Tag Archives for Sales
One of the great joys in sifting through the social networks in search of meaningful discussion partners is the arrival at a great resource for a specific subject area. I found that in Cody Boardman, a sales specialist I discovered in a conversation group in Facebook. Putting out compelling content often brings compelling people into the fray, and this was the case with Cody, whom you can follow on Google+. Put him in your circles.
Cody and I exchanged a few messages, but this particular message stood out for me, before I have even had a chance to talk to him in great detail. I wanted to know how he viewed sales, because the Jobs to be Done theory suggests that sales is not a solution pushing system. It’s about finding opportunities within problems that consumers / customers experience.
Perfect for a sales person, and something that seems an inherent part of the sales function.
Cody proved me right. He is able to solve problems, and find opportunities. He’s not there just to complete an equation of Boss needs this + Well, i got this, do you want it = We’ll buy it. He tells me in this message that sales is really about finding out the Why behind a purchasing decision, and filling in the blanks with meaningful opportunities linked to the product being sold — AS THEY RELATE to the business that will be using it.
I’m a sales person by trade so let me break my response to your post down in two ways (again):
Professionally, I sell various analytic solutions to marketers now but have sold in other industries the last eleven years. In present context at Webtrends I help solve problem in SEM, site/social/mobile analytics, custom dashboards for executives etc… it’s in this space that I find people working on initiatives (all the above) with little more for a business case than their ‘gut’ and a handful of soft business requirements driving them. This goes for the ma/pa boutique all the way up to the global brands. It’s magical when someone can effectively answer the question ‘why’ as in why they are engaging in a project/initiative etc…
Personally, I listen to people from all walks and talks of life. Bodybuilders, Powerlifters, husbands and wives, men and women, Christians, Mormons, Buddhists etc… the ‘channels’ are most often in-person and via Facebook but I’ve spent a lot of time conversing in forums and a couple of blogs too. My experience, regardless of the context is that when a specific objective is set, one that is based off fact and not opinion initially, is most likely to achieve the goal/resolution etc… When it’s an organic discussion, that’s good for personal conversation but horrible for anything originating from a person with an agenda/point, one that was not well stated enough that people could ‘get it’.
If I had to establish a specialty, it’s in getting people who know they want to get from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’ but don’t know in many cases ‘why’ beyond “My boss said this is where we need to go” even when their boss is also (and secretly) unsure why too. I’ve worked in various capacities (some as an interviewer others as a problem solver) with the General Counsel, Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Compliance Officer’s, VPs of Audit etc… of some of the worlds biggest companies (Kraft, Cargill, Alcatel-Lucent, Yahoo, Apple, Kodak etc…).
A sales person is a person looking for specialty in what he does, but also he is someone looking for the meaningful touch points that consumers experience in their emotional experience in the world.
Cody is an excellent conversationalist, and if you have the chance to engage with him on these social networks, including the comments on this blog, you will find that he’s very good at teasing out ideas by offering feedback, stories and suggestions.
The clumsy salesperson is someone who has bothered all of us, I would bet. He’s bothered me before, when the customer service rep helping me with a billing problem with Time Warner Cable in New York unveiled himself as a stealth salesperson who tried to sell me on a data package, a cable tv package (even though I don’t own a TV), and, I don’t know, maybe even dentistry services. I stopped listening and ended the call.
The clumsy salesperson really pissed off this Forbes writer, who uses his friend’s interaction with a young sales pup trying to sell a TV services package into one of the reasons he thinks Best Buy is going out of business.
What happens when one bad experience, and a bunch of data that are really not about the shopping experience lead a blogger to forecast the downfall of a retail electronics giant?
What you get is a revelation that is certainly very true — the pivot from offline only selling to online selling, and all the engineered components of making that work well, is jarring and hard to manage.
But, are we seeing Best Buy go bankrupt? Or are we seeing not just a switch in Best Buy, but a pivot of the entire market?
I found a very interesting answer to a question on Quora. It was, “Why do some people feel awkward when shopping?” The answer reveals something about the shopping experience that I wish most sales people understood. I will cut and paste the answer to the question and then bold the parts that provoke a visceral reaction in me.
But first, why I think the question and the answer are interesting.
1. They are both interesting because this question and the revelatory answer show how shopping is not really ever a transactional process, so our ideas of “value” for the consumer are really off. The process is really more like a negotiation: Person A brings into the store and the shopping experience a set of unspoken and non-linear values about himself or herself.
2. The answer reveals the rich context of this particular consumer, but it goes a far way to show how often the information a sales person has is admittedly way off when it comes to “why” the person is actually shopping. The sales person is getting all of his ideas about value and need not from the consumer, but from a training manual and the store’s quota system.
