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Customer People

Selling Would Be So Easy If It Weren’t For Those Damn Customers!

Author: David Brock

For some weeks, I’ve been on the war path about emerging trends in sales. We see the same issues and trends in too many blog posts/books, at every conference, and in the social channels.

The focus in much of our discussions on selling is about us–sales people.

We see discussions focused on increasing specialization in sales–actually adaptations of the Toyota Production System.  We have highly focused roles, each role focuses on it’s job in the sales process, once complete, the widget–I mean customer, is passed to the next function, then the next, then the next…..on down the sales assembly line.

We see discussions focused on sales messaging….stated differently, “What is it we are trying to tell the customer and how do we say it in the most persuasive manner possible.”  If there is any discussion about questioning, it’s focused on questioning to find the starting point to do our messaging, not questioning as a true discovery and collaborative learning process.

We see tools and methods focused on our efficiency, not how they enhance the customer engagement, or help build trusted relationships.  We implement bots, autoresponders, power dialers, because they enable us to do more in the same time–forgetting what it feels like to be a customer on the receiving end of these do.

Hint: Focus on the Customer

I sit through entire presentations on new trends in selling, where the word customer or buyer may never be mentioned. If it is, the number of mentions is a fraction of the number of mentions of sales, sales people, sales technologies, sales efficiency.

While we provide lip service to the words “customer focus,” or “customer buying process,”  everything seems focused on us as sellers.

One gets the impression, that if it weren’t for those pesky customers, their needs, fears, challenges, sales would be so easy!

Ironically, customers are the sole reason for sales people to exist!  We have no other function than to find and engage customers about THEIR challenges, THEIR goals, THEIR dreams and fears, THEIR businesses.

Yet everything we do seems focused on anything but these.

In survey after survey, customers scream about their concerns about sales people.  They say:  “Sales people don’t understand them and their businesses, Sales people don’t talk about what they (the customer) cares about, Sales people don’t even understand their own products and how they apply to the customer situation, Sales people don’t understand what’s relevant and important to them (the customer).”

Year after year, the surveys say the same things, yet, despite all the tools, methods, punditry, and billions spent on tools/training, we don’t seem to be changing customer views.

Self Service Accelerates

Increasingly, we are driving customers to self-service.  It’s not that they don’t need the help great sales people can provide, it’s just that most sales people aren’t providing that–so they are forced to other means of learning and evaluating alternatives. There is much powerful data that shows the impact of sales people provoking change, helping the customers in their buying process, creating great value from the moment they realize they should do something different through to their selection and implementation of a solution, on to their realizing the value of the solution.

Rather than being on converging paths, increasing our alignment and value creation with customers, we seem to be on diverging paths.

Make no mistake, however, with my diatribe.  Sales efficiency is critical, but it is meaningless without the customer.  Ironically, when we start our design for sales engagement–if the customer is the starting and end point of all of our efforts, we sales people become highly efficient—as do our customers.

David Brock is president of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a management consulting firm focused on sales productivity, channel development, strategic alliances and more. Read more blogs from Brock here.

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