I was a tad shocked by something I read the other day relating to current salespeople and their clients. The article in question, Consider Retooling Your Sales Team by “eyes on sales” discusses sales methods and how to spot the salespeople on your team who are leftover from the Jurassic age.
This article quotes research done by “The Sales Board” and shows that surveyed buyers say “95% of salespeople talk too much” and “82% of salespeople can’t differentiate themselves from their competition“. The article also states that “86% of salespeople ask the wrong questions” and “only 18% of salespeople can close without needing to offer discounts or incentives of some kind“.
At first I was taken aback by the “talk too much” and “can’t differentiate themselves” percentages. I mean, for years we’ve been advised by experts and our clients to ditch the old fast-talking hard sell for a more consultative selling style. Yet looking at these statistics seems to indicate we’re heading in the opposite direction. After the initial shock wore off the pessimist in me piped up to remind me that people and business can be very slow to change. So really, it’s not that surprising.
This brings us to the point of my article. I have some thoughts to throw by you. First off, can we all agree it’s easy to blame the salesperson? They are the front line, the person in your face, and that’s typically where most would direct the blame. But let’s look beyond that.
How often do you see job ads that state something comparable to: “must be able to sell snow to Eskimos”. I see it regularly. The latest was only a few days ago. This indicates there are businesses out there who are feeding the Dinosaurs and keeping them healthy and strong. You can argue that it’s a cliched way of saying, “we want a great salesperson”, but on a deeper level I feel the company is more concerned about selling a product than their customers’ needs.
It’s very rare that I see an ad stating something like: “Need a sales consultant who cares about our clients, who will listen to them, help them and their businesses to grow and excel. Be the face of our company and show them we care about their success”. What I do see is, ‘Must be results oriented, meet and exceed sales figures, cold call, fast paced, good presentation skills, driven and motivated, great talker, must live and breath sales’. I’m probably being a bit one-sided here but I’m doing it to send a message.
Here’s something to consider, let’s say a salesperson needs to close some deals to hit a monthly target or, worse, needs a commission to pay their bills. What happens to a person in that situation? The natural instinct may be to try to force a deal and convince someone to buy. That could be when the whole fast-talking, hard sell, pushing the product mentality comes out. This could very well be the product of survival instinct.
I would suggest to companies to look further into their situation. Is the hiring of sales people the same as it’s always been? Is the company sending the wrong signals to their sales staff? Is product knowledge being provided properly? Are goals being set the same old fashioned way? Has the right environment been created for the Dinosaurs to evolve into a consulting salesperson? The change has to come from everywhere not just the salesperson.
I find these statistics very intriguing and would like to delve deeper into the potential reasons behind them. In the meantime, what’s your view and opinion on it?