The Path to Sales Growth through Customer Focus – Part 1

Sales Growth

The journey toward sales growth starts and ends with our customers.  If we want to grow our companies, marketing and sales must align with an unwavering focus on our customers, building everything around them.  The need for customer focus goes beyond marketing and sales, of course, to include implementation, execution, and service delivery, but this post will focus primarily on the sales side, with a touch of marketing.

Hocus Pocus, Customer Focus

On April 5, 2014, I published my first post on the new LinkedIn platform.  I titled it, It’s STILL All About the Customer.  It’s a tribute to how much we have tried to encircle the concept of “customer,” yet how little we seem to have achieved, in reality.  In the post, I briefly mentioned:

  • Customer Service
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Customer Loyalty
  • Voice of the Customer
  • Customer Experience (CX)
  • Win/Loss Analysis
  • Net Promoter Score

To encapsulate the intent behind all of this activity, I’ll use the simple term, Customer Focus.

Amazingly, with as long as companies have existed and with as much as has been written and researched about customers, we still have so far to go. Not just in “figuring things out” – but in the execution – in using what we already know.  And, for the purpose of this discussion, in learning how to drive sales growth through customer focus.

A Framework for Customer Focus

I’ve developed a framework for Customer Focus that I believe we can use to spur sales growth.  As a disclaimer, I don’t mean to position this as a complete solution.  There are a few marketing-type activities on the front end, but there many other marketing activities that need to come before it or support the framework elsewhere.  In addition, there are service delivery activities that occur afterward.  Plus, as I’ve written about many times, there are learning systems, performance levers, and a host of other things that go into a true sales transformation to radically improve sales results.  This is the foundation for using Customer Focus to drive sales growth, which includes the customer’s (buyer’s) perspective and pulls that perspective clear through the buying/selling process.

My Customer Focus Framework for Sales Growth

The five pillars of this framework include:

  • Modeling Buyer Personas
  • Mapping the Buying Journey and Buying Process
  • Aligning Your Sales Process and Methodology
  • Understanding Market Conditions and Buyer Issues
  • Aligning Your Sales Solution Architecture

This is an outside-in thought process.  In addition, you are focused on your customers, your target clients, your current accounts, and how you respond to them… not the world at large.

As much as we can in a blog post, let’s begin to explore the elements of this framework. I’ll share thoughts on the first two today, and the remainder in part 2.

Buyer Personas

Much is written about Buyer Personas elsewhere.  Yet, I’ll share information anyway, because I think this is the critical foundation from which all effective, modern, professional selling begins, in our current age of the buyer.

Tony Zambito defines Buyer Personas as research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions, and where they buy as well as when they decide to buy.

Marketo believes you should include:

  • Main sources of information:  Where your persona does his or her research
  • Goals:  Persona’s primary and secondary goals
  • Challenges/pain points:  Your persona’s challenges, and the emotions which accompany those challenges
  • Preferred content medium:  How your persona likes to absorb content
  • Quotes:  Bring your personas to life with actual quotes gathered during interviews
  • Objections:  The objections you anticipate from your persona during the sales process
  • Role in purchase process:  Persona’s influence in the decision making process
  • Marketing message:  The messaging that speaks directly to this persona

Check out the links above and resource links below for more detail.  It’s not lost on me that these definitions of personas cross over several elements of my framework.  Try not to get caught up in that.  I’ll explain why I do that, in part 2.

Whichever approach or terms you use, in short, you must understand who your customer is.  Based on the method you follow, that will include multiple things, but at a minimum, to me, it should include their:

  • Position (CEO, CFO, VP of ABC, Director of XYZ)
  • Decision-making role (decision-maker, influencer)
  • Buyer type (user, technical, economic)
  • Challenges (see also: Market and Buyer Conditions, below – more in part 2)
  • Goals /Needs/Wants/Desired Outcomes

During the opportunity pursuit, you obviously get more granular with the actual buyers involved, with things like their bias toward you (advocate, neutral, or detractor).  But in creating personas, you’ll have a solid starting point.

Some Buyer Persona Resources:

Buying Journey and Process

As you are modeling personas, you may capture this as part of that process, or you may capture your buyer’s journey and buying process separately.  Either way, they (personas and the journey/process) dovetail, and must be completed to maximize this framework.

I think of the journey and process as different, which the process as a subset of the journey.

  • The buying journey includes everything before the actual buying or purchase process begins, the buying process itself, and what happens afterward.  The pre-purchase journey includes things like strategic planning, goal setting, tactical planning, and the things that companies do before they realize what is in the way of achieving their goals.  The journey also includes the post-sales stages, too, such as implementation, service delivery (and/or recovery), measurement, and evaluation (not necessarily in that order).  The entire thing is their “journey” and along the way, they have a “Buying Experience” and a “Customer Experience.”   While I separate these in my head, I believe that most of the CX world just considers it all to be the “Customer Experience.”
  • The buying process is a subset, to me.  It includes the stages that the buyer goes through when the purchase process starts, and the steps in each stage of the process (the buying methodology).  The process continues through to the decision point – to either make a buying decision – or not. (Way too may purchase processes end in a “No Decision,” as I’m sure you’ve read or experienced personally).

Important Note:   As a sales professional, you want to enter the before the buying process begins, whenever possible.  You can do this through research, trigger events, social selling, referrals, or by using this entire framework to identify organizations like your current clients, and approaching them before they fully realize they have a problem.  This is how you create opportunity, and get around the fact that buyers are almost 60% through their purchase process before engaging with a sales rep.

I’ll stop here for now, and pick up next time in part 2, with the…

  • Aligning your Sales Process and Methodology
  • Understanding Market Conditions and Buyer Issues
  • Aligning Your Sales Solution Architecture

… and how they fit into the picture of driving sales growth through increased customer focus.

Until then, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on part 1.

As always, thanks for reading, be safe out there, and remember that we all need to work harder to elevate the sales profession.


Mike Kunkle
Transforming Sales Results with Clear Insight & Focused Execution

<mike at mikekunkle dotcom>


Mike Kunkle

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