This conversation was loaded with insights from the customer’s perspective. In a nutshell, Max and I discussed the difference between being sold vs. being assisted. Max shared a telling story that is applicable to most of us in sales. Here’s a bit of his story:
Max was notified by an existing vendor that a printable adhesive he uses was being discontinued. The vendor was apologetic, yet unable to help source an adequate replacement. The adhesive is a crucial element of Max’s manufacturing process. It needed to be replaced. He began his researching options online. He also contacted industry peers. His research was unsuccessful. As a next step, he began contacting major US chemical companies for assistance. (Continued below)
The next segment of Max’s story is one played out regularly in sales (B2B, B2C, inside, and direct). A rep’s desire to make a sale trumps the customer’s interest and needs. In some cases a sale is made, but a customer is lost. A rep has won the battle but lost the war. This scenario is commonplace, but extremely avoidable. What struck me most about Max’s story were the obvious lessons. I’ll specify them, but probably won’t need to. If you’re doing your job right, they should jump out.
Max was contacted by the big 3 chemical companies. The efforts of one rep, Jim, were most notable. He contacted Max and learned of his dilemma. Despite Max’s need for adhesives, Jim began to discuss Max’s ink business. Jim still focused on adhesives, but was clearly trying to secure all of Max’s ink business as well. After Max explained that the ink was not up for discussion, Jim turned his focus to Max’s real problem.
Over the course of the next month, Jim had his chemists working on an adhesive solution. However, he continued to try and sell Max on other products. The discussion was always the same. Status update on adhesives. How is business? Here is another product you could benefit from. Max was never interested.
Finally, the day arrived when Jim brought Max a 5 gallon container of adhesive. He dropped it on Max’s desk and said, “Here’s your stuff. It will solve your problem.” Jim was unable to speak to any of the properties of the adhesive. He also could not consult Max on its use. (Continued below)
When the chance for additional business disappeared, Jim disengaged. His focus was on sales, not the customer. In his mind, Max was “tapped out,” and no longer required his full focus.
The glaring lesson is the lost art of listening and nurturing. This is an art/skill that most Lead Development Reps (LDR) hone over time. The profile of a great LDR is quite different than that of a sales rep. The hallmarks are patience, understanding, desire to inform, and drive to collaborate.
Download the LDR Competency Profile and learn more about these characteristics. Are you doing it right?
Frustrated by Jim’s lack of professionalism and insight, Max told him to leave. He told him to take his adhesive with him, and to not return. Jim was dumfounded and responded with…
“So what can I sell you?”
Jim’s company got the message. They removed him and assigned a technical sales specialist (TSS) to the account. The specialist approached the account like an LDR and began to listen. He built trust by listening. He collaborated and provided insight, which Max could use. The approach was long-term, not a quick fix. Max was no longer being sold to. Rather, he was being assisted along his buying journey.
We’ve all been guilty of this at some point during our career. It’s easy to get wrapped up in making the number. Naturally, everyone looks forward to bonus checks. The problem is that this is short-term thinking. Examine your own personal sales strategy. Are you doing this? Five years of growing bonus checks is much better than a small one this year. In the age of information and the Internet, prospects won’t tolerate this behavior. They’ll move on to someone who can provide value, as well as a product.
The 5 Hallmarks of a Great LDR
1. Active Listening – Aptitude for capturing verbal and non-verbal queues. Listening to gain insight and understanding. Get more tips on this key skill here.
2. Customer Focus – Putting the customer’s interests ahead of your own. Ability to develop customer loyalty and prevent customer attrition through persona-based focus.
3. Patience – Long-term perspective focused on the buyer’s journey. Nurture the relationship and customer knowledge along the way.
4. Interpersonal Skills – Deep understanding of people. Knowledge of how to interact with various personality types and temperaments. Able to apply emotional intelligence in various situations and adapt accordingly.
5. Customized Insight Generation – Ability to generate insightful messaging that is custom to a buyer’s persona. Takes common messages and customizes them to a specific audience. Provide customers with information before they ask. Keep them ahead of the industry curve.
Max finally experienced these traits through the new TSS assigned to him. As a result, Max’s needs were met. A sale was made, and will be made again many times in the future. Perhaps down the line, ink business may even be up for grabs. This is the natural, helpful process that a true LDR takes. Is this the process you use? If not, download the LDR Competency Profile to find out where you can improve.