your Customers into the Spotlight

B2B customers don't just want to write companies a check. 

Research by Harvard Business Review suggests they want to buy from companies that offer solutions to a problem. They also react positively to organizations that reach out to see what they can do to help and respond to any questions with knowledge. 

A customer-centric approach thrives when you put customers into the spotlight: 

  • Talk about your customers—constantly. Did you have a sales call this week where a prospect pulled the plug? Or gave you useful feedback? These experiences (although tough) give you real insight into the problems your customers face and how your product can (and can't) help them. Putting customers in the spotlight like this helps the rest of the team learn who the best fit for your product is and where it may fall short. 
  • Send value-packed goodies. I like sending value-packed materials (like eBooks or blog posts) to prospects to build trust during sales. However, 65 percent of sales reps say they can't find content to send to prospects, so make sure your eBooks and case studies are kept where everyone can see them. 

Putting customers into the spotlight is also a great way to spot if a prospect isn't a great fit. Let me explain 👇

Example: Cut Bad Leads Loose and Focus on Promising Prospects

During the first call, sales reps can figure out how helpful their solution is for a customer. If the product isn't a great fit, consider whether pursuing the lead is the right choice for your quota and the customer. 

The Close team asks every lead: 

  • How do you approach sales?
  • Do you/your team do a lot of calls and emails?
  • What sales strategy do you prefer, inbound or outbound?
  • How many SDRs are on your team?
  • What does your tech stack look like?
  • What are your goals?
  • What's standing in the way?

We ask. And ask. And ask.

We keep asking questions until we are 100 percent convinced that our sales software can help them and is the best and right solution.

If not, we will cut the lead loose. 

People always think I'm nuts when encouraging them to cut leads loose. But seriously, why would I want a customer to use Close when I know it's not a great fit for them? That's the kind of sleazy sales tactics that will (sooner or later) result in churn. 

And it's not a customer-centric approach to sales ❌

It's always better to recommend a solution and give advice rather than push a bad-fit deal. At the very least, it will leave a good impression on them. A good experience with our sales team has led to folks recommending Close to others who did end up signing a contract with us. 

It pays to be honest and put prospect needs first ✌️

4. Communicate Seamlessly Across Different Channels

Prospects don't like to be left hanging. 

More than three-quarters of customers expect a brand to get back to them on social media within 24 hours. 

Here's how to do it:

  • Knock down your silos. Three-quarters of sales teams believe collaborating with other departments is absolutely critical to their overall sales success. Make sure your sales team has an open line of communication with other teams who talk directly to customers (like marketing and customer success) to share insights, ask questions, and get help.
  • Celebrate wins in-house. If you land a big deal, I want you to celebrate it on your Slack channel. Fire out a hell yes email to your team. Update other departments in your monthly update. For a lot of teams, there is a constant need to move to the next deal. While it's important to keep your sales pipeline moving, recognizing your team's wins will give everyone a huge morale boost and fire everyone up for the next prospect.
  • Share data in a CRM. Put all your data under one roof so your sales team can keep track of every prospect in your pipeline. Use customer relationship management (CRM) software to collect, manage, and store customer data. If your sales team needs to know more about a prospect or get up to speed on a deal, they have an up-to-date database with all the information they need.

Of course, communicating with prospects to get a deal across the line can be a little more complex. Let's take a look at how to streamline it and save your team time 👇

Example: Use Tech to Keep Your Communication Flowing

The right sales stack makes sure you can connect and communicate with customers no matter where they are, seamlessly.

At Close, we use our software to communicate with leads and customers via email, phone calls, SMS, and even Zoom meetings. Every team member can see past interactions with each lead, meaning they jump on calls or email threads with full context on the deal.

And if they need help or input from another team member? They can add comments and mention team members to get their feedback right away.

7 Strategies to Make Your Business More Customer-Centric - Communicate Seamlessly with Close CRM

Another fantastic way our sales team stays on top of conversations is with the Conversations tab in Close. Here, our team can see a history of sales calls, with recordings and transcripts, or even check out calls that are going on in real-time!

7 Strategies to Make Your Business More Customer-Centric - Communicate Seamlessly (Close History of Conversations)

Of course, our sales team can’t constantly check for updates. That’s why they have the Inbox view, which shows them new leads they need to contact, missed phone calls, or emails they need to respond to.

Use Tech to Keep Your Communication Flowing - Close CRM Inbox

The sales team is always on the same page. And we never miss a customer. 

