I’m seeing a trend toward increasing prescription in selling. By that, I mean marketing, sales enablement, or management are prescribing the activities, actions, scripts, conversations their people should be having. Many of the new technologies seem very focused at providing prescriptive guidance to the conversations sales people have with prospects and customers.
At it’s simplest level, it is “Do this, Don’t do that….”
At much higher levels, there are very richly scripted conversations–which must be working at some level, otherwise why would they be so popular. Most of the situations I see these applied to are transactional types of buying, or focused on a very specific program.
I wonder about this approach, however, particularly the ability to achieve long term growth and success in complex B2B discussions.
When we talk about effective coaching, we always contrast the “non-directive” and “directive” techniques. Non-directive focus on getting the person to think critically about a situation, to assess, evaluate, and develop their own answers and approaches. It’s based on the principle, “Give a person a fish and they eat for a day, teach a person to fish and they eat for a lifetime.” Non-directive coaching is very powerful in developing the long term capability of sales people to figure things out themselves.
By contrast, “Directive” techniques are precisely that. The sales person is told exactly what to do and expected to execute with precision. Experts say, directive techniques are problematic. First, the direction has to be precisely on target, otherwise the person is likely to fail. Second, is the issue of ownership. The sales person has less ownership in the outcomes. Third, it doesn’t grow the capabilities of sales people, they can only do what they are told to do and don’t have the ability to do more. Fourth, it builds resentment in the individual. People don’t like being told what to do, particularly those developing as professionals.
As I reflect on what we are trying to achieve in developing our people, coaching, teaching, and developing them to achieve higher levels of performance—and the current trend for highly prescriptive sales enablement, they seem completely at odds.
Perhaps that’s good.
Prescriptive selling works, at some level, it would be silly to disregard this. I worry about the trends I’m seeing in sales tools, marketing and sales enablement in trying to slam highly prescriptive approaches to everything our sales people do. I don’t believe it enables us to create the greatest value for our customers. I don’t believe it develops deep strength and capability in our people.
Am I missing something?
The other day, I downloaded an outstanding market research study. It was entitled, 2016, The State Of Marketing. It’s a fascinating piece of work.
The problem was that in downloading the paper, I immediately get emails and phone calls asking my interest in Marketing Automation Solutions — because that’s what this particular company sells.
The problem with much of our prospecting or follow up on “leads,” is that it is completely disconnected from the content that generated the lead. It’s this disconnect, that actually hurts our abilities to prospect and engage the customer. It actually creates a negative reaction with the customer, putting us in a worse position than if we just didn’t call.
When a prospect or customer downloads content, they are giving us an important clue about what they are interested in. If we are customer focused, isn’t that what we want to talk about–at least in our initial engagement?
Let’s take my recent experience as an example. I am clearly interested in learning more about the issues facing CMO’s and marketers. I’m interested in learning about these and in seeing the market research. If someone had called wanting to talk about the report I downloaded—perhaps summarizing key findings, perhaps digging into an issue more deeply, or even discussing why I’m interested in learning about the State Of Marketing, I would have welcomed the conversation. I would have been interested in what I could have learned. Any email or voicemail suggesting, “I’d like to share more information about that research study,” would have met with a welcome response.
Instead, the sales person was directed to ignore my expressed interest, instead choosing to talk about what her company wanted her to talk to me about—marketing automation. As the prospect, it’s clear they don’t care about me or my interests. The call is not about me, but about them. My reaction, and any prospects’ reaction is, “I don’t care about what you want to talk about, and you clearly don’t care about what I want to talk about.”
This kind or prospecting is just insanity! It’s a huge lost opportunity. The prospect or customer is expressing interest, they are telling us clearly their interest by the content they are selecting. What would change in our ability to engage the customer if we actually talked to them about that content? What if we took this as an opportunity to teach them, to build a relationship?
In the case of the 2016 Trends In Marketing–that’s a starting point to a conversation. It’s easy to see how we might take that conversation from, “Here are the key issues facing CMO’s in 2016” to “Marketing automation can help you address these issues.” But the context of the conversation has to be directly connected to the context of the content they are interested in.
Unfortunately, SDR’s, BDR’s and sales people bear the brunt of customer frustration with these bad marketing approaches. SDR’s, BDR’s, and sales people get “dinged” on their metrics because of their inability to engage and convert the customer. But it’s not their fault. They are just victims of poorly designed marketing programs, bad training, or management that doesn’t understand.
We have a tremendous opportunity to engage and teach prospects with our content. We have the opportunity to extend that into real conversations with our prospects, but only if we can teach our sales people how to have a contextually relevant conversation with the prospect.
Do your sales people know the objective of each piece of content?
Are they trained and do they have the speaking points to be able to engage customers in a contextually relevant conversation? (By the way, marketing automation tools are very powerful for this, but apparently, this vendor didn’t realize how they could leverage their own tools.)
The opportunity is tremendous! Customers want to learn, they want to be taught, but they care about what they care about. The marvelous thing about content, is the customer is telling us what they care about. So what if we talked to them about that?