Learn what it truly means for salespeople to put the customer first and how you can practice ethical, customer-first sales in your organization.

What Does it Mean for Salespeople to Put the Customer First?

February 1st, 2018

For many people, the terms “salesperson” or “sales” are dirty words, and it’s hard to blame them for how they feel.

In recent years, corporate scandals have become frighteningly prevalent with companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax making scandalous headlines on nearly a daily basis — all highlighting manipulative sales practices carried out by unscrupulous sales teams with little to no regard for their customers’ needs or well-being.

Despite their being awash in scandal, these multinational companies — and the many other companies like them that practice cutthroat sales — still claim to put their customers first. Sadly, true customer-first sales has become all too rare.

By gaining an understanding of the true meaning of customer-first sales, however, and by putting in motion a course of action to practice ethical sales, you can position yourself to have an incredible impact on your customer’s lives and your own progress as an ethical salesperson.

What does it actually mean for a salesperson to put the customer first?

The claim of putting customers first has unfortunately become a tired, boilerplate statement that often causes customers to roll their eyes. Your customers have likely been burned one too many times by false claims and your actions must prove to them that you truly practice putting them first.

True customer-first sales starts with you, the salesperson, putting yourself in a servant’s mindset and is continually strengthened by consistently practicing customer-oriented habits.

You set aside thoughts of yourself and your needs.

Many sales teams are structured to bring in numbers by any means necessary — it’s how we’ve arrived at this era of corporate sales fraud being commonplace. This fuels a sales culture of selfishness, and when you’re focused squarely on yourself, it’s impossible to truly practice customer-first sales.

Your focus must be placed on your customers’ needs. Mentally put yourself in their shoes, feel their stresses, and know how the products and services you’re offering can help them alleviate that pain point in their lives.

You actively listen to your customers’ thoughts, needs, and frustrations.

When your current or prospective customers share their thoughts or express their frustrations with your product or service, listen. No feedback from a customer is ever too small.

Your customer's perspective is far more valuable than your own, and though you may not be in an immediate position to change what you’re selling, you can thoroughly document their thoughts and ensure that customer’s input is placed in the hands of a decision-maker in your organization.

Your action of going the extra mile to compassionately listen to your customer, make their thoughts or frustrations known, and then acting upon that information will build an immense amount of trust between you and your customer base.

Make your ear attentive to wisdom and incline your heart to understanding.

Proverbs 2:2

You intimately understand your product or service and how it genuinely helps your customers.

With targeted sales quotas often regarded as the end-all-be-all of most sales teams, it can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to push your product or service onto any potential lead in the hopes of obtaining a higher quantity of sales.

While the temptation may be present, the hard data proves that the quality of sales far outweighs the quantity of sales over the long term.

Investing the time to truly understand your organization’s product or service and how it applies to your customer not only directly addresses one of the most common frustrations customers have with salespeople, but builds a positive word-of-mouth among your customers. To your customers, you’ll be a wonderful, refreshing anomaly in the sales world: a salesperson that only sought to meet their needs and not pressure them into purchases.

You follow through on your commitments to customers.

Whether it’s connecting for a follow-up call, mailing out product information, or informing your customers of a change that may affect them, you diligently honor your commitments to your customers.

Too often in sales, promises are broken and customers are left feeling forgotten. Over time, failing to follow through on your word to customers leads to an erosion of trust — the bedrock of all relationships.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

How the customer-first sales mindset benefits you as a salesperson

Like all work performed diligently, the benefits of selling from a servant’s heart and seeking to serve others first are enjoyed not only by your customers, but by you as well.

You build a positive, trustworthy reputation with your customers.

Customers quickly take notice of a salesperson that truly puts their needs first and are much more likely to recommend your product or service to their friends and family. Over time, your faithful service to your customers will yield a loyal customer base built on mutual trust and dependability.

You lead within your sales team by ethical example.

As you continue to exhibit a customer-first mindset, your reputation not only increases among your customer base but within your organization as well. Your body of work will serve as a living example to your sales team that putting forth the effort to diligently serve customers first is the most prudent path to continued sales success.

You align yourself and your actions with God’s will for your life.

Most importantly, your dedication to truthfully and faithfully serving others puts you in alignment with the will of God for your life. By continually serving others with integrity, you walk in the blessing of the Lord.

A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 28:20

How do you practice customer-first sales?

Do you go above and beyond for your customers? Does your organization employ a unique tactic to ensure customers are the primary focus in your sales team? We’d love to hear your thoughts and know more about how you honor your customers in the comments below!

References

  1. Franke, George R, and Jeong-Eun Park. “Salesperson Adaptive Selling Behavior and Customer Orientation: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 43, no. 4, Nov. 2006, pp. 693–702., doi:10.1509/jmkr.43.4.693.
  2. Homburg, Christian, et al. “When Should the Customer Really Be King? On the Optimum Level of Salesperson Customer Orientation in Sales Encounters.” Institute for Market-Oriented Management, Dec. 2010.
  3. Kennedy, Mary Susan, et al. “Consumers trust of salesperson and manufacturer: an empirical study.” Journal of Business Research, vol. 51, no. 1, 2001, pp. 73–86., doi:10.1016/s0148-2963(99)00039-9.
  4. Martin, C. A., and A. J. Bush. “Psychological Climate, Empowerment, Leadership Style, and Customer-Oriented Selling: An Analysis of the Sales Manager-Salesperson Dyad.” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 34, no. 3, June 2006, pp. 419–438.
  5. Siguaw, Judy A., et al. “The Influence of the Market Orientation of the Firm on Sales Force Behavior and Attitudes.” Bond University School of Business, Paper 43, 1 July 1993.
  6. Swan, John E., et al. “Customer Trust in the Salesperson: An Integrative Review and Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature.” Journal of Business Research, vol. 44, 1999, pp. 93–107.

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