Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Confessions of a Salesaholic

By Beth Schrader

“Bad Selling” is like a blind date going awry; we know it when we see it.  But good selling or effective selling – the kind where people actually fulfill on their promises and create real improvement - that is harder to define.  Why?  I believe it is because good selling is not a separate “thing” in and of itself.  Good selling is not removed from what logically needs to be happening at every point in the process for the client.  Ideally then, good selling does not stand out.  It is not a technique; it is not a “close,” it is not “manipulation.”  Honestly, in today’s world I am not sure we can successfully manipulate a cross walk sign.

In placing complex document imaging systems, in creating process improvement, in automating manual tasks and paper, IOS knows this is challenging enough for both sides without inserting a layer of obsolete, time consuming “sales role playing.”  Selecting the best provider for the application is hard enough for the client, selecting the best solution and proving it is the best solution is hard enough for the provider -  it’s all hard enough already without an inauthentic sales layer.  That is why we don’t do it.

It’s not that IOS is being altruistic, we are just being pragmatic.  If there is an elephant in the room, we think the client is more than astute enough to know that, so let’s just clear that air before it becomes unnecessarily polluted…

This industry has become so upside down that IOS is regularly thanked by clients for being direct and clear, essentially being thanked for telling the truth whatever that truth happens to be.  That a thing like candor has become such a big differentiator for us is just crazy.  Will “Truth Telling as a Sales Technique” become the next big thing?

As a Company, we know what we do if our vendors do not fulfill on their promises, or do not call back when they say, or if they obscure deficiencies in a less than forthright way…we move on.  Quickly. Yet, we are continually surprised when companies seem willing to put up with similar bad behavior from their prospective providers allowing them to still participate, to still quote, and to even secure the business.  As if customer sensitivity or provider capabilities will improve after the sale.  Not bloody likely. 

Whether consciously or subconsciously, we are all guilty of critiquing others who do what we do.  I’ve often wondered what it was like for a Doctor who finds an abnormality, a hairstylist who finds some gray, or a lawyer who finds him/herself subpoenaed.  Do they become hyper-critical or do they immediately melt with gratitude upon receiving counsel with another member of their profession who shows them that they are equally competent and authentic?  Yes and yes.

I’ve been a salesperson for the last 17 years of my life, so I find it very intriguing to watch others sell, particularly when I am the customer.  Judgmental?  I prefer to call it observant…

Let’s start with the obvious.  Do what you say you’re going to do.  If you tell me you will get back to me with answers to questions that I have (undoubtedly) asked, then get back to me.  It’s already on my calendar.  And if you do not get back to me by the time my reminder goes off, I’m going elsewhere.  If I can’t count on you to do what you say you are going to do before I buy something – why in the world would I assume you will do what you promise to do after I buy it?  So:  If you say you are going to do something there is only one rule: DO IT.  And if you cannot do it, then please tell me why ahead of time. In all likelihood we can get past it, but ignorance is not bliss and no - I will not have forgotten your committing to it in the first place. 

Secondly, I detest insincerity when making a purchase.  Please don’t be smarmy with me.  Please don’t be disingenuous with me.   I think the kid slang these days is, “keep it real.”  I am too old to say that to a salesperson as I shop, but I am certainly thinking it and can smell it a mile away if it’s not.  Please do not tell me you know something if you don’t, but conversely, know what you should know. 

Next, pay attention.  If I have already stated my reasoning for something, before you try and convince me otherwise, think about why I might have said it.  There are some things that no matter how many times you say, “but,” I will not waiver on. 

And lastly, please, please, p-l-e-a-s-e…if you have failed at any or all of the above, do not ask me “And how will you be paying for this today?” or, “When do you think you’ll be ready to buy?”  I won’t be. 

Perhaps I am guilty of putting salespeople through the proverbial wringer, but only because I live in that wringer every day.  I have high expectations, and if a salesperson has done a good job and responds to me in a timely manner, then I am not offended when they ask if I am ready to make the purchase.  I am actually relieved that I have found exactly what I was looking for from a knowledgeable person I trust, it is exactly what I need, and I know I’ll be happy with the purchase and decision long-term.
Sunday, October 2, 2011

What you have to do vs. what you want to do

By Angela Childs

Is value all in the eye of the beholder? The answer is no. At least not when it comes to what adds value in a business.

I was asked to be the speaker at a monthly meeting of the Fort Wayne chapter of Project Management Professionals. As I thought about the possible topics, I decided to talk about what I spend more and more time helping our clients with which is streamlining their business processes.

That phrase “streamlining business processes” is so overused that we don’t pay attention to it anymore. It has become sales speak but the concept is very real and critical in today’s business climate. For the presentation, I challenged the project managers to look at business processes the way they would look at manufacturing when implementing Lean.

With Lean, one of the areas of study is value-added vs. non value-added activities. Non value-added activities are classified as waste. The concept is this – value-added activities are those your customer wants, needs, and is willing to pay for. This is how your revenue is generated. Non value-added activities are those that don’t generate revenue. Things that fall into this category are handling, walking, filing, inspecting, waiting, packaging, searching, sorting, stacking, reading, etc.

This is a tricky concept. When I say to a client, “Walking an order over to production is not a value added activity”, I hear back “It is because that’s how the order starts. We can’t start work without a copy of the order.” Okay, true, but this is not the only option. I suggest that the “walking” is waste and can be eliminated. I also suggest that the walking is probably not the only waste going on here. I bet there are also copies being made, and that those copies being filed in multiple places by multiple people, that some of them are stapling on backup documents. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Non-value added activities are a huge opportunity for every business. Let’s look at it this way – there are three ways to become more profitable – find a way to charge higher prices despite the competition (Blue Ocean Strategy), create something no one else has (eliminate competition, for a while at least), or reduce costs. The first two are the most dramatic but they are also the hardest to do. The third one, reducing costs, we can and should do, every day.

With our clients, I encourage them to look at every area of their business that is not revenue generating. With HR, AP, Shipping/Receiving, Purchasing, etc., there are a lot of opportunities and most of the time, they find that they can not only reduce costs but they can free up valuable employees for other tasks.

I was listening to CNN shortly after I gave the presentation and they were talking about what we, human workers, excel at that can’t be automated. They were talking about critical thinking skills and how finding people that are good at wearing a lot of hats, good at inventing, then reinventing, then reinventing again are hard to find. These key people who can maximize profits and drive growth are hard to find because once a company finds one, they don’t want to let them go. We don’t want to let them go and we certainly don’t want them walking an order over to production.

Want to find out what you could reinvent?  Our Professional Services Group can help.