What do you want: A client or A deal?
I was sitting with a few friends enjoying a cold beer or two, and since all of us are involved in sales you can bet that it is usually one of the topics discussed. Before you jump to conclusions, it is not the only topic, but one of, so yes we do have a life. One of the people involved was Trevor, who was the subject of a recent contest we had, where he had a tough choice to make, and as he says “I made a decision, and have been growing the account ever since”.
Trevor was amused by the responses and still feels that none of them would have resulted in both deals in question happening, or have a lead to two successful clients. Adding to his amusement was the latest comment to be submitted just yesterday from a reader that called Trevor’s approach “Cynical and manipulative”, and accused him of being selfish in the process. After Trevor stopped laughing, his comment was “so what, I got the deal he didn’t, that guy may have made a “friend” or “relationship”, but he would never get both deals, land both clients.” At that point Trevor quoted a book both he and I have enjoyed in the past, The Hard Truth About Soft-Selling: Restoring Pride and Purpose to the Sales Profession; from which he quoted “I never made a commission for a relationship just for a sale”.
Which brings up an interesting question, what should a seller aspire to, winning a deal or winning a client, are the two compatible or mutually exclusive? Trevor felt that the two are not mutually exclusive, but if he had to choose he would take the deal. As he tells it, much of the relationship talk in his estimate is just political correctness creeping into sales. There are a lot of different sayings in sales, and they all serve a purpose, but they also tend to be contradictory. For example, he referred to the common notion that incentives drive behaviour, “if my company wanted me to have relationships, they’d pay me for that, but they pay me for solid orders that can be invoiced.”
Without getting into the details around his situation, Trevor feels that there two things working against sales people from the soft school. First is that they are too worried about appearances rather than substance. Second, there is a much more real relationship when both the buyer and seller have some skin in the game together; the skin being both having a real need to make things work, and that happens when a transaction has taken place not when there is just talk. Once you and the customer have done business, then you can grow a relationship, is his view, he cites all the times people have told him how much they like him, his company, but still dealt with someone else.
There is some truth to this, as a manager I saw a lot of evolving relationships that never translated to business or accounts. A lot of time, energy, resources and emotion went into these “relationships”, reps working hard to meet demands of people who had no intention of holding up their end of the relationship. But I pointed out to the others, that there is some truth to the old saying that people buy from people, which makes a relationship important.
This is when Dave jumped in, he is a manager for a product and related services that requires an annual renewal. He told us about one of his reps who had work really hard, at winning a deal, it was an especially good win as it was a competitor’s account until then. As they analyzed the win, his rep kept pushing the fact that he had won due to his “relationship” with the decision maker, “the rep insisted that if not for the relationship the deal would not have happened.” Great thought Dave, they had to make small concessions to win the deal, (not price but in implementation), so a good relationship will at least help, and they would be able to make it up over the life of the “relationship”. At the time of renewal, Dave had asked the rep to get a 2% increase, it came as a complete shock that they lost the account back to the previous vendor, not at lower cost, but the cost they had won the deal the previous year. So Dave’s question is how good was that relationship if the rep could not leverage it to get a 2% increase?
Dave’s view is, shared by Trevor, is that relationships are great to have and worth working for, but they will always be trumped by factors such as price, quality, service, reliability and others. I asked Dave if perhaps they took the account for granted and that allowed the other vendor to develop their relationship, perhaps the 2% vs. the actual experience did not add up for the buyer. Dave insisted that those elements were explored, and they had serviced and out delivered expectations on all counts.
I guess if there was one definitive truth in sale it would have surfaced by now. Despite his cynicism, Trevor does believe and work on having rapport with his clients, but always approaches it as a peer rather than a subservient. At the end he insists, that he is paid to sell and drive revenue, which includes looking after the needs of the customer, but not to to entertain and hope, so when faced with a choice he will opt to have a deal, and then work on maintaining the client, rather than working on the relationship hoping for a sale like he sees many of his peers doing daily.
So take a minute below, and share your view.
What’s in Your Pipeline?