5. Build an Incredible Onboarding Experience

Your work isn't over once a product becomes a customer. 

The first weeks (or months) with your product are crucial to winning them over. If you don't get this stage right, new customers risk churning and never returning. One of the best ways to keep them around is with a customer-centric onboarding process to get them up to speed with your product. 

Here's how to do it:

  • Automate repeatable steps. If you need certain information from every new customer, why not swap out the lengthy onboarding call with a survey? New clients can then fill it out on their own time. 
  • Support, support, support. Assign every new customer a customer success rep to help with onboarding. Don't just take their check and leave them hanging. This is essential to avoid any user friction and frustration during the first weeks of the customer's time with your product. 
  • Consider guided walkthroughs. Pop-up messages of how a product works when a new customer logs in for the first time can help them understand your product. If you don't have the IT team to build this out, a chatbot or live support staff can also work to answer any questions.

I'm also a (huge) believer in letting new customers learn your product around their busy schedules 👇

Example: Know When to Show Up (and When to Leave Customers To It)

Some customers don't want to go through hours of onboarding calls and training. You must think about whether your onboarding process meets them where they are at. 

Close has so many moving parts that it's hard to cover all of its features in one onboarding call. So, we give new customers the tools to do it at their own pace. Inside our knowledge base, new customers will find a custom onboarding section: 

7 Strategies to Make Your Business More Customer-Centric - Build Incredible Onboarding Experience

It's full of screenshots, videos, and useful tips so they can learn about the features that matter most to them. Our customer success team is ready to help with any questions.

The best part about onboarding customers like this is that they get a deeper understanding of the product, and our team saves hours on phone calls and onboarding meetings. It's a win-win 👌  

6. Hire People Who Really Care About Your Customers

This last one is a criminally underrated but super important step for building a customer-centric company. 

You absolutely, no-questions-asked need to hire people who not only give a shit about your business but also give a shit about your customers. However, to build trust and meaningful working relationships with your customers (and keep them around for a long time), your team must trust each other. 

This trust starts from day one of a team member's day at your company. 

Every stage of your hiring process should focus on finding people who care: 

  • Pick the right leaders. The core of every sales team is the VP/Manager. Don't expect your SDRs to do all the work—the leadership needs to have some skin in the game as well. That's why I'm constantly talking about our sales processes and our focus on customers. The more I talk about our customer-centric approach, the more it rubs off on Close's sales team. 
  • Think about culture fit. A sales hire could be a great fit on paper and a not-so-great fit with the rest of your team. When evaluating a new hire, think about whether their selling style fits in with yours. For example, we don't hire "sales ninjas" or "killers" at Close because we hate that type of selling. We hire folks who are empathetic, listen to prospects, and genuinely want customers to find value in our product. 
  • Build trust from day one. You are hiring experts who know what they are doing. So you need to trust they know what they are doing—and get out of their way. By that, I mean giving them the tools (like sales playbooks and onboarding materials) to bring them up to scratch. But after the initial ramp period, show every new hire that you trust them and let them take ownership of the new role. Empower your employees to make decisions independently and delight customers in the ways they feel are best.

It might take time to find the right people, but the wait is worth it once they are on your team. 

Final Thoughts: How to Track Customer Centricity in Numbers

I have spent this whole post focusing on talking to customers. I still believe that's the best way to build a customer-centric selling approach. But let's touch on data to wrap this up. 

While relationships can’t be measured, metrics are available to see how your customer-centric strategies impact your bottom line. The metrics you should keep an eye on include: 

  • Churn rate. This is the number of customers who decide your product isn't for them. Your monthly churn percentage is an indicator of a good/bad product fit and if customers are having a positive experience with your product. 👉 Learn more about how to calculate churn rate here.
  • Net revenue retention (NRR) measures how well your team retains new customers and whether overall revenue is expanding or leveling out. It is considered a key metric for SaaS businesses to measure the company's health. 
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS). This is the smiley face metric. 🙂 means your customers love your product. 🙁 means they don't. NPS is a very quick, easy way to gauge if customers are happy and if they would recommend you to others. 

There are tons of other metrics to track to help measure customer centricity. 

The most important way to measure if your company is customer-centric is to take a metrics dashboard with a grain of salt. 

Talk to your customers. Send that email. 

Remember, these folks put trust in your product. They are writing the checks. Pick up the phone and ask them what you need to do to keep delivering 💪

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