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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.

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