To some degree, a major function of sales people has been to be an information or content concierge. Before Al Gore invented the internet, sales people were a principal source of information about products and solutions.
Customers didn’t have the internet, their sources of information were limited to what they read in trade journals, what they learned at conferences, perhaps information they may have received in the mail, or speaking to colleagues and sales people.
Today, while customers can solve a lot of their information needs by letting their fingers walk through Google, part of the role of sales people is tailoring the content to the needs/contexts critical to each person involved in the decision making process.
Sales people either customize content specifically to the customer, or translate standard content to “this is what it means to you.”
Without a doubt, tailoring, presenting, leveraging content to teach customers is an important function of sales.
But is this the primary role of the sales person?
Somehow, I’m just not comfortable with this, I think professional selling is about a lot more. There are several specific areas:
- Inciting change where customers aren’t looking to change. Yeah, some of you are getting tired about the “insight” messaging, but I maintain this is a critical role of sales people. We can’t wait of customers to recognize they need to change, starting to engage them then. We can’t wait until they start letting their fingers walk through Google, looking to do something different—they may never get there! We have an opportunity to help our customers see things they never realized and helping them decide to change.
- Our content will never address the customer’s specific situation. It can’t know they had a bad quarter, their quality is slipping, a new competitor threatens them, they’ve decided to address new markets. The sales person, through their knowledge of the customer recognizes these things, engaging the customer in discussions about risk, about improvement, about new opportunity, and change.
- Our content can’t recognize the complex dynamics of the customer buying group trying to align on priorities, requirements, and making a decision. Yes, we can generate content to address each persona, but the sales person has to understand those dynamics, helping the buying group align priorities and make a decision.
- Content, by it’s nature is one way communication. But our customers don’t want to be told, they want to learn. Learning is an active pursuit, it requires conversation, it’s the tug of war of ideas and points of view. It’s the role of sales people to engage the customer, challenging them, responding to the customer’s challenges, helping the customer learn, decide, improve.
Yes, sales people are important in providing relevant information and content to customers. But they have a responsibility to go beyond this. They can’t stop at curation, they have to actively engage, provoke and be change agents.
How are you equipping your people to do this?
Acknowledgement: This post was provoked by an outstanding post from David Merriman Scott: Successful Sales People Are Content Curators
While Dan’s comments are overly generous, as we look to the New Year, it strike me that “Uncompromising Dedication” might be watch words for all who are trying to achieve and make a difference.
Whether it is with their customers, in their jobs, with their colleagues, their families, or communities.
Uncompromising Dedication is so simple, yet so powerful. I can’t begin to outline all the dimensions, but I’ll a few ideas.
- What would happen if we were uncompromisingly dedicated to helping our customers achieve their goals and dreams?
- What would happen if we were uncompromisingly dedicated to doing our jobs? Not seeking shortcuts, not creating excuses, but simply focused on doing the work?
- What would happen if we were uncompromisingly dedicated to the success of our colleagues? None of us exists in isolation, the age of the lone wolf is long past. What if we invested time in helping our colleagues achieve success in whatever they are seeking?
- What would happen if we were uncompromisingly dedicated to the success of our people? Rather than treating them as commodities to be switched in and out, we focused on their success and maximizing their performance?
- What would happen if we were uncompromisingly dedicated to the success of our company? Rather than acting in silos, doing our jobs, we aligned ourselves to achieve our shared vision and goals.
- What would happen if we were uncompromisingly dedicated to the success of our families? Too often, we short change them of our time and caring. We are diverted by the continued incoming stream of messages on all our devices. What would change if we shut down and paid attention to them?
- What would happen if we were uncompromisingly dedicated to sharing and working in our communities? Changes starts in our communities and the organizations we choose to contribute to. If we want to change the world, we have to start in our communities and organizations where we can have an impact.
- What would happen if we were uncompromisingly dedicated to our own constant learning and improvement? Imagine being relentless in your learning and obsessive in execution. Imagine the impact you have on others and your own personal success/development
It’s two very simple words, yet perhaps the most powerful concept I can imagine. If each of us resolved to be Uncompromisingly Dedicated to at least one of the areas I’ve outlined, think of the impact each of us can have.
Think of what it would mean to you and your own fulfillment.
Thanks so much Dan for those two simple words!
The CMO and Sales VP were reviewing their latest programs to get their people delivering insight to their customers. They went through a series of provocative issues and insights–each tuned to a specific set of problems and challenges. Each offered a unique point of view, helping the customer think differently about the business. Each was tuned to a specific persona. The work was quite good.
I asked, “What happens next?”
They looked at me, “What do you mean? Our sales people deliver these insights early in discussions with customers.”
I respond, “After they’ve delivered the insight, what happens next?”
This is the problem too many organizations have in developing and delivering insight. They focus on the insight itself and not on what happens next. The insight becomes the end, not the means.
Insight is just the start of the process of engaging the customer. Insight is supposed to teach and provoke a reaction from the customer. Too often, we don’t think about the reaction and we don’t prepare our sales people to deal with it.
Ideally, the customer responds, “Tell me more…..”
Possibly, the customer says, “That’s BS! I don’t buy that…”
Or they might say, “That’s not important to us…..”
Sometimes it’s, “We have a different view on that….”
Any of those responses is fantastic! It means we’ve engaged the customer in the start of a conversation. The challenge is, have we equipped our sales people with the knowledge and skills to continue the conversation?
Training and equiping our people to deliver insight is meaningless—in fact dangerous, unless we equip them to deal with the question, “What happens next?”
They have to deal with the customer response, they have to deal with the customer that may disagree or pushback, they have to be equipped to engage the customer that has a different point of view.
Insight is very powerful in engaging our customers and helping them think differently. But it’s the starting point.
The key issue is, “What happens next?”