I’m suppose, after all the years I’ve spent working with “sales people,” I shouldn’t be surprised. But I continue to be stunned by how few people who are in sales roles, truly sell.
Too many are information concierges with an agenda. They are dependent on a prospect finding them, who has done all the heavy lifting. They’ve determined they have a problem, they are doing their homework, they have questions.
Need discovery in these cases is not about the customer business needs, challenges, but about the product or service the customer seeks.
Changing customer views is more about shifting their thinking to favor our company, product, solutions, than helping the customer rethink their business.
Rather than helping guide the customer through their buying process and achieving their goals, they respond, wait, follow the customer cues, then ask, “when will you order,” or as I saw with a sales person recently, “My company needs the order this quarter, perhaps we can work a deal….”
In this world, the ideal “SAL,” (Sales Accepted Lead) is a customer with a PO in hand. In this world, “value creation,” is all about discounting. In this world, understanding the customer’s business, helping them identify opportunities to improve, helping them navigate their buying process, is foreign.
These “sellers,” are always busy, after all there is always one more piece of content, or making the calls, “when are you planning on ordering?” They love meetings and phone calls, thinking these are progress. They create excuses for meeting, “can I tell you about this feature,” “can we do a demo,” “do you want to talk to one of our technical people,” “are you the decision maker,” “when do you expect to order.” Their pipelines are filled with wishful thinking, “They are interested.” Their deals slip and slip and slip.
One might think these “sales people” are focused on the simplest, transactional deals. Sadly, I encounter this with those addressing the most complex, highest value deals. I see organizations paying $100’s of thousands to each of these order takers.
And many of these order takers are proud, “Look at the big deals I closed, I was the top performer for the quarter/year…” It’s less because of what they did, more because they were there when the customer was ready to place an order.
Perhaps, it’s the dominance of these order takers that is why the percent of sales people making plan continues to decline. Perhaps, this is why customers are looking for other sources/channel of information. It’s not so much an aversion to sales people, but simply the fact they aren’t helpful. There are easier and more efficient ways for them to learn, so customers minimize the time they need with those sales people.
This doesn’t mean our customers don’t need help. It doesn’t mean they don’t need sales people–though too many leaders misunderstand this, Customers need help, they want help–particularly in these times.
They need to learn, to see new opportunities, to recognize they can and must change. They recognize the don’t know what they don’t know, and need help understanding that. They need help understanding what change means, they need help understanding the risks and how they might address them. They need help navigating their buying process and in gaining support within their own organizations.
And this is what sellers who “sell” do. And those that do this stand out in their organizations and to their customers. It is these sellers that are consistently the top performers. Sellers recognize they are selling change–not a product or service. They recognize how people struggle with recognizing the need to change, deciding to change, managing the change process.
There is so much opportunity. Buyers want and need guidance, leadership, and help. Customers are struggling to grow and change. They need people that can help them understand and navigate that—top performing sellers.
Our customers need people who sell, not order takers. Our companies need people who sell, not order takers.