Leave Your Agenda at the Office

SQC smallProblem:  Alligator Software had just introduced a major revision to their software but, in spite of tremendous initial enthusiasm, sales fell far short of expectations and management started to receive complaints about the conduct of their overzealous salespeople.

Analysis:  Alligator was proud of their latest upgrades, so much so that management was convinced that they were finally in a position to overtake their primary competitor who owned 60% of the market.  A national sales meeting was held and the entire forty person sales team converged on San Diego for a quick one and a half day meeting to introduce the “new product.”  After the proud techies got their chance to demo the software, the marketing department spent a half-day helping the salespeople understand all the features and benefits and how the new product would help their prospects reach new levels of efficiency.

Finally, management got their chance, and did they ever turn on the motivation! With extraordinary zeal they introduced the new compensation plan for sales and it was generous, to say the least.  They left the salespeople with this message:  “The market is ready for this product.  It’s new and innovative and everybody needs it.  We’ve invested megabucks in development and need to recoup our investment.  So get out there and move it.  Don’t take no for an answer.  You can make it happen!”

So the highly motivated sales force departed, full of high expectations and renewed enthusiasm, but with the wrong agenda.

How easily we forget!  It’s not about you.  It’s about your prospect.  Alligator’s sales force descended on their unwary prospects like a bunch of wild animals ready for the kill.  Their attitude was…forget about what the prospect needs, we’ve got to sell this stuff, now.  Consultative selling went by the wayside and the vultures showed up.  And, nobody bought.

Solution:  Simple.  Shut up and listen.  People aren’t buying because you’ve got a quota or because your management said to go out and move the product.  Here’s what Ray Smith, the former Chairman and CEO of Bell Atlantic has to say about salespeople:

“The great sales professional helps you eliminate issues that are not a problem, and then focus you in on the really critical dimensions of the situation.  At the right moment, the good ones ask the right questions.  You don’t want someone peddling a solution that comes with an agenda, which many do.”

Alligator’s sales force came with an agenda – move the product.  That was their focus on every call.  They cared little about the prospect’s issues and asked few questions.  They were clearly under pressure and it showed.  Their prospects felt like they were being pressured to buy a used car or a time share and they didn’t buy.  People buy for their reasons, not yours, so stop selling and start listening.

You can accomplish both by increasing your sales activity and by adding qualifying questions up front in your conversation.

“I am reaching out to you today because we have made significant upgrades to our software.  However, these added benefits are not for everyone so I’m calling to see if you might be one of the ones that could benefit.  Do you mind if I ask you a few questions to find out if that is true so I don’t end up wasting your time?”

Then, ask questions around the problems the upgrades solve.

Good Selling!!