Confessions of an Old Salesman - Part 3

August 13, 2019 / By David Love

In my last post, I tried to show how many different ways a prospect will test you before they trust you for their business. In today’s selling environment businesses have put significant emphasis on the sales process. Experts push the sales process to the management of the company, who in turn push it through a variety of channels to their sales team. The ways the sales teams are encouraged if not required to use the sales processes include the CRM structure, compensation plans, regular sales training programs, and the ongoing routine performance evaluation processes. Generally, the message is adopt or leave. For a salesperson, it is safer to fail using the standard sales process, then it is to go off the process and win. “Company knows Best” kind of thing!

Most of the time, this works well for most of the prospects. However, stop and think for a minute about when you have been sold to by a salesperson following a sales process. If you weren’t the ideal prospect for this company, didn’t the process feel forced, didn’t you feel like they were trying to force you down the wrong road? And even if you were potentially a good prospect in the future, you walked away from the interaction with a bad feeling toward this company, right?

So, now, it is time for my story to illustrate my point. Last post I wrote about an experience in North Carolina about building trust. In the South during that period, trust was developed over many interactions with the prospect, which included inside and outside of the office activities. Dinner, golf, NASCAR, Football...well you get the idea. All or most of it paid for by the selling company.

Several years after that experience, I had started selling for the same company in Asia, for this story in Indonesia specifically. Now the target client, in this case, was a very large vertically integrated textile company which was privately owned by one family. The company founder headed this family. How big was this company? Inside the walls of the company complex where apartments, schools, medical, and retail for the exclusive use of the company’s employees. Some employees never had to leave the compound. So, simply put, a big company, and an equally significant target account.

Prior to my first visit to this account, I was discussing our plan with the local sales agent in Jakarta. As I outlined my plan (similar to what I had used successfully in the US), my agent (Sarif) was very quiet, and clearly he had another idea. Basically, he planned always to show respect and deference to the owner, engage with him multiple times in social and business situations, ask questions, propose solutions, build the necessary trust. Sounds like what we all strive to do for our prospect, right? Well, it is except for one crucial point. Sarif emphatically told me to never pay for anything, do not even offer to pay. For this prospect, that would have been the ultimate sign of disrespect. Along the lines of “what, you think your money will make a difference to me? I want your respect, and I want you to respect me”.

The result of going “Off Process.” An annual multi-million dollar contract for my employer. And a fundamental lesson for this “Old Salesman” - sometimes the process will not work and listen to your team.

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