Do your salespeople sit back at drink o’clock on a Friday afternoon and share war stories of the customers that got away, potential clients exhibiting seemingly strange and unpredictable behaviour?
Are your salespeople, more times than your sales manager probably cares to admit, left scratching their heads as customers appear to operate by their own set of made-up-as-they-go rules, with complete disregard for salespeople’s best interests and good intentions?
To some people, the question, ‘Are your customers crazy?’ may be a little odd and perhaps crazy itself at first glance. However, I have come to the conclusion that for too many salespeople, customers can be and are experienced as crazy, mysterious creatures.
Over the past decade, I’ve lost count of the number of stories heard from the lips of frustrated sales professionals regarding deals falling over at the eleventh hour.
Some stories include: clients fabricating obscure stories in attempts to wriggle out of contracts and change the terms of the after agreements have been made; deposit cheques bouncing; and prospects defying physics and vanishing into thin air after months of cajoling, pre-sales account management and proposal development.
Sound familiar? Well let’s explore these apparently strange happenings further.
Most sales pipelines are full of crazy customers
When I exclaim ‘crazy’, I mean those potential buyers that have no intention of ever buying your product or service from you or your company. They may buy something similar or even identical to your product or service offering, and they may even pay more for it somewhere else, but they will never ever buy it from you.
Why? Because they’re bloody crazy of course! Or at least that’s what you lament.
Think about it for a minute: What sort of lunatic would allow you to muscle your way in on them by cold-calling and following them up relentlessly until they agree to a meeting with you?
What kind of madman would then allow you to manifest a perceived problem and then agree to you going away and preparing an elaborate proposal outlining key points, benefits, terms and investment – at your own or your company’s expense?
And what maniac would agree to you coming back and presenting to the key stakeholders, only to leave you hanging for months on end with no intention of every buying from you?
This type of behaviour is just pure madness!
Let’s not forget: it is rare for a prospect to ever give you a ‘no’. More common in sales is the insidious ‘maybe’, which transforms you into nothing short of a salivating car-park stalker, ringing, leaving messages, and emailing week in and week out with the hope of getting the order.
Alas, until finally, but with a despondent exhale, your hope of making the sale slowly dissipates. You realise in your anxious state, and after countless promises to your sales manager that it’s a ‘done deal’, that it’s been six months since the prospect returned even one phone call.
‘Hmmm … perhaps they’re not interested?’ you ponder. ‘But how could that be? Look at all the work they asked me to do. This doesn’t make sense! Why does this keep happening to me? I could have been putting my energy and resources towards real customers, not these lunatics that keep wasting my time!’
With a stiff drink and further discussion with your sales colleagues at Friday drink o’clock, you realise that the same thing is happening to the other salespeople as well. ‘Thank God!’ you proclaim. ‘It’s not me – it’s them! The customers are crazy!’
To the uninitiated, customers can often appear random and unpredictable. In old-school Traditional Selling it was once commonly suggested that ‘all buyers are liars’. This philosophy can at times resemble truth, but only when the salesperson fails to acknowledge who the customer really is and what they need and really want.
Have you found the right motivators for your ‘crazy’ customer?
If the customer tells you one thing and then does another, this is usually to alert you that you have not identified the appropriate motivating factors and are not leading the customer through the right buying process.
In the right engagement process, the buyer is a person who has a genuine problem you can solve or desire you can help fulfil, and feels very comfortable with you because your communication style aligns with theirs.
We have all heard the saying a thousand times: People buy off friends, not salespeople. Customers buy friends first.
This maxim underscores the absolute need for salespeople to put their time and energy towards understanding their customers better and then demonstrating that they genuinely care enough to not waste their own and customer’s time.
This is best achieved by leading customers through a well thought-out and structured engagement process that enhances efficiency and performance and eliminates the crazies along the way.
This is an excerpt from Trent’s first book, The Naked Salesman.
Trent Leyshan is the founder of BOOM!, Australia’s leading sales training and development specialist. He is the author of OUTLAW: Fight for your customers and sell without fear.