3. All that being said, there is a non-social element to shopping, in that nobody in this experience actually knows or cares to intimate what is actually going on in the other person’s head — either the shopper or the sales person.
The answer comes from Quora user Marcus Geduld. He answers the question about awkwardness by saying that people feel awkward because they are introverts. The shopping experience, he says, brings smoething too social into an experience that should be made to be singular and for one person only. Check it out:
Another note: though, as I’ve said, I like socializing, to do it well I have to “go into social mode.” My wife is already in that mode as soon as she enters a room full of people. But it’s like I have to pull a computer chip out of my brain and put another one in.
(I’ve learned to not focus on something really “interior” before going to a party. If I read a programming book or a chapter of a novel and then immediately walk into a party, it will be very hard of me to switch from “thoughtful” mode to social mode. I am much better off if I spend some time chatting with my wife or even “talking” to people on Facebook before going to the party.)
When I am shopping, I have a goal. My goal is to examine all the printers and buy the one that exists in the perfect nexus of cost-effective and feature-rich. That’s a somewhat interior task. I can’t easily do that AND socialize at the same time.
You may not think of making eye-contact and saying “Have a nice day” to the cashier as socializing, but to me it is. I’ve literally been thrown for a loop by a clerk asking me “can I help you find something?” while I was focused on examining merchandise.
Here’s a slow-motion look at what goes on inside my brain:
1. Let’s see. The Canon printer is $199, and it gets good ratings, but the ink is expendive. On the other hand, the H.P. model is…
2. Nssd. Rrr-rr. Clb ap zelp oo?
3. I am totally befuddled by the above. What is it? What does it mean? Where is it coming from? What does it have to do with H.P. Printers?
4. Realization! It’s a clerk saying something to me. I can’t parse it, because I’ve turned off my English-language modules so that I can totally focus on printers.
5. Switch on Social Module.
6. “I’m sorry. Did you say something to me?”
7. “Yes. I just asked if I can help you find something.”
8. “No thanks. I’m just looking.”
9. “Okay. You should know that we have a sale on hard drives today. The sale is only today, so you should act fast if you want to…”
10. Realization that the printer information is going to go out of my head if I keep listening. I will have to start examining printers all over again if I keep listening to the clerk. The Social Mode takes a lot of energy — especially since the clerk is a stranger, which means I have to parse unfamiliar facial expressions and vocalizations. That takes up too many resources for me to also keep track of information about 19 models of printers.
11. “Thanks. I’m not interested in hard drives.”
12. “Oh. Okay. Well, can I tell you about our sale on DVDs and…”
13. PRINTER INFORMATION ALMOST GONE!
14. “I’m sorry. I just want to shop by myself!”
15. “Sorry. Sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you.”
16. Oh shit! I was rude. I really need to try to be friendlier.
17. Realization: social mode and guilty feelings have driven out all the printer information. Sigh. I will have to start over. I’d hope no one else tries to talk to me. Okay. the Canon printer is $199, and…
18. Oh no. Here comes a friendly looking old lady, the kind that likes to talk to strangers. Don’t make eye contact! Don’t make eye contact!
Okay, that was bit of a self-parody. I’m not THAT fragile. On the other hand, it’s only a BIT of a parody. Introverts tend to suck at multitasking and I’m no exception. I am very good at doing one thing at a time in a methodical, diligent, often creative way, but I can’t easily do two or more things at once, and
I can’t flip quickly between things. I need to do one task until it’s done or until I get to a natural break. And then do the next task. If I’m switching between two different sorts of tasks, I need time to transition.
Shopping involves too many mixed tasks at once. I try to online-shop as much as possible (BLESS you,Amazon.com!), because it’s 100% about a transaction and 0% about socializing.
Go back up to number nine that I bolded. That’s it. That’s the reveal.
Regardless of what was going on in this shopper’s head, the sales person comes over and pitches a deal and a sale that is not even in the emotional or analytical framework of the shopper.
This portion of the answer sums up a little for me one of the reasons I have never felt comfortable in shopping situations.
It is because they are fundamentally NOT social.
Yes, there is a person talking to me and that person is telling me things in a conversation. I am talking to the salesperson about what I want, or think I want.
But nobody ever asks intimate, real questions about the self. About the why or the how. We are not given the right information to choose to buy or choose to sell. The whole system of shopping is like being in a Sam Shepard play or a Howard Pinter play where all the emotions that anyone watching would recognize as human are cast off, inhibited, or thrown away at the bequest of some absurdist narrative.
Why are we lying to each other, in a sense? Why exists this gap of the social?
It’s because the experience of commerce was never about knowing people. It was always about quickest thoughts to create a market. It was about creating false emotions. It was about creating false needs.
