Regardless of the industry you’re in the #1 challenge most companies face that have a salesforce is….“Customer Access”. No matter how you slice it customers are just not making themselves available on any kind of consistent basis to the sales representative. There are reasons for this and it’s not only because they dislike dealing with salespeople and many would say that’s the #1 reason, it’s a bit more complex than that. The truth is that technology hasn’t really been a friend of the sales rep when it comes to accessing customers. I was criticized a while ago by the “CRM Homers” because of a post I wrote on “CRM….Complacent Rep Management” (which I thought was pretty clever haha!!). The premise of the post was to communicate while CRM is a wonderful tool to help source/navigate, provide background information and segment the customer….it can’t jump out of the laptop and access customers for the sales rep. Again, let me reiterate CRM is a great resource tool but I feel sometimes it becomes an excuse crutch for many salespeople having to deal with an inaccessible customer on a daily basis.
Why aren’t customers seeing salespeople on a consistent basis?
The question in itself is a somewhat arrogant and entitled inquiry…..since when are customers required to be on our agenda?! Every company on this earth has a sales forecast requirement that’s how they keep tally and quite frankly stay in business. What typically rolls down from that requirement to the sales team is a series of objectives and one of those objectives are Customer Targeting/Frequency different nomenclature exists in other industries. There are companies out there that specialize in sales territory analytics, which among other things can diagnose how many times a sales representative should call on a customer (given the market dynamics and product) in a given year. Truthfully, there are companies that can provide that level of detail the challenge however is that sometimes the analytics doesn’t coincide with “real life”. In the Life Sciences Industry (e.g. pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical devices) there was and probably still today a push to meet a “customer call frequency average” because the thinking is a specific number of scheduled calls has the likelihood of changing customer behavior. I think most strategic scholars have determined it’s NOT the number of calls that change customer behavior, it’s value and the quality of the call that matters. Getting back to the beginning question: Why aren’t customers seeing salespeople on a consistent basis? Customers who quite frankly are you and I have access to information like never before and it goes back to my comment earlier that technology really hasn’t been a friend of the sales professional. In the past before the birth of the internet (some of you reading this probably can’t even fathom that) sales reps had to truly become “hunters”, and conversely were often times the subject matter experts to the customer with regards to their product and even market intelligence. Those were truly the good ole days and the ability of sales reps to engage and obtain rapport with customers offered tremendous opportunity to make a nice living. Today, customers literally may know more about a given product than the sales rep and from that knowledge often feel there’s no need to speak with a sales rep. This has presented a difficult dilemma for companies who drive their income on customer engagement, and with access being so difficult many of them have folded up shop.
Okay, so what’s the solution?
I’ve always contended that sales companies