Maybe it’s back to work madness but, it’s time to say it like I see it: I hate sales people! We all know the spiel ‘sales and marketing should be intrinsically linked’. When it works, you collaborate with brilliant experts. On top of their expertise they usually bring bags of enthusiasm to really help you kick down doors and get stuff done. Yet, despite working with tons of people that fit this mould, my statement still stands. Here’s why:
An average user journey
Recently I’ve been researching B2B products online for a company I’m working with. Third-party endorsements from social influencers, conversations with friends, a vague awareness of certain brands had all set me on a preferred course. Wanting to arm myself with more knowledge before I jumped in, my first stop were Google and You Tube. Then I jumped to their websites. Good company websites are great for facts, figures, and pricing. Really good ones give you a feel for the brand and the organization behind it. But no matter how millennial I’m feeling, when it’s a big-ticket item, or I just want to cover my back, I want to speak to somebody before I hand over the cash.
As a sales person, you must have seen the data by now, consumers are up to 90% into their buying journey before they contact a brand. That was certainly my situation. So far, so predictable. I gave the sales person from each of my shortlisted companies exactly the same low-down on what I was looking for and I waited to see what they delivered. Cue silence. Nothing! Nada! Not a thing!
Yes, they provided data, I might even go so far as to call it insight, but I was expecting more. Having taken the time to move myself through the phases of awareness and consideration I was now at the engagement phase. I didn’t want to start the sales conversation from the beginning. I wanted to dive right into the detail. I had my PO signed and I was ready to go!
A below average outcome
If I represent an average buyer, why was my experience so depressingly below average? Where were the examples of how they’d helped people like me succeed? Why didn’t they show me how I could use their points of difference to be better or smarter at my job? Why didn’t they make it easy for me to understand why I should buy from them rather than somebody else?
I can dress it up in many ways, I wanted to ‘test their value proposition’ ‘be assured of the quality of their goods and service’ ‘to drive a better deal’. In reality, what I was looking for from my engagement with a sales person was the all-clear; confirmation on a very basic human level, that the company I was about to spend my time and somebody else’s money with were the right choice. Another human to add a level of personalization and bespoke insight. Put another way, I just wanted to know that I could work with these guys on a human level.
Instead, what I got was the feeling that so many others cite, the sense that I knew more than the sales person about competitor products. The idea that they weren’t totally au fait with everything their own product could do, and were reluctant or, perhaps unable to share a level of detail and insight that I needed to hear from them to seal the deal. And right there is what I dislike so much about poor* sales people. Where they should be holding open the door and welcoming you into the start of a long and profitable relationship on both sides, so often they are the crude burly bouncers that bar the way, putting you off wanting to cross the threshold in the first place.
A better way
Of course, it’s not just sales that is to blame. My buddies in marketing need to step up (sorry friends). We need to look across the office at sales enablement too– who’s teaching these guys to have conversations based on value not just on price? And, of course, HR has a role to play.
We expect the sales team to be the front-of-house, the in-house expert, and the engine of growth within most businesses. If they are to wear so many hats, we can’t leave it down to the individual to source the right accessories for every role. It really does take village, or in this case a business, to help sales teams deliver what the organization and the customer expects of them. So, invest in them heavily and rewarded them richly. If they’re half as good as the sales people I’ve worked with, they truly deserve it, I say.
*Yes, I admit it. Small but important word missing from the headline
Rachel Bibby is Chief Marketing Officer at Strategy to Revenue, the award-winning sales enablement consultancy.