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The New Golden Rule of Customer Relationships

The New Golden Rule of Customer Relationships

By Carole Mahoney, Author of Buyer First: Grow Your Business with Collaborative Selling 

This blog post is part of the INBOUND Speaker Insights series: where industry leaders share their expertise, actionable tips, and innovative strategies for success in sales, marketing, leadership, and more. 

Valentine’s day is a great reminder to show your customers some love and they will stay with you forever! 

But it’s not that simple, is it? Ask a customer success and support professional and most will tell you how difficult it is to create a delighted customer experience when their buying experience isn't great.

In the early days of HubSpot, they wanted to understand what the cause was for churn in customers and at first, thought it was the customer success team. But the data revealed that churn was related to the salesperson and how they sell with buyers. It was because the expectation that was set in the very beginning impacted the likelihood of churn. 

67% of sellers surveyed by LinkedIn for their Buyer First report said they put buyers first. Yet only 23% of buyers felt sellers had their best interest in mind.

It used to be that we followed the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” With the internet putting the power of information in our buyer’s pockets, the New Golden Rule is “They who have the gold make the rules.”

To improve any relationship, we need to focus on what it is they want, before ourselves. What kind of a buyer experience do your buyers crave like a box of chocolates?

In their book Stop Selling and Start Leading, Deb Calvert, her co-authors from Santa Clara University, used research and data from retail to find out how to help sellers create more delighted and evangelist buyers in the B2B world. What did they find?

What buyers value most in a salesperson was the ability to collaborate with them to come up with new ideas and insights and challenge the way they thought about their problem.

Your buyers crave collaboration. This is due in part to what Harvard researchers called the IKEA Effect: we like—and value—things more if we’ve expended effort to create them.

But the skills necessary to collaborate with buyers are not being sought in salespeople, or taught in training.

When LinkedIn researchers asked buyers what traits they valued most in salespeople, buyers ranked skills like active listening first. But when hiring managers were asked what the top traits that they looked for in salespeople, active listening was listed last.

How can you change the buyer experience in your organization to create the delighted customers that not only stay with you longer, but become evangelists and referrers?


1. Reduce bias from sales hiring by creating a profile of success and objectively measuring against that profile using data. Include criteria about your buyer, their role, the type of sale, and how much they spend on solutions. Ensuring you have the right person in the role that aligns with your target buyer reduces friction on the buying experience and ramp up time faster.

2. Evaluate your onboarding process for new sales hires. Does it start with your product and process first? What you teach your sellers first is what they will preach first to your buyers. This needs to be reversed and all the product and process filtered through the buyer perspective.

To do that, have buyer profiles that include information on how they are measured in their role, how they become aware of the problem, what they believe about their problem, what they might not know about the problem, and the impact of that problem on them and the organization.

Then introduce your products or services in context of the problems buyers have.

3. The internal pressures to meet ever increasing quotas causes emotional involvement in sellers that prevents them from being able to actively listen, the number one trait buyers value. Train your managers on how to coach so that they can help sellers develop the skills they need to meet buyer expectations. The more they can practice their active listening and questions skills before they talk to buyers, the calmer and more confident they are.

When your sales and customer success teams follow the new golden rule in your processes around the buyer, you will have already shown them the love they desire.

Author of Buyer First: Grow Your Business with Collaborative Selling, Carole is changing how the sales industry sees itself — and how buyers see it too. She is a sales Coach for the Harvard Entrepreneurial MBA Program and has been named as a top sales influencer by LinkedIn and Sales Hacker

Carole Mahoney

Carole Mahoney

Author of Buyer First: Grow Your Business with Collaborative Selling

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