Time Warner can be a pretty good company when it comes to customer service.
In other respects, they suffer in a way that many brands do, by not knowing how their consumers use their products or relate to their brand. When this happens, the sales and customer service (#custserv) training are not up to par, and the results can end up rubbing a customer the wrong way.
This happened to me recently, with a brand that I don’t hate or like, but that I have had a level of comfort with, because it supplies me with a service I need at a really nice price point. It gets the job done — wireless connectivity for me and my house guests and neighbors.
Normally, when I get a human on the line at Time Warner, their staff has been — in the three months I’ve used their Internet services — cordial, friendly, and laced with great personalities. In my initial phone call with them, their professionalism is actually what sealed the deal for me, so I hired their services as my Internet provider.
But yesterday during my customer service call, the customer service rep says, “Let me ask you a question, though.”
Alert: I know this is about to be a sales pitch. It smells funny.
“Okay, what’s the question?” I ask.
“I’m just curious why you didn’t get the full service from Time Warner.”
Okay, stop. Right away I know I want to disengage. When a customer service professional / sales professional approaches me with “a question,” I am suspicious. I don’t like that these questions are often disguising the fact that I am about to be up-sold on a product.
When it comes down to the wire, what I would want a sales professional to do for me is to think with me about my lifestyle. Can he help me find progress in my life? Can he help me find some other service he can offer, which might enhance my life?
He might ask, instead, “Why do I use the Internet? Why do I “hire” Time Warner?”
The problem with the straight-up, “let me ask you a question, though” sales approach is that it’s working by the numbers. It’s coming from a very broad place.
The guy has probably had this conversation with hundreds of people, so he thinks he can assume what I will say, what I might belive, and how I might be made more useful to his sales quota numbers.
The problem with that is that I am sure by asking questions based on assumptions, and by asking questions based on assumptions, he has a whole backlog of information that is inaccurate. Broad assumption-based questions create faulty information.
I can feel this right away.
The conversation touches on the following, not necessarily in chronological order.
He asks me, “What about basic wi-fi coverage, so you can get wi-fi wherever you go?”
“But, I can get wi-fi wherever I go regardless of whether I have your service or not,” I say.
“Yeah, but that wi-fi is limited to cafes,” he says.
“Not true,” I say. “In some cities I work in, I can get it in the parks and throughout all the downtown areas.”
“Okay, that’s fair enough,” he says.
He tries out hooking me to a landline: “But what about a phone line?”
“I don’t use a phone. I have to cell phones, and they satisfy every need I have,” I say.
“Oh, wow, really?” he asks.
Why is he feigning surprise? I am sure he’s the same way. When was the last time he really sat down on the couch and picked up a phone wired to the wall?
He goes further.
“So let me ask,” he proffers. “What about TV?”
“I don’t watch TV,” I say. “I watch only video clips and I read books.”
“Oh, you’re a reader,” he says, sounding a little like a jest.
This is where I really lost my patience for this kind of talk and this kind of conversation. Yes, I read. Sorry about that!
TV holds no interest for me. He wouldn’t know that, because he didn’t ask about how I feel about TV, or what happens when I watch TV. He assumes I am like everyone else, and that everyone else is actually like everyone else — they are not.
A sales person should work from me to the product, not from the product to me. I care about me. I don’t care about wanting the product.
Sales pitches go wrong because the discovery process of the sales call is happening through the lens of the product.
Let’s assume –I know it’s not safe to assume, as I have already said — that I don’t care about the brand or the product, because I probably don’t.
Where do we need to go from here? We need to find something out about me.
What is my lifestyle? What do I like, what do i do?
If he asked this, he would be creating and generating a database exclusive to Time Warner customers and he would have a better idea of what I want.
I am sure he’s not trained this way. He won’t be. Because Internet services and add-ons are a bulk business. they are like gym memberships. Always Be Closing.
A sales person can say whatever he wants when the authority above him empowers him to do so. If the demands of the authority are sales, numbers, dollars, then that will be the focus of the sales call.
If it’s not, and it is instead loyalty, feelings, customer desires, then the conversation is different and more focused on keeping that customer interested.
And everyone has a tell. In the end, he really ruins it for me and for him. He reveals his “tell.”
“Well,” he says. “I just want to wish you a good holiday and the best to your family. And you know, you might get a phone call later asking you about my service today and you can tell them I was great, because I did a great job.” Or, something very close to this. He’s telling me to tell Time Warner how awesome he is.
Excuse me? Really?
No, I’m going to blog about it and hope that someone at Time Warner reads this, because if you want to be a really great sales person, or a customer service person, you don’t make a direct pitch about yourself.
You don’t try to get at me by talking product, product, product.