Pain points

IMG_5806There’s a new kind of salesmanship in town, and I think I like it. When I can find it, that is.

Not long ago, I received an assignment to write about a new company that offers sales training. Pretty standard stuff, I thought, so I scheduled the interview and went on about business.

My discussion with the owner was interesting. I won’t go into the full spiel, but the crux of the philosophy is to find the customer’s pain points and solve those problems. If your product/service doesn’t intersect, be honest about it. Don’t sell, solve problems. Don’t conduct the conversation to your benefit; conduct it to his benefit.

What this boils down to is that the salesperson has to get to know his customer. For the most part, that requires ingenuity and intuitiveness–that is, asking the right questions and making the right connections.

I thought all of this was fairly intuitive, but apparently not. You see, I bought a new car this weekend. I hadn’t exactly planned to do it, but I wouldn’t consider it a whim, either. I did a little homework to prepare myself and set off to my dealership of choice.

To be fair to the sales guy, he seemed to listen to me and did everything I asked. When I told him my parameters, he didn’t try to push me in a different direction. He just kept trying to find a solution that fit.

Unfortunately, his manager wasn’t of the same mind. (Why anyone still follows that high pressure, old-school process of hand-off/hand-up is beyond me, but that’s another blog post.) Although the manager had spent precisely ZERO time with me and couldn’t have understood my personality or motivation, he jumped into the conversation and took off, leaving me behind. He started throwing payment scenarios at me and wouldn’t shut up long enough to see what I, the CUSTOMER, was after. The resulting conversation was stilted and mutated, far from the equal exchange it should have been.

After all, he didn’t understand my pain, my motivators.

I wanted a new car, but I didn’t NEED one.

There’s a new driver in my household.

I have a dog whose coat doesn’t match the interior of the car I was considering.

I didn’t have a trade-in because I wanted to keep the old car, too.

I haven’t had a car payment in four years.

I want to be treated like an intelligent human being.

The numbers were important to me, but I needed to verify them for myself. This is a big purchase; I’m not going to take someone else’s word for rates, surcharges, etc.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t even catch my name.

This guy just swooped in, gave most of his attention to my dad, who was merely there as my ride so he could take my other car home if I decided to drive one off the lot. He wanted me to make a decision from estimated calculations, not actual fully disclosed worksheets. He didn’t have a clue as to why I wanted a new car or the factors that influenced my decision. In fact, he still doesn’t.

He never gave any indication that he cared about me or whatever issue I was trying to solve. And he didn’t know when to shut up.

In spite of that sales manager, I bought the car. The salesman and the finance guy–and the service department that has done right by me for years–tipped the balance. But if my decision had hinged solely upon the sales manager, I would have saved myself four hours (and a bunch of money), gone home, and sent the guy a link to that sales trainer.

In fact, I just might send that link anyway.

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Pulling a Truman

buck stops

People are grousing about the price? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

Customers don’t understand our product? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

No one came to our seminar? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

One customer thinks another customer is getting preferential treatment? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

People don’t like the new program? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

A friend and mentor used that phrase all the time. His point was that rather than simply acting as a conduit for every voice from the field, we should engage with those voices and address their concerns. Instead, we often throw up our hands and shake our heads, decrying those jerks back at the office whose ridiculous ideas caused the issue in the first place.

We don’t get to make all the decisions ourselves, regardless of what job or position we hold. At some point, we’re going to have to stand in the gap between someone else’s decision/policy/precedent and our constituency. We have two choices: commiserate or moderate.

If we commiserate, we do nothing to help the situation. And we give away any power of our own. Really, we become part of the problem.

If we moderate, we hold the power to improve an unfavorable situation. We become part of the solution.

Let’s take another look.

People are grousing about the price? Let me show you what you get for your money and why it’s a good value.

Customers don’t understand our product? I must not have explained it well enough. Let me give it another shot.

No one came to our seminar? Let me help get the word out next time. I can stir up some excitement.

One customer thinks another customer is getting preferential treatment? What can I do to help him feel appreciated?

People don’t like the new program? Let me show you its benefits and how they could improve your situation.

Don’t think I’m pointing the finger at salespeople; we ALL have to sell ourselves and our work every day to our customers, colleagues, friends, or family. If the buck doesn’t stop with you, it sounds like a sales problem.

By the way, the friend who said that was a VP of sales. How’s that for taking responsibility?