Interview with Adam Shapiro - CustomerCentric Selling

Recently I sat down with sales and marketing process consultant Adam Shapiro. Among other things, Adam helps his clients implement the CustomerCentric Selling methodology.  You can find out more about Adam at SalesReformSchool.com. Having been a student of Solution Selling, I was intrigued about the CustomerCentric Selling approach which is a continuation of Michael Bosworth’s excellent work.  I bought the book and am incorporating the methods and tools into Launch Clinic’s selling approach.

Adam, what is Customer-Centric Systems?

CustomerCentric Systems, LLC is the business entity that owns the CustomerCentric Selling® methodology.  Generally, we define CustomerCentric Selling® as asking directed questions to empower buyers to visualize how they can use your offering to achieve their goals, solve their problems, and satisfy their needs and then facilitating the customer buying process. Specifically, our clients strive to meet this definition by codifying a set of best-practices behaviors and processes that start with the integration of sales and marketing.  The methodology creates an environment which honors the needs of buyers as they make decisions, while also equipping sellers with internal and external tools to achieve higher revenues.

There always seems to be friction between Sales and Marketing.  What do you think are the primary reasons for this?

One of the tasks of leadership is to help teams overcome the regrettable human shortcoming of wanting to blame someone else for your own failures. In business, specifically sales and marketing, this plays out all too often.  Sellers think that if only marketers gave them good qualified leads, they would sell more.  Marketers believe that if sellers had any skills, they would close more of the leads that marketing produces.  Too often, they don’t meet in the middle with agreed upon definitions and process.  What is a qualified lead?  How does a lead get qualified?  Who takes care of this qualification step?  Who makes sure sales is following the product positioning course marketers have set?  But, it is more than that:  Marketing and sales often fail to get to together to figure out the go to market sales strategy:  What are the highly likely titles in particular industries who will be involved inn selecting, funding and implementing what we are trying to sell.  What business goals and priorities do they have that map to our offering?  What issues are keeping them from achievement of these goals/priorities.

How do you suggest our readers address the Sales vs. Marketing friction?

First, both have to agree on the best practices sales and “product marketing” process.  From initial interest – inbound or outbound – through sales conversations, evaluations, commitment and closing, sales and marketing must agree to and stick to the process.  Next, with input form sales on what’s resonating with buyers, marketing needs to put together the framework for the conversations that need to take place between buyers and sellers during each step of the selling-buying process.  What are the likely goals of the folks involved in buying our stuff?  What issues, challenges, and objectives do they have in reaching those goals?  What situations do they find themselves where they would want what we offer?  Need to use what we offer?  What’s the value then to the customer of reaching that goal? How will they evaluate us or our offerings?  How can we help?  What concerns will they have in implementing our offerings? Once sales gets these answers from potential buyers, there needs to be a feedback mechanism for informing product people that goes beyond the water cooler.

How does launch planning play into this friction?  Are organizations unknowingly adding to the problem?

Yes, organizations add to this problem.  Mostly, product management and product marketing.  To their credit, these two groups are made up of visionaries – folks who instantly “get it”.  They understand instantly why the market needs what the seller has.  Too often they announce to the world, “Look at the marvelous thing we have created! It has X, Y, and incredibly, Z features. Everyone will want one!”  And some like minded buyers  understand completely and buy.  Most, however, do not.  These are the mainstream buyers who have to understand three things generally to make buying decisions - call them visions.  1) How will I use it?  2) What’s the value of using it to me (or my organization) and 3) How will I implement it?   An “Incomplete” on any of these three and the buyer is not likely to buy that particular offering. Often, the folks involved in the launch, understand and convey BROADLY these three visions, but they fail to convey how to bring buyers to see these visions specifically to the key group charged with conveying this message – sales! Imagine a product launch with a tight web site, brilliantly executed analyst meetings, and maybe even a snappy video for a trade show.  After these events and tasks are complete, marketing execs tell sales, “Go Sell! The market is waiting!”  What happens next?  Sellers go out and have conversations with prospective buyers.  What are these sellers saying, asking?  Does marketing and product management even know?  How do they or sales management audit those conversations?  Is there a feedback mechanism for buyers?  Usually, there is no pattern or roadmap for these discussions.  Largely, sellers are winging it.  Marketing, then, has lost control of the message.

What advice would you give to Marketing teams that are being pounded by their sales team?

When working with product management to launch a new feature or product, have you anticipated what should happen when sellers start making sales calls?  Instead of loading them up with feature descriptions and benefit statements, provide them with usage scenarios that are tagged to specific titles in targeted organizations.  Anticipate the goals and issues of these titles.  Set a conversation template for mapping these titles and issues with the successful usage of your offering. You can reach Adam Shapiro at ashapiro@customercentricsystems.com
David Daniels

David Daniels


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