When you talk to your customers about their business, do they ever respond “Wow, I didn’t know that” or “Really?”
Does your sales and marketing process provoke your prospects with questions they have to think about?
Or does it simply say “Look at us! Look at us!”
Far fewer spend their energy and money educating their prospects / clients, much less showing that they did their homework about the prospect’s business.
Smart businesses do this to show their expertise in the clients’ market. They stand out because they care enough to do their homework.
Years ago when business research usually required searching proprietary online systems, I flew off to a job interview. While preparing for the interview, I looked up this public company’s annual report. I found some troubling things that looked like they were bad but recoverable.
During the interview, I asked about their problems and their recovery strategy. The interviewer was the company’s finance VP. He was looking for a technology director to help turn their business around and was shocked that I knew of the problem, much less that I had marginally intelligent questions about it. More importantly, he was wowed because I had invested the time and effort to learn about their company before showing up for the interview.
Given the ease of information access these days, that sort of knowledge should be assumed of an interview candidate.
Do job candidates show this kind of interest and level of knowledge about your business when they join you for an interview? If they don’t, why would you hire them? If they don’t care enough to learn about your business before they get the job, will they care after they get the job?
Your prospects, much less your clients, might be asking that same question about your staff’s knowledge of their business, market and industry.
Why we “hate” salespeople
Even if you don’t have salespeople, whoever does “the sales job” has to have this homework done to have any credibility with customers and prospects.
Think about why you don’t want to deal with salespeople: “Can I help you?”
Of course, you have no idea if they’re capable of helping you. You usually don’t know if they’re the expert and you probably don’t recall being introduced to their expert the last time you had tough questions. Most salespeople are trained on their employer’s business processes, but not often about the customers who frequent that business, much less their needs. It’s usually not their fault. It’s a management/training choice.
That’s why your natural response to ”Can I help you?” has become a reflex: “Just looking.”
It’s natural because we assume they won’t be of use to our evaluation/selection process and as a result, we figure they’re only asking because they’re on commission or are trained to engage every customer with the same robotic greeting (because someone thought it’d increase sales).
Commission or not, know your stuff
I really don’t care if they’re on commission or not if they’re knowledgeable. After all, I entered the business because I needed something. If they have someone who can actually help me by sharing their knowledge and asking smart questions, they’ll earn that commission.
The ones we don’t want to talk to act as order takers, work a self-service cash register can often perform. If the management of “order takers” hasn’t taught them the importance of this info, few of them will become effective salespeople.
If you’ve done your homework, you know things about your clients’ world that they simply don’t know. It isn’t because they’re dumber than you, it’s just that most of them are too embroiled in the day to day of their business to spend time on that stuff. The best ones spend time on it or have someone do it for them, but they’re rare – and they really appreciate expertise.
While they almost certainly know more about the day to day and technical aspects of their business than you do, prospects may not have done detailed research before a purchase, particularly if it isn’t specific to their expertise. They may not know new industry info that might generate interest in other things you offer.
The world needs better salespeople. If you employ them, educate them. If you’re in sales, do your homework.