It has been quiet for a while on this blog, while things have been racing around in my life despite the lockdowns. Anyway, I thought of dropping by with a quick post involving a few incidents that occurred in the last few months.
Well, I have been interacting with a lot of sales persons and consultants of late for a particular personal project; with me being on the other side of the table, being sold to. I had a specific requirement and I was looking for vendors who could deliver it to me.
Usually, when doing such a thing, I look to narrow down on a supplier for the long term, such that I won’t have to undergo the process all over again each time I have a requirement. That’s the logical thing for almost everyone I am sure. It is supposed to be a win-win proposition, wherein both parties get what they want in the long run.
After multiple interactions with different consultants, I was able to get someone suited for the job. But curiously enough, it was more of a rejection procedure than a selection. It was not because they weren’t good, but more so because there was not much differentiating them in their offerings or their strengths and skills. All of them more or less had the same points of parity. What eventually made me narrow down was an extrapolation of various softer factors which according to me, pre-defined how the future would look like.
I am talking about the personalities I interacted with and their characteristics, the kind of impression they left me with.
Looking back at my interactions with each consultant, there were 3 broadly negative areas I would club them into:
- The proud salespersons who focus on selling achievements
- The laidback ones who don’t put enough effort
- The conceited experts with no listening ear at all
Lesson 1: Sell your product, not your clientele
When given an opportunity to sell, there are those who go overboard in self praise. Some people, while selling, embark upon a bragging marathon. I have experienced this commonly in B2B sales persons.
There was this time, about a year back, we met this person selling us some software solutions. He was particularly proud of having won over some heavy hitting clients. He went on and on about how awesome the product was that so many great clients sought their service.
We tried narrowing down on those “awesome features” multiple times by asking questions about the product, but our guy kept reverting to how great the product was that even MNCs have trusted them blindly.
Well, it turned out we didn’t want to trust them blindly. We realized the product might be great, but due to improper explanation of what made it so great, and unnecessary focus on who found it great, it led to us eventually rejecting the vendor.
A similar thing happened again with me in my personal project. A few of the consultants focused their conversations on past clients. All I wanted to understand was what their capabilities were and how it suited my needs. But on being repeatedly told that so and so were also their clients, I decided to stop pursuing those people. Honestly, it was a waste of my time.
Yup, sorry you lost a sale there.
Lesson 2: Do not go with an unprepared pitch
A sales person who doesn’t prepare well is probably the worst sales person. He or she has likely chosen a wrong profession. One needs to be very proactive in order to impress clients, convince them and win over deals.
One of the consultants I talked to was a sleepy sounding guy whose standard answer to anything I said was, “Yes sir, we can do it”. It so happened that I had emailed a detailed brief to every candidate. From the pitch this guy gave to me, I could conclude that he had not looked at the brief very well. He was beating around the bush and didn’t have a clue about where he was going wrong.
I don’t know, maybe he was overconfident (or from his perspective, capable and confident). He had some credentials from the past, but just because, I could not hold any conversation with him relevant to my requirements, I ended up quitting on that guy.
So, the lesson here is, confidence is ok; but respect the client and go with a prepared pitch to address what the customer needs. If you don’t even prepare a basic study of what the customers need and what you can offer to them, you’d like end up without a deal.
Lesson 3: Capturing needs is more important than selling all your product features
This pen selling scene from Wolf of Wall Street is probably one of the best lessons that any new sales person could be taught in school. It is like Sales Pitch 101 MBA course rolled into one brief minute. The essence of this short story is that a person always buys things because he or she feels the need for it. You need to catch that pulse as a sales person. What does the person need? Can you offer him or her something that fills that need, or triggers a latent demand? Many sales persons miss out on this basic lesson.
Of course, there are good sales persons who know their products in and out. They are very thorough with the wares they sell. But don’t get carried away with your superior knowledge. You might be able to list out all the 100 features of the product you are selling, but maybe the consumer needs only 1 or 2 of those features. You might just lose the customer by not focusing on the specific features that the customer wants to hear about.
In fact, by overselling all the features, you might even make the customer feel that he or she is overpaying for the product because he or she does not need that many.
This happened in my case for one of the sales persons. They were a big firm with a lot of facilities, machinery etc, for testing products, a whole team of scientists, engineers etc. Their website impressed me, but once we got to talking, I felt a bit overwhelmed with the long presentation about the stuff have to offer, which I currently do not have a requirement for.
If the sales person had just understood my needs and sold me exactly what I needed, I would have probably gone for these guys as they seemed really professional. But anyway, I was tired of their feature selling.
Hence, the deal was left unfinished.
Lesson 4: Never give the impression of being a bad listener
The only thing which is almost as bad as being unprepared is having a bad listening ear.
There was this guy who spoke so much and listened so little that it was annoying. It annoyed me to the point that I had to ask him to cut the presentation short and force a conclusive conversation upon him.
When forced to listen, he sobered down a bit, and answered some relevant questions satisfactorily. It was about 10 minutes of of sensible conversation. But it was worth it.
But as soon as this part was over, he went back to his monologue. Well, what more could I say?
If you are selling to someone, you need to ensure you put an impression of being a good listener and a problem solver. This is critical as clients are looking for someone who can do exactly that.
So, at the end of it all, I was stuck with almost no good candidate. But since I had to select someone, I had to make do with the least unsuitable one.
Therefore, I chose one. Would you be able to guess who it was? I am not going to reveal my judgement here, but if you are guessing, then leave a comment down in the section below on who you think was selected.
As for my project, I did commence it with the chosen consultant a while ago. So far, it has progressed decently. Results are yet to come, but I hope I made the right judgement to get the best output.