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Mister, you should now give your sales team a decent training!

Leo Holmes is the CEO of PetroChem and it is very rare that he shows himself on the floor of the sales department. That morning he went to the office of his sales manager Hugo Boss, and judging from the sound his steps made, he was not going to bring him any good news.

‘Hugo, yesterday, I went with one of your sales guys in the field. I am very disappointed. I could observe this exchange between your  senior account manager and a customer:

 ‘You might think that the competition has a better product.’

Your people might need some time to get used to our product. It is not easy to use. We hear that all the time.’

And a few moments later:

‘You might think that this is all quite expensive, and I wouldn’t blame    you if you did. It is a lot of money.’

 Later, in the car, I asked your account manager how he thought the meeting went. He was quite happy with it.

‘It was good of me to take the side of the customer. I think he trusts me now.’

 I then asked him what he thought his chances were of winning the deal.

 ‘I am pretty sure they will buy. Ninety percent probability. What do you think, coach?’

 My assessment was 10 percent and I told him that.

 ‘You don’t know what you are talking about. I know this customer. They need my product.’

 I replied as follows:

‘ They probably need your product but you advised them not to buy it. You pointed out all the negative aspects and disadvantages of the solution: worse than the competition, not easy to implement or to use. Too expensive. The customer must be an idiot if he wants to buy this from you.’

 He was taken aback by this feedback.

I continued:

 ‘Was the customer going to mention price as a problem? You don’t know that. This is what we call self-inflicted objections. Sales people create more objections than a customer can think of. Sales people hear objections all the time, so they start to project them onto their customers.’

 He blushed, and he said that he might have needed to stress the positive points, the advantages. He sounded a bit exasperated.

 ‘What do you want me to do, then, boss? This product does have some shortcomings. You want me to lie to this customer?’

 No, I said, never lie to a customer.

 ‘As a sales person you need to be convinced of the value of what you are selling. If you don’t believe in your company or your product, it will be hard to be truly persuasive. You need to listen very carefully to what your customer really says. Take your time to let your customer explain what his or her objections are. And then deal with them. Don’t start by projecting them on him.’

Hugo, you must give these guys a decent sales training.

Download our Implementation Toolkit

This document contains a number of tools, templates and checklists that will help the manager to implement the learnings, endorse action points and do focused coaching in the field. For every tool, there is a manual and guidelines on how to use it proficiently.

Is a sales person allowed to lie?

Boss, I have a question of a philosophical nature for you.

Wow, a philosophical question, Peter. What have you been smoking?

Nothing, boss. I was wondering: can we lie to a customer?

Of course not, Peter. A lier will always be caught. A customer must be able to trust you.

We can’t always be completely truthful, boss.

Give me an example.

Some features of our products are really not good. I think we should say that to our customers.

You are going to give negative pitches now? ‘Dear customer, please don’t buy our products!’

No, I just want to be honest.

Not telling everything isn’t the same as lying, is it?

Very subtle difference, boss.

Do you think our competitors are talking about the evident weaknesses of their products?

No, they act as if they are all hunky dory.

So?

Their sales people are even more untruthful than we are?

Since you are in a philosophical mood, Peter, let me ask you. What is the definition of selling?

Presenting your product is such a way that the customer will buy it. Stress the benefits, explain the value.

Right. That is also the role of marketing. Now, do people believe the advertising they see?

They have probably become immune to the positivo tone of the advertising industry. People are not stupid, they know that marketing is all about manipulating the perception of people. They take it with a pinch of salt.

Same with sales, Peter. There is always some skepticism toward a sales person. A customer thinks: he is here to trick me into something I don’t need.

Yes, so?

Your job is to listen to the customer, understand his requirements and show how our products are going to help him solve his problems.

And what if our products are not good enough, when they don’t really solve those problems.

You are suffering from self inflicted objections, Peter.

Self inflicted what, boss?

Self inflicted objections.

You don’t really believe in our products. You hear objections all the time, you want to anticpate them, so you raise them before a customer does

Remember last week, when we went to see Maria of PetroChem, you said literally: “You might think that this is all quite expensive, and I wouldn’t blame you if you did. It is a lot of money.” and then adding insult to injury, you said: “You might think that the competition has a better product. Your people might need some time to get used to our product. It is not easy to use. We hear that all the time.”   I was having an heart attack hearing you destroy our entire company, Peter!

I was too honest.

You were, and it didn’t help very much, because Maria decided not to buy whereas she really needs our product. You need to listen very carefully to what your customer really says,. Take your time to let your customer explain what his or her objections are. And then deal with them. Don’t force the customer into refusing our offering. That’s the competition’s job.

Download our Implementation Toolkit

This document contains a number of tools, templates and checklists that will help the manager to implement the learnings, endorse action points and do focused coaching in the field. For every tool, there is a manual and guidelines on how to use it proficiently.

Are women better in sales than men?

Boss, I have a question for you.
Shoot, Peter.
Do you think women are better sales people than men?
That’s a difficult one, Peter. Why do you ask?
Never answer a question with another question, boss. Are women better sales people than men?
I would say yes and no.
That is a very clear reply, boss.
Women do have certain talents and competences that men sometimes lack.
Like?
The ability to relate, the ability to listen, the ability to care.
Those are clichés, boss.
Sure they are, but clichés contain truths, Peter. You want some more?
Sure, I asked the question.
I think they are more reliable, more committed, more diligent.
Listening to you, one would think that men are neanderthalers.
In a way, we are, Peter.
Are they also better performers? I mean, do they have better sales results.
I am not sure about that. We would need to look into a vast number of emperical data to answer that question in a decent way. I think Xerox once made the analysis and they concluded that 70 % of the female reps made the numbers, whereas only 67% of the men did. Another statistic I once came across: only 39% percent of the sales population is suppsed to be female.
Do you think customers react better to a lady sales person than to a gentleman sales person?
That depends on the gender of the customer, Peter. Would a woman purchaser buy more easily from a another woman than from a man? Would a male buyer buy more easily from a woman than from a man?
My guess is that the latter is true.
Which one, Peter?
I am convinced that a man buys more easily from a woman than from a man.
Why would that be?
A man is easily seduced, he likes to be the macho, he thinks he will get favors from the lady when he helps her to make her numbers. The peacock reflex.
This is a dangerous territory you’re embarking on, Peter. I think it all depends on the kind of industry you’re in. There are very few women in the car selling industry, and there are relatively few male sales reps in the pharmaceutical branche.
What about our branche, the ICT business, boss?
Women are a minority in the computer and telco business. Altough, the best sales people I have ever worked with, were ladies. Those particular women were much better than their male collegues. That was the case at my previous company.
Suppose you are a customer, which gender would you prefer your sales person to have?
Probably female. I remember very distinctly going into a men’s clothing shop because I needed to buy a tie. I left with a complete new suit, two new shirts, two new ties and a belt. That lady was so good at flattering my vanity that I would buy anything from her.
Forgive me for asking, boss, but why are there no women in our team?
Well, erm. That is because HR hasn’t come up with a sales lady that is better than you, Peter. That is what you wanted me to say, isn’t it?

Download our Implementation Toolkit

This document contains a number of tools, templates and checklists that will help the manager to implement the learnings, endorse action points and do focused coaching in the field. For every tool, there is a manual and guidelines on how to use it proficiently.