As a veteran sales trainer, I’ve often wrestled with this question: Why is it that some salespeople do so much better, in the long run than others of equal skill and competency?
I’ve identified a number of reasons for that. Probably the most powerful and pervasive reason has to do with their unique set of beliefs. I’m not talking about political or religious beliefs here; I’m referring to a more commonplace set of beliefs that rule their jobs and their vision of themselves on the job.
Beliefs that Hinder
They entertain ideas and beliefs that seem comfortable and right to them, but, in reality, hinder their behavior and reduce their effectiveness. As long as they clutch that idea tightly, they will be hindered from growing, learning, and reaching their potential.
In this article, I’m going to uncover one of those beliefs:
“Every communication with the customer must go through me.”
It’s a common mindset, that hinders salespeople.
- The field salesperson wants every communication with the customer to go through him/her. In other words, instead of calling customer service with a problem, the customers are instructed to call the salesperson first.
- Instead of calling technical service for a repair issue, call the salesperson.
- Need a price? Don’t call inside sales, call the salesperson.
It’s easy to see why so many salespeople adhere to this idea. It makes them feel important – look at all the phone calls they receive. It puts them into more regular contact with the customer, hopefully providing an opportunity for enriching the relationship. And, since the salesperson is, in effect, providing some service to the customer, the salesperson believes that he is bringing value to the customer and that the customer will come to rely on the salesperson.
At one level, all of that sounds good. However, that idea costs both the company and the salesperson dearly and frustrates the customers. It is an insidious hindrance to sales performance.
Here’s Why It Hinders Salespeople
First, it fills the salesperson’s day with needless administrative tasks that can be done better and cheaper by someone else inside the company. Here’s an example. The customer received ten line items on their last shipment, and one of them is not the item they ordered.
In the “everything must go through me” scenario, the customer calls the salesperson, who interrupts a visit with another customer to take the call. He tells the customer he’ll get back to him. Then he calls customer service and makes arrangements to handle the problem. Next, he calls the customer and gets his voice mail. The salesperson leaves a message for the customer to call him. The customer does, but, alas, gets the salesperson’s voice mail. The cycle repeats until live contact is made, and the salesperson conveys the message.
The net impact is to increase the frustration on the part of the customer, to add costs to the selling company, and to weigh the salesperson down with needless tasks. This kind of thing happens multiple times every day.
Look how much time the salesperson wasted. He really didn’t need to be a part of any of this. If the customer would have called customer service directly, the problem would have been handled immediately – saving the customer and the salesperson lots of time. The customer service rep is far better (and cheaper) at responding to service issues than is the salesperson.
The culmination of hundreds of these kinds of scenarios, played over time, combine into a huge cost to the company. Not only is the selling company using an expensive asset (the salesperson’s time) to accomplish a task that is more efficiently done by a less expensive asset (the customer service rep), but the opportunity costs are even larger.
While the salesperson was spending his time on the phone in this needless set of tasks, he wasn’t calling on another customer. In other words, the salesperson made the choice to involve himself in this administrative clutter rather than use the time to sell something. Add those costs up, and the numbers will keep you awake at night.
But an even more insidious effect has to do with the message you are sending to the customer. What is the implication of “call me for everything” on the customer? He perceives that there are no competent people working for your company other than the salesperson. Why else would you need to call him first? There must not be any infrastructure to take care of customers — no systems to handle these kinds of issues.
Where’s the Support?
If the only person you can talk to is the salesperson, then there must not be much of a company supporting him. Why would you want to do business with that kind of company?
The real culprit in this very common situation is the errant mindset of the salesperson relative to how he/she sees his job. It’s the fundamental answer to this question: “How does a salesperson do his job?”
The world is full of B2B salespeople who think the answer is to become a mobile customer service rep. Their job, so they believe, is to be a super-responsive “go-fer” for the customer — have every communication come through the salesperson, respond to every whim of the customer, solve every problem.
The “mobile-customer-service-rep syndrome” lives at a deeper level in the salesperson’s psyche and in the culture of the company that employs him. We identify this as the entry-level sales mindset, but one from which most salespeople never progress.
This approach, of course, fills the salesperson’s day with “stuff”, and makes him feel busy and important. Unfortunately, it leaves little time for the nuts and bolts of selling – proactively uncovering the customer’s deeper needs, presenting products, services, and programs that help him grow his business and do his job better.
The symptoms of this syndrome pop up all over the place. Salespeople who make sales calls with nothing to sell. Salespeople who rarely make cold calls on prospects they don’t know. Salespeople who spend their days on the cell phone, making needless calls for things that rightly should be done by others.
As long as the salesperson is burdened by the mobile customer service rep mentality, and as long as the company’s culture supports that mindset, the salespeople will never grow to reach their potential, and the company will be forever burdened by the costs of ineffective sales efforts.