Ironically, the sales process you are defining to grow your business may be the very thing keeping your sales team from selling.
As the economy has made sales competition fierce, companies have heavily focused on sales process. Many, for the first time, are clearly defining all of the critical steps for their sales team. Some are even taking this to the level of providing detailed scripts to be followed to the letter by every sales rep.
It's as if they are taking all of the thought out of selling—something akin to the robotic arms on assembly lines. Every time a sales process begins, every step is followed identically by the sales representative. Eureka! A sale with zero defects comes out the other side every time, just like the prior ones.
This isn't to bash having a documented process in place. As a matter of fact, I'm a huge proponent of having a defined sales process—I refer to it as a buying process, but that's the subject of a future article. That said, I am also a firm believer in the importance of the personal side of selling.
You've probably heard the saying "Companies don't buy anything—people do. Well, people don't like dealing with robots that don't think, don't care, and are inflexible. If you aren't careful, when you define your sales process, you could be creating an ineffective sales team that has adopted robotic selling.
Recently, I was asked to consult with a boutique travel agency that dealt exclusively with five-figure voyages. Yet, they still faced stiff competition. I met with the CEO to try to ascertain what was missing, as he was frustrated with the performance of his sales team.
He was puzzled, to say the least. He showed me his detailed sales process, but the success just wasn't there. He showed me the documented goals for the first call with a prospective traveler. Every sales rep on the team knew their objectives like the back of their hand. There were flowcharts and diagrams and training for the reps. Each one was tested on their proficiency of the process. Success was imminent, wasn't it?
I asked the CEO to role-play with me, with him as the prospective traveler calling in about a trip and how that call would begin.
"Hi," I started, "I'm interested in talking with someone about a cruise I'm thinking of taking."
"Okay," the CEO responded, "Where were you planning to go? Did you have a preferred cruise line? Did you have a budget in mind for your trip?"
I interrupted, and the CEO looked perplexed. "See, we have a clearly defined approach for handling a needs analysis discussion on the first call," he explained confidently. "We get the information we need to help our prospective clients with their venture. I still don't understand why our team is not more effective."
I asked if we could try the role-play again, this time flipping the roles. The CEO acquiesced.
"Hi," he started, "I'm interested in talking with someone about a cruise that I'm thinking of taking."
"How fantastic!" I responded. "Cruises are so much fun. The food, the music, the service…it's great! Have you taken one before?"
Just like in the cartoons, a light bulb appeared over the CEO's head. He got it. His process wasn't flawed and the information requested by his team during the needs analysis was perfectly appropriate. What was missing was the personal side, the personal touch. Eventually, I would have asked the needs analysis questions the CEO had documented. But I guarantee I would have received more information, as I had developed a bond.
Study after study has shown people buy based on emotion and justify their decision with logic. Robotic selling removes all of the emotion from the process, making sales people ineffective. Think about the caller in this scenario: how excited they must be to be planning a significant vacation. They are looking to work with someone who shares that joy, that passion. They want to work with someone who they feel understands them and what they are going through. And in the role-play, the CEO was such a downer, he quelled all of my excitement for the trip.
The agency adopted a change of approach with their clients, and a number of benefits were soon apparent. Their prospective clients bonded more quickly with the agent and shared more information. The agents also cited prospects who said they sounded different (positively) than other agencies. Differentiation is always a big winner in sales. Their success rate tripled! Interestingly, the agents said that now they were getting calls after the trip from their clients to share the experiences. And referrals soared!
So, now you think this was just a cute sales tactic. Wrong! An entire cultural shift was needed to make the process personal. At the outset, the prospective traveler wanted someone to share passion. As they moved through the process, there were other personal needs. For example, they wanted to know someone cared that their trip went exactly as it was planned. And when things go wrong—something usually will when traveling—they want to know there is someone who will do everything in their power to get it right.
Define your sales process so you know what to do at every step, but don't adopt robotic selling and lose your personal touch. Remember, it's the personal touch that differentiates and makes people want to buy from you.
Need help developing a personal touch strategy for your prospect? Send me an e-mail to request my buying players worksheet, which will assist you in better understanding your buying community.
SMM columnist Lee B. Salz is the president of Sales Architects, CEO of Business Expert Webinars, and author of "Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager." He can be reached at 763-416-4321 or via e-mail at lsalz@SalesArchitecture.com.