Over my years of technical selling, I’ve lived by the philosophy that the gurus promoting “you have to be liked to win the order” were wrong. Now granted you won’t win much business by being insulting, but being best buddies isn’t necessary either.
My thoughts on the matter have always been that you solve the customers issues, treat them fairly and the sale will just happen. No need to push for the order. No need to bring gifts and doughnuts. Just spend the time to understand the customers application challenges and provide a solution that resolves those challenges and bingo the sale is yours. No trial corny closes, scripts, stories required.
Treat the customer with respect.
Always do your best to be responsive and work quickly.
Solve the Problem.
Physics can’t be changed.
Today I came across an article that confirmed my beliefs. It was published by Harvard Business Review, and is linked for your review. It is titled “Selling is not About Relationships.” In summary it states that of the 5 distinct sales profiles the relationship salesperson ranks dead last in effectiveness. The 5 types are reproduced below.
Quantitatively speaking, just about every B2B sales rep in the world is one of the following types, characterized by a specific set of skills and behaviors that defines the rep’s primary mode of interacting with customers:
Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the customer organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet customers’ every need, and work hard to resolve tensions in the commercial relationship.
Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They’ll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team.
Lone Wolves are the deeply self-confident, the rule-breaking cowboys of the sales force who do things their way or not at all.
Reactive Problem Solvers are, from the customers’ standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on post-sales follow-up, ensuring that service issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly.
Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers’ business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — with both their customers and bosses.
As an experienced Sales Engineer, lead generation responsibility has always been a bit of a pet peeve of mine. Manufacturers especially small ones think the salesman’s role is to go out into the world and miraculously produce large volumes of customer inquiries for their products. Many of these manufacturers have even told me “all you need to do is bring me the lead, and I’ll do the rest”. The salesmen on the other hand believes that it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to provide the bulk of the marketing activity and as a result the bulk of the leads. They go on to say that their primary purpose is to convert the leads they receive into orders, and assure that the customer doesn’t select the competitors product.
Misaligned incentives for Lead Generation
From the sales engineers perspective it’s simple logic why he or she believes this. For starters most of the people I’ve spoken with work 100% straight commission, and have no salary or expense reimbursement. Their only incentive is to close business and earn the commission. Lead generation on the other hand involves several touches with a potential company over a long period of time. To make, gestate and convert those contacts cost time & money. Who should bear that expense the Manufacturers Representative working with a 30-90 day cancelation clause or the manufacturer, who in theory should continue on forever?
In House Contacts
Like everything in life there are always exceptions. Sometimes a sales engineer has in his Rolodex full of the perfect contacts for a new product, but rarely do they have all the contacts for a given product in a region. When the contact is available, the sales engineer will do the drip marketing to generate the leads from his internal lists as a normal function of his other sales activities.
Lead Generation Solutions for Small Companies
Northeast Tech Reps will provide the lead generating activity for smaller companies. Unlike other manufacturers representative firms serving the Boston region, Northeast Tech Reps has the ability to provide contract lead generation activities on a national and international basis for a fixed fee.
My selling journey to becoming a great sales professional began at the age of 8 or 9 while still attending elementary school. The school where I attended required all the boys to wear a tie to school, most of whom wore clip on ties. I on the other hand was styling in a box of hand me down ties given to me by my father, all of which needed to be hand tied. I had them all pre-tied so you just slipped it over your head, and had 5 or so of them stuffed in my desk.
Well for some reason all the kids wanted to wear my ties instead of the clip on ties they had. I sensed an opportunity, and began renting them out for a quarter a day. At those rates I was making some good money for a 9 year old boy in 1976. As can happen in the high stake world of Sales good times turned into bad due to something beyond your control. In this case the nuns shut down me little profit making enterprise. At the young age of 9, I had experienced my first business startup and closing within a matter of a few weeks.
I may have been down, but I wasn’t out. Being that it was a catholic school, we always had to sell Christmas cards & raffle tickets. Over the years selling these items I ended up winning a bunch of worthless forgettable prizes. Top seller in the class, school became common place. Even later in life as I started my professional industrial selling career, I continued to get trophies, letters of recognition, etc. However, these were never the motivating factor that drove me to work hard and sell. I sold and continued to do so because I love helping people, and selling pays better than social work. I rest assured that in knowing that when I leave this earth in some small way, I’ve made the world better through my actions of helping others.