Without a doubt, sales people have a lot of things that distract them from being engaged with customers. The majority is probably imposed by their companies, a lot is self imposed (read avoidance and excuses).
We want to reduce and eliminate as many of these time drains as possible. We impose a lot of administrivia and reporting on our sales people. Simplifying our business processes, leveraging tools, technologies, or just simply stopping doing things enable us to recover a lot of time for selling.
We can eliminate or reduce a lot of those things we need to do to prepare ourselves for high impact conversations with customers. We shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time searching for names, emails, phone numbers, addresses. We can leverage tools to help personalize many of our communications with customers. We can leverage tools to reduce the time spent on researching and preparing for our customer conversations. All these free up time that we can use for direct customer engagement.
There are those that believe, that we can and should eliminate all the things needed to prepare for that customer conversation, presenting us with: who we should call, what we should talk about, even the words that come out of our mouths. The thought is we can provide sales people all the answers, all that’s left is to just execute what the tools tell us to do.
Here’s where I start getting uncomfortable. Sometimes, I think we are trying to give too many of the answers, preventing people from understanding the deeper context, to develop a richer perspective of what’s going on, even robbing us of our ability to figure things out and engage the customer in collaborative opportunity/problem solving.
Let me give an example. In a lot of my own prospecting calls, company financial, operational, market performance becomes a key part of the discussion with the executives I talk to. I can easily get the data on those. I can look at the last year’s revenues, profitability, growth. I can get the reports on market competiveness, share growth, and so forth. There are plenty of tools and services that provide me the data. But they don’t help me understand or begin to guess what caused these results. I don’t have the context or premises about why these things happened. And these are critical to my ability to engage the customer in meaningful conversations.
As a result, even though I have the data, I spend time pouring over annual reports, 10K’s, 10Q’s, Proxy’s, Analyst Presentations, Analyst Reports and Market Analysis. While I know the data, this research helps me better understand the context, the causal factors, the “why’s,” that impact performance. They give color and richness to my understanding and customer stories I can leverage in my conversation.
I read the LinkedIn profiles and look at their conversation streams, this helps me understand who they are, how they think, what they value, how they express themselves. The data alone, doesn’t give me that.
Of course this takes time. However, because it’s part of my preparation routine, it doesn’t take a lot of time. And what it does is make the time I have with the customer much more impactful.
For anyone involved in complex B2B buying situations, there’s a huge difference between knowing the data, and understanding what/why/how these results happened. This research and preparation work adds much more richness and context to our conversations with customers.
We want to maximize the time we have available to talk to customers. More importantly, we want to maximize the impact of the customer time that we use.
Doing the research, gaining the random insight from doing the work, using this preparation to help figure things out and develop high impact call plans is worth the time because it maximizes our impact in the time customers give us.
We must be vigilant about time available for selling. We must eliminate anything that doesn’t contribute to the ability of sales people to engage customers in meaningful, high impact conversations. But we must be cautious about eliminating the things that enable them to have those conversations.