There is a reason that automobiles have a reverse gear. Sometimes you have moved as far forward as you can and in order to get anywhere you need to change your path. However, for some reason many sales representatives only have a forward gear. They move along a trajectory until they meet a seemingly immovable object, the client objection. An objection is a question, exclamation, protest, challenge, complaint, or correction posed by one of the negotiating parties.
The TV series Mad Men is about people in the advertising business in the 1960’s, and the main character Don Draper drinks a lot and makes bad personal decisions. The show often uses real ad campaigns from the period and fictionalizes the pitches made to buyers. That alone is enough for me to watch. But what really intrigues me is Don Draper’s Four Rules of Selling. In the story, they work – as you would expect. Well, most of the time. Do they apply to real life? I wonder.
I have these great ideas. Books, articles, client questions, TED Talks, observations, or suggestions have all triggered moments of brilliance. Sometimes I am consumed by all the things I could be doing. I have even gone so far as to reduce the time I devote to inquiry in order to stem the tide of ideas. Nothing worked until I experienced a client that did the exact same thing. He was completely and utterly stuck on what to do next because every idea was precious. “That’s a good idea isn’t it? We should do that.” So instead, nothing got done.
Sometimes customers call me for help when it is too late to fix their problem. Sure, money will fix a lot of things, but added investment still needs to make a return. Besides, businesses in trouble are in trouble because they no longer have access to capital. They have used up their cash and there is not enough profit to replenish reserves. But, there is always a solution. You always have choices.
My wife and I recently visited Cape Town, South Africa. It was a wonderful, once in a lifetime trip. As we often do on holiday, we sought out the local street markets. Cape Town is beautiful and friendly, but like any large city it has a seedier side. You take care where you go and keep your valuables tucked away. We wandered up to a square of souvenir sellers with the hopes of finding something to take back for gifts. We are pretty seasoned travelers, but found ourselves immediately uncomfortable. The vendors were aggressive, the pathways too small, and the merchandise in a majority of the booths was nearly identical.
We live and work in a service economy, but too much of our sales training is based on peddling transactions: When a customer has a need, we source the solution, assess our cost, add profit, and offer a price. In order to differentiate, we include “value-added” services, which may be as rudimentary as being pleasant up to the extreme customer service models that so few can afford. The fundamental problem with this simplistic view of how we make money is that our customers are far more complicated than that. Customer complexity is actually a good thing, if you learn how to assess and respond to it.
Here are my top five resolutions for my consulting clients in 2016:
Tom discusses seven ways to intentionally grow your business.
The reason your sales and business development outreach isn’t working is attributable to a increasing lack of customer compliance. They are supposed to take your call, listen to your pitch, and by golly – just give you a shot at the order. Everyone gets the same consideration. Everyone gets a chance. These are the rules. Of course if customers followed the rules, you would always win because you have better people, products, and a nifty catchphrase.