By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
The sales job I enjoyed most was representing a company that competed with IBM for mainframe storage devices. As the company grew it became clear we needed to hire technical people to support our sales efforts. A candidate was hired and joined our company as a Systems Engineer (SE). His only experience was as an end user. He had limited exposure dealing with vendors and salespeople but as you’ll see had drawn made some conclusions about them.
Shortly after he came on board I was working on a large opportunity and had to make a recommendation on a complex configuration. I asked Paul if he would make a call with me. He said he’d be glad to and then asked: “What do you want me to tell them?” I was taken aback by the question and responded that he should make whatever recommendation he felt would best meet the client’s needs. If he didn’t feel our offerings were a fit, he should say so.
He was as surprised with my answer as I had been with his question, but it goes a long way in explaining the strained buyer-seller relationship that has existed for decades. The perception of many people within accounts is that sellers are only interested in earning commission and have little regard for what’s best for their customers. As evidenced by Paul’s perspective this is true even for people that have had limited or no contact with salespeople.
This attitude is alive and well today. People within organizations spend hours doing research on websites for complex B2B offerings without allowing or seeking help from salespeople. In many ways B2B vendors have earned this type of attitude because they haven’t institutionalized how sellers should interact with knowledgeable buyers. The fact is that a sales approach should be different for buyers that think they know their requirements vs. buyers that are not familiar with offerings. Traditional selling approaches will yield poor buying experiences for prospects that have done their homework.
That said how likely is it that people can select the best vendor(s) for complex offerings merely by visiting websites? Competent sellers concerned about meeting customer needs can help qualify opportunities. Determining early if there is sufficient value/payback can prevent buyers and sellers from wasting precious time.