Fresh out of university 25 years ago I started my career with IBM as a Sales graduate. The first 6 months were spent training at IBM’s “sales university” and the message was loud and clear – you do whatever it takes to make your sales quota. You lived or died on your ability to hit your quarterly targets.
The market has changed – clients don’t care about you
Wind the clock forward 25 years and very little has changed in the industry and we live with the repercussions of our continued bad sales behaviours to achieve this outcome, the big difference being that clients are now a lot more switched on. We can all take a bow and pat ourselves on the back for conditioning clients to know all the tricks in the book, which they now use against us. Clients are educated in what they want and with access to social media have great insight into who we are as sales people. They have changed and adapted, but unfortunately we have not.
We are hearing more and more from our channel partners that clients are taking longer than ever to make decisions on deals. The usual end of quarter sales games seem like water off a ducks back for many clients:
- This special deal is off the table after March 31
- You won’t get this deal again, ever. The price goes up xx% from April
- I am under pressure from the vendor to close this deal
- I need this deal to make my target
- My job is at risk if I can’t close this deal
We use to refer to these deliberate sales tactics as “unnatural acts” to entice a client to purchase in our time frame. These are now applauded as natural acts, a core element of the DNA for many sales people and expected by management.
Let’s face it, we have operated under the unrelenting sales pressure of vendors for an eternity, and never more than at present as vendors are increasingly more reliant on the channel. If you don’t meet the sales targets you’ve signed up to they will simply take their business elsewhere – to your competitor, so it’s a vicious cycle of bad behaviours, a cycle no one seems to be able to break, or wants to break.
How often have your heard that people buy from people they trust, and yet how can a client trust a sales person who throws a hand grenade over their bow at end of every quarter.
Clients know that the same amazing deal will be available next quarter, that you won’t lose your job if you don’t close the deal, and they really don’t care if you don’t make your sales target.
What really motivates a client to buy
What motivates a client is that you care about them, that you listen and act accordingly in their best interest, that your efforts genuinely go towards helping them meet their business objectives and achieve their scorecard. Of course they are business people, and they know that we need to close deals – but on their terms, not ours.
All the hard work in building trust can be dismantled so quickly and can often be irreparable, simply by using tactics that once were vital in the sales process.
And the dilemma is how do we break the cycle, do we want to break the cycle, do we need to break the cycle?
Dare to be different
Why is it that the quality of IT Sales people has gotten worse over the years.
The tick and flick mentality is rife in the industry, reps don’t listen to their clients, are challenged to qualify an opportunity, chase anything that remotely smells like a deal and show little genuine empathy.
As leaders we should look in the mirror and ask how we get to this point. Are we so caught up in the crazy cycle with pressure coming from all sides that we just do, and then hope for the best…
I have heard many leaders in the industry say they wish they had more time and the patience from the business to implement a real program of sustainable change. Maybe one day.
Director – Sales