As a consultant in the sales effectiveness space, I’m pretty conscious of how people try to sell me things. It could be a new cell phone or a service of some sort or maybe even an idea. We are all selling to one degree or another. Many consumers, me included, often do not have good experiences with people trying to sell us stuff. The profession of selling often gets a bad rap. B2B selling is often a bit more sophisticated than B2C (transactional) sales, but it can have some similar challenges. Let me share a couple of B2C experiences as of late that have made me pause and take note.
- I was on the phone with a mobile carrier where they were trying to sell me on a certain add-on service. I had originally called customer service regarding a billing issue. My biggest take-away from their ‘sales or cross-selling effort’ was how the whole “script” felt like a script. It wasn’t authentic, tailored or delivered in a conversational way, which they could have done since they had some information about me. I’m sure many readers have had the same experience. I realize that customer service or account reps are often “made” to cross-sell a new service, but it still sounded so stale.
In my work as a consultant, we often talk to VPs of Sales who are passionate about their sellers’ ability to deliver the company’s message in a way that is tailored for the audience, authentic, and compelling. I realize that the typical person selling a cell phone service may be different than the average B2B seller, but you still have to question the training and execution of the process. In general, this experience was not an exception for me – it’s happened numerous times in the past. I was thinking of buying the add-on service, but the experience left me ‘cold’.
- I had someone ‘cold call’ me around some home improvement services. I don’t usually pick up the phone if I don’t recognize the phone number, but I picked it up in this case. I tried to engage the person in a conversation as I did have a few projects in mind. They asked if I had any home projects where I might need a free quote – they were going to be ‘in the area’ and could stop by. I asked the person if they were on Angie’s List, as I sometimes use that service to gather feedback around certain vendors. The person had a long pause and then said they weren’t on Angie’s List, and they didn’t have much else to say after that. I didn’t try to stump them. It’s a pretty well-known service and has an easy-to-understand rating system (A, B, C, etc.). I also asked if they had anyone I could talk to who lived in my neighborhood that did some home projects with them. They didn’t … and they couldn’t name another neighborhood that was nearby where they had done some work.
I wasn’t overly surprised at the responses – it’s a hard job – I get it. I was surprised that they didn’t have some sort of objections or answer sheet for typical questions from a prospect. They would be much more successful with their pitch or offer if the sales reps were equipped with the right tools and content. I realize that they have to start somewhere, but the person who is directly interfacing with the prospect is the “representative” for the company … and the lack of coherent answers and value proposition is what I remembered. I’ve also had the experience where the person had a response to every objection or statement I had – this can be annoying, as well. It’s a fine balance, and you have to “read” the prospect the best you can.
The moral of these stories isn’t to shed a bad light on people selling cell phone services or home improvement projects. As stated above, it’s a hard job, and it’s not easy to sell to someone you don’t really know. In some ways, I’m pulling for these sales reps – I want them to be successful.
For those managing these sellers, please ensure that you equip them with some basic sales aids – good discovery questions tailored to each target audience, some answers to common questions/objections, and a way to differentiate and credentialize the company and offerings vs. the competition. In other words, why should they buy from you, what do they value, and what questions might they have.
What else would you add to the list?