I received a call the other day from a Mike, very good friend of mine, who is a stellar sales professional. Mike sells a niche product for major technology company, selling high dollar best of breed solutions, (aka the most expensive in his marketplace) and lately his sales haven’t been up to par. In fact they have been downright dismal. He is an accomplished sales professional and has an excellent record of success. He has been one of the top sales reps in his division for years having achieved his company’s “President’s Award” (their annual sales trip for top performers) multiple times including this past year. With only 5 months into the year and his company’s management hitting that preverbal panic button, Mike received the dreaded “double secret probation” letter. You know, the one that says, sell NOW or you’re fired!
Now being a sales professional myself, I fully understand the challenges that we all face in today’s difficult selling environment. With everyone having instant access to a multitude of information from every conceivable vendor, both large and small, the role of the sales professional has dramatically changed. Prospects now have approximately 70% of the information that they need to make an informed decision, at least that’s what the stats show. By the time the sales rep is engaged in an opportunity, the prospect has all the feeds and speeds, features and benefits, and has usually narrowed the field of potential options down to a select few. All that is left is the fancy presentations and the cost. We all know that you better have your best price ready or hit the road. No time to play the price negotiation, concession for concession game.
The sales game has changed. Unfortunately, management today seems disconnected to the realities of today’s marketplace. They tell you to find more prospects, make more calls, report your activities, (usually in some sort of antiquated home-grown SFA system) cut your price to the bone, sign the contracts today and deliver tomorrow. Offering up no-value “special deals” that provide hallow purchasing incentives to prospects with factious deadlines, only commoditizes your offering and you as a sales professional. Prospects delay, management pushes even harder and the downward spiral continues. This is what noted author Tony Parinello calls a “reload.” Shoot yourself in the foot, reload, then shoot yourself in the other foot. If customers aren’t buying the promotion, there’s a reason for it.
Bottom line, if your management is caught in the by-gone era of “management by intimidation” and the old school of selling, maybe it’s time to look for a new sales position. Be customer-centric, take the time to listen to and truly understand your prospects. Adhere to Selling Power Magazine’s Sales 2.0 (@gerhard20 on twitter) and return to sales greatness! Hey Mike, you listening?