OK, I don’t hate all sales reps. But now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain.
Sure, selling is one of the most challenging professions around. But then, don’t we all have problems? For example, customer service managers are tasked to provide great service to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, but guess which budget gets cut first.
The budget is instead allocated to marketing campaigns or sales rep commissions, both efforts to push customers to buy. “Just make your numbers” is the marching order given to sales reps, and that’s what they do, no matter how much it hurts.
But, this approach is wearing thin. Customers tune out the thousands of marketing messages shouted at them every day, and avoid sales reps like the plague.
So, why do sales reps have such a bad reputation? Here are the few personal examples of sales behaviors that bug me.
- Not Listening: A financial services rep has been calling me for the past year or more. Dozens of times. Apparently compensated based on volume of follow-up calls, or a graduate with honors of the “if the customer doesn’t respond, that means keep trying” school of selling.
- Not Caring: A software rep worked earnestly to win my business (and did a good job of that, I might add), yet never bothered to call to say “thanks” or ask “How is it going?” after the contract was signed. Gee, I guess interest in my problem died down after the commission was booked.
- Not Trustworthy: A car dealer sales rep committed to a deal, and then, after review with “the boss,” came back to say that they couldn’t honor the price. I felt manipulated, left angry and bought elsewhere.
- Not Available: A retail rep was nowhere to be found at a major department store, when I needed help finding the right sport coat to fit me, and my budget. After a few minutes of fumbling around, I went to Nordstrom instead. And since.
Maybe these tactics work on other customers, but they annoy me.
It doesn’t have to be this way, says John Holland, co-founder of CustomerCentric Selling. He believes that the problem may be the “generally accepted concept of selling,” where most buyers and sellers define using words like “convincing, persuading, overcoming objections, etc.”
And, he says, “many sales training programs treat buyers as objects to be manipulated into saying yes.”
Holland makes the case that most people prefer to buy instead of being “sold.” I have to agree that’s how I feel about it. Maybe it’s the illusion (delusion?) that we all have to some extent of being in control, or at least appearing to be so. He says a customer-centric definition of selling is: “Asking directed questions to empower buyers to achieve goals, solve problems or satisfy needs and then facilitating the buying process.”
Sounds good, but does it happen? Tune in next week for my blog posting on why I love sales reps, where I’ll give some examples of customer-centric selling in action.