I’ve always been told that the sign of a good sales person is in their ability to close deals. To bring in business even when the forecast looks bleak. The unique capacity to shrug off pressure and take an almost impossibly relaxed stance on where the contract is in the sales cycle. The awareness to sniff out a potential deal and negotiate terms, often based around cost that attempts to create a win-win situation when in reality its lose-lose. The canny ability to be in the right place at the right time when the customer comes knocking.
These sales people probably have the background of selling at the hard end of the sales spectrum at some point.For many, the experience of having to sell photocopiers or similar products ‘back in the day’ is all the experience you could ever wish for. You’ve earned your ‘stars and stripes’ ‘son!
This was a tough environment, no doubt about it. It’s the hard end of sales and I’ve worked with many people who had indeed sold at this hard end of the spectrum. Some of them progressed through to management and then onto the dizzy heights of Director level positions. Well done to them.
The ABC of sales
There is a term in sales, which I’m sure you are familiar with – ABC. This is a term, which I cannot stand. It stands for Always Be Closing, which in my view epitomises the opening paragraph of this blog. It’s still a pollutant that exists from the heady days of ‘photocopying sales (I’m generalising a bit here so sorry to any photocopy sales people out there but hopefully you get my point). This mentality still exists in the minds of sales managers and organisations around the entire world. They are probably very successful too and hats off to them.
Don’t get me wrong, closing is part of the sales process whether we like it or not. In fact, I have issue with the term ‘closing’ as this suggests the end when actually it should be the beginning (that’s a discussion for another day).
Times have changed
Now however, times have changed and so have customers. We are all that much wiser to the salesman’s techniques and tactics; well some of us anyway. For me, this is a good thing. No longer should we be chasing the contracts; we should be working smarter. This leads me onto the issues of ABC of which I have two: –
1. It focuses on only the outcome
From day one, you are only ever thinking about the sale. Getting the ‘contract in’ and ‘closing it off’ in your CRM. Move onto the next one. This is a narrow view.
If you focus on the outcome, you’ll pass this vibe onto your customer which in-turn will either lose you the sale or create a buying experience so poor that the customer a) strings you along for months and b) attempts to do the same and squeeze every ounce of profit from the deal.
The best sales I have ever made didn’t start off with the intention of the original enquiry. If you only ever focus on the outcome you’ll miss the real opportunity; the ones that may take longer to finally secure but will be far more rewarding: promoting win-win for company and customer.
2. The buying experience is shockingly bad
I’ve already mentioned this briefly in point 1 but for example, if you are using an Apple product, the user experience is second to none. You interact with the product and what you want to achieve comes naturally without you having to pay too much attention to what you are doing. Now, in my opinion this type of ‘product user experience’ should be no different to a customer experiencing their first real touch of your service-led business; the salesperson.
Some of you may say that the first touch point is a website and you’d be right but if you work in an organisation that relies upon human interaction then the first ‘real’ touch point is the salesperson and I think sales people can impose a really great buying experience.
UXS – User Experience Sales
Many user experience designers will look at the user journey when planning a new website, mobile app or design change that may impact the interaction of the user. User experience designers then create wireframes to document the user journey. When I work with digital agencies and companies to help with with their sales strategy and value propositions, I modify this successful product-led methodology into their sales environment. For me it’s no different except we are analysing a sales process experience rather than a physical end-product, website or app.
If the journey and experience of buying the service is poor, due to information not arriving when it was promised, turning up late, not picking up the phone but email instead, a team member not calling the customer, changing the quote, misinterpreting the requirement because you didn’t listen etc. etc. then the chances of the customer actually committing to a contract are very slim. Even if they do commit, they may not make another purchase ever again; heck, why would they?
Oh and this isn’t just the sole responsibility of the salesperson but an organisation wide commitment to create a great buying experience.
A great buying experience promotes longevity
By creating a great buying experience, we are creating a solid foundation for customer satisfaction gains. This enhances the longevity of the customer and greatly improves the wider outlook of the opportunities.
I am a firm believer that the good sales, the ones where we create the right environment for sales to begin are the best but can often be the longest.
Understand the sales journey
You do need to understand the journey and experience the customer takes through your sales cycle. You don’t have to be in the right place at the right time. You don’t have to be an expert in sniffing out the deals and you don’t have to have come from a photocopier sales background to be a truly successful salesperson or sales led organisation.
These are just a few points that I know play a large part in formulating a great buying experience.
What do you think?