The Customer First Mandate

5 minute read

[NOTE: This is an extract from my new book Digital Sales Transformation in a Customer First World]

The world in which we live is a world dominated by the race for attention. In the last two minutes, the world sent 300 million emails, watched 15 million videos on YouTube, and searched 8 million times on Google. Salesforce customers processed 6 million transactions in that time, and together we managed to send 10 million emojis! The world is truly moving at Internet speed and it is only getting faster. I wonder though when we will realize that there is no deficit in information; there is a deficit in insight – and that insight is not solely the dominion of machines.

In case you hoped that one day things might slow down or you wouldn’t have to worry about things changing all of the time, well, unfortunately, today is not that day. The future is not around the corner. It just passed you on the street. The world is being digitally transformed as we watch and wonder. Boole’s ones and zeros are affecting every aspect of our personal and business lives:

  • According to a September 2017 study [1] from BT, the $30B British telecommunications company, 40 percent of CEOs have Digital Transformation at the top of boardroom agenda, with many CEOs leading the projects personally
  • The Altify Business Performance Benchmark Study 2017 [2] has similar findings, placing Digital Transformation as the top priority for 47 percent of the study’s 800 participants
  • McKinsey & Company, the worldwide management consulting firm, takes it one step further, saying [3] that expectations for growth are highest at companies that pursue digital to create new business.

The impact on business of Digital Transformation is clearly immense. Defining a Digital Sales Transformation blueprint to guide sales organizations to respond to this disruption as they struggle to catch up to their more digitally advanced customers is critical. Digital Sales Transformation is not solely or primarily about ‘digital sales.’ It is about selling in a digitally transformed world.

Ray Wang of Constellation Research defines Digital Transformation as more than just a technology shift:

The digital disruption comes from both transforming business models and shifting how brands, enterprises, people, and machines will engage.

Digital Sales Transformation changes how you sell and transforms how you engage with your customer. Gone are the days when sellers use worn out sales methodologies to battle with their customers, ‘deepen the pain,’ ‘burn the platform,’ or ‘drown them,’ however ‘rationally’. It is now about innovative ways to deliver value to the customer with integrity and respect.

How customers perceive value from a seller is shaped significantly by the impact on their business of the product / solution they purchase. It all starts with the customer.

Let me say that again. Everything starts with your customers, of course. It always has – and that’s how it should be. But never before has the customer been under so much pressure, or so impatient. The business and personal productivity tools on their smartphones inform the mindset of digital business leaders, and they operate in a fast-moving attention-deficit economy. Wasting their time trying to sell them something they don’t want or need is the worst crime you can perpetrate against these executives.

There are reasons why:

  • Only 25 percent of executives want to meet a salesperson [4]
  • Salespeople in the US spend $574B per year in meetings with customers that never progress [5]
  • 41 percent of buyers say they do not prefer incumbent suppliers. [6]

And yes, there are reasons why just 53 percent of salespeople make quota. [7]

The role of the salesperson is not just to communicate value to their customer. It is to create value with the customer.

Consider the ‘one third problem:’

  • Only one third of buyers think meeting a salesperson is valuable [8]
  • In the Altify Business Performance Benchmark Study 2017, one third of sellers admit to not being able to uncover the customer’s problems
  • In the same study one third of marketers say they do not understand their customers.

Customers need help. As the world increases in complexity, customers struggle to prioritize their growing list of business pressures. The imperative to make decisions and act quickly creates tremendous anxiety. There is extra-ordinary opportunity for the Customer First salesperson who seeks above all to solve the customer’s problem, understanding that the impact on a customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on a salesperson of a lost deal. Winning sellers who adopt this approach rise to the top in the ever-growing SaaS economy. But this time SaaS means ‘Salesperson as a Service’ – always on, always connected, on-demand, in service of the customer, reliable and secure. That’s the path to recurring business.


[1] BT Study: Digital Transformation Top Priority for

[2] Altify Business Performance Benchmark Study 2017

[3] McKinsey Report:

[4] Forrester Research: Executive Buyer Insight Study.

[5]Inside the Buyer’s Mind: The Buyer / Seller Value Index Study 2016

[6] Inside the Buyer’s Mind.

[7] CSO Insights 2017 World Class Sales Practices Study.

[8] Inside the Buyer’s Mind.

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