Hey Big Vendor!
During almost 30 years working within a well known FTSE 100 company, I was frequently the target of many a zealous vendor trying get a slice of our multimillion pound sales and marketing budget. I have to say, for the most part, I found them to be a pain in the neck, which was slightly ironic as I was a sales person myself. You see the problem with selling to sales people is that our ‘BS sensors’ are highly tuned and we can smell a sales trick at twenty paces. Rather than focusing in on what they are trying to sell us, we tend to become preoccupied with the technique they are using to do so. Don’t forget, they are playing us at our own game, which may engender some sympathy, but may also make us hard taskmasters, tough negotiators and often impatient.
When I became an Associate at Clearwater Advisers the tables were suddenly turned. The buyer became the supplier, and a very different one at that. Of course, I was selling a product in my previous life but I represented a well-known consumer brand with a large presence in the market. Many buyers were likely to want to buy our product and, with our largest clients, the job was more to negotiate volume and price. Even with new client acquisition, we tended to at least get some face time with a sales lead. Having said that, the stakes were still very high with a slight shift market share making a multimillion-pound difference to my sales figures.
So nothing could prepare me for the task of selling the services of a small boutique company operating in a highly populated market. Not only were most of my target clients previously unaware of Clearwater, I was also attempting to sell them the hardest kind of product: the invisible product. You see, although my previous employer was a customer service provider, I had something physical that I could show potential customers, some hard product as it were. On top of all of this, I was acutely aware that my contacts knew that they were being sold to and, like me, they were judging my performance and at times probably finding me a bit pushy.
The answer lay right in front of me. In order to get over this blockage and speak confidently and credibly about the Clearwater proposition, I had to take a dose of our own home grown medicine to enable me to sell the invisible, without feeling like the stereotypical salesperson.
As a firm of strategic communication advisors, we specialise in showing our clients how to become more natural communicators and thereby increase trust and buy-in when they hold sales conversations, even with salespeople! We do this by combining the science of the latest diagnostic communication analysis technology (Personal Presence Analysis®) with the art of projecting your natural personality.
For me this is work in progress but in the meantime here are my top 5 pet peeves:
- Pushy sales people– of course, you’re meant to be persistent but know when to back off
- Unsolicited or unscheduled phone contact– there’s no escape and I don’t mean this in a good way
- Overly critical assumptions about my business– nobody really enjoys criticism and it probably won’t progress a sale
- Ignorance– in the age of the internet there is no excuse for not doing your research
- Slick sales patter– I’m more convinced by authenticity
During my time as a buyer of goods and services I was most convinced by authentic and well-prepared experts who respected my time and the challenges I face.