Getting Off the Carousel: Moving Beyond Don Draper Sales Tactics

Peter Linas

Charm, persistence, and the right entertainment: for many in sales, these are pillars of the profession, and nobody embodies them quite like Don Draper. “Mad Men’s” famous advertising genius may not strictly be a salesperson, but he’s become an icon to many nonetheless. If you don’t believe me, type his name into LinkedIn’s news section: there are too many articles about the Don Draper approach to winning new business/pitching/leadership for me to list.

You likely don’t need to be told that fictional characters seldom match up to reality. Indiana Jones, for example, is quite possibly the worst archaeology professor in the history of the U.S education system. We don’t admire these heroes because they’re like us; we admire them because they’re not like us. Sometimes they’re aspirational figures (i.e. Atticus Finch for lawyers); sometimes they’re completely amoral (i.e. Gordon Gekko for stockbrokers), but they’re always undeniably larger than we are – and what works for them won’t always work for us.

If “Mad Men’s” 1960s is a half-accurate reflection of the real era, then it’s entirely possible that the Don Draper approach could have been effective. Even now, you won’t get too far as a sales professional without a healthy amount of personal charisma and the sheer will required to close a deal, and there’s certainly something to be said for having a client meeting over lunch instead of a stuffy office building.

But if this was indeed enough to generate revenue in the past, it’s not going to do it anymore. Over-the-top hospitality and sales patter you’ve improvised when you’re five pints down isn’t going to appeal to the Millennial crowd. This demographic came of age in an environment that simultaneously represented an innovative apex and an economic nadir. They want products that are at once incredible and affordable; something financial developments have made a necessity, and, happily, something technological development has made a reality. If you want to sell to them, you’ll need to be a little bit smarter about it – and these same technological developments have the answer.

Make It Easy
If you’re a salesperson, it’s worth bearing this one, blindingly obvious principle in mind: your problems aren’t your customer’s problems. Sure, you’ve got a hundred other people to talk to that day, you’ve got a bunch of reporting to do, and it’s unreasonable of anyone to expect you to remember everything. All of this is true, and it doesn’t matter. Reasonable or not, it’s expected of you anyway: your customer’s problems are very much your problems.

CRM technology can lighten this considerable burden. The advances made in automated, “zero-click” data capture and storage means that in the face of constant distractions and interruptions, you’ll never be unequipped for that vital sales call or client meeting. Need to know how your last interaction went with a client? You can get that information in an instant. Want to pull up the complete history of a particular account before heading off to a meeting? No problem. This means you can focus on building and maintaining customer relationships that come with being a human, not the data entry that comes with being a robot.

Understand Relationships
Nobody would ever accuse Donald Draper of failing to get on with people, but there’s no denying his approach to relationships focuses heavily on the short term. He isn’t trying to build something; he’s trying to dazzle them for immediate gains. The Draper philosophy is best summed up by the man himself: “I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.”

Customers, of course, have long memories: it’s great to wow them in the beginning, but if you can’t keep it up, they’ll become frustrated. There very much is a tomorrow, and you don’t want to be unprepared when it arrives. Having perfect records is great, but it’s more important to understand how your clients and prospects actually feel.

Software can prove useful here as well: not only can it provide you with real relationship insight, it can help you understand your customers’ general opinion of your business and its services. The right responsive sales solutions can let you know how likely they are to continue buying from you – and indeed, how likely they are to stop buying from you.

Identify an injury early enough, and you’re more likely to recover. The same principle applies to customer service.

Be Proactive
It probably comes as no surprise to learn that Generation Tinder isn’t too big on loyalty when it comes to their products and services. They’re not completely averse to a longer-term commitment, but if you want to keep their interest in the long-term, you’ll need to work fairly hard.

Another benefit conveyed byhuman-centric CRM technology is the ability to address your customer’s needs proactively. After all, your customers will expect you to know what they need and when, before they do. This can be something as simple as knowing the best time to connect with your clients or whether they prefer a phone call or an email. It can also be more complicated; it can identify potential red flags that might appear further down the line, and help you to avert any potential crises.

Selling to Millennials isn’t always easy, but it can be made easier. A well-informed salesperson is always at an advantage. He wins plenty of business with his abundant charm, but even “Mad Men” manages to admit that Don Draper’s finest pitches – The Carousel, Lucky Strike, and many more – were made when he had the best information to hand. Thanks to modern software, getting this information is easier than ever.

Peter Linas is international MD and CRM software firm Bullhorn.