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What Happened To Common Sense?

by David Brock on July 7th, 2011

I was talking to a customer today–not one of mine–possibly one of yours.  We were talking about her frustrations, as a buyer, with sales people.  She said something that struck me, “What happened to common sense?”

It’s always fun and refreshing to talk to buyers, someone who is subjected to all the stuff sales people inflict on them.  As a side note, I recommend every sales person take one of their customer out to lunch in the next four weeks and talk to them about their experiences with sales people, and how they would like to be treated.  In general, I’ve found buyers very open to these conversations–after all if we listen to them, and act, we will be establishing the relationships they wanted in the first place.

My conversation this morning was really refreshing.  This customer was a sophisticate buyer of technology solutions and services.  She understood the jobs of sales people and appreciated the difficulty of the sales job.   Her statements echoed those of other customers I talk to:

  • “I just want them to listen to me!  Sometimes they are so focused on their agenda, they don’t really listen or they listen selectively.  I want to help them propose something that solves my problems, but they have to hear me first.”
  • “Just talk to me!  Don’t do all that sales mumbo jumbo.  We’re both human beings, can’t we have a conversation?”
  • “Stop trying to manipulate me!  I know the 12 closing techniques, and I have at least 12 ways to shut you down.  I’ve seen all the techniques, the tricks, I don’t appreciate them.  Why can’t we just talk about what you can do to help me?
  • “Solve my problem, not the one you want to solve!  I only care about the things that help me do what I want to do, so don’t waste my time with stuff that’s irrelevant to me.”
  • “Be prepared, be knowledgeable.  You should know that I’ve done my homework before you even walk into my office.  I’ve done a fair amount of research–I may not understand everything, but don’t treat me like an idiot.  Above all, don’t give me a tutorial about how to do my job or function, I know what my job is.”
  • “Be responsive.  There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to reach a sales person to get information, to discuss the next steps and not to be able to get in touch with them.  It seems things are almost backwards, the more I play ‘Hard to get,” the more responsive and proactive sales people seem to be.  Once I engage them and start talking to them, they’re suddenly too busy to talk to me and follow up–it’s kind of weird.”
  • “Understand when no means no.  We may disagree, I may say no.  I respect a certain amount of push back to understand my reasons, but when I say no and have explained myself, don’t be a pest.  We’ll have future opportunities, but don’t piss me off by continuing to come after me.
  • “Realize that I’m human.  I value relationship, I value the relationships I have with my suppliers.  Don’t make me a transaction–at least if you want a long term relationship.”

We wound up our conversation, she sighed, “It all seems so simple.  It’s just common sense, common politeness, and having valuable conversations.”

Out of the mouths of customers…….

Try it out, take a favorite customer out to lunch, the only agenda should be about selling—not about what you want to sell them, not even about what they want to buy.  Save that for a later conversation.

Ask them how you should engage them as a buyer, ask them how they want to be sold, ask them to tell you about some of the best sales people they have worked with.  Take notes, figure it out, then act on it.  I think you will be surprised.

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4 Comments
  1. Adam permalink

    It is advantageous to see things from other people’s perspective. I love your idea of trying to get in and understand their world. I am currently in the process of doing this with a niche set of clients and it is having a great impact on my ability to relate to their challenges and needs as it relates to their business.

    This allows me to be much more clear and concise and providing possible solutions to THEIR REAL needs, not what I think they might be.

    • Customers want us to serve them well. Sitting down with them and understanding how they want to be sold to is a win-win. Thanks for joining the discussion Adam.

  2. What? No? What do you mean no? Surely you don’t mean no do you? That one for me is a hot button. It reminds me of a time when a “manager” was making calls with me. I was a guest of a manufacturer’s rep seeing a customer and my “manager” wanted to come along. He kept pushing his agenda on the customer till finally the customer stood up, looked him in the face and said “No. I don’t have time for your ___ ” and walked away. I still don’t think the “manager” who was a tag along guest, got the point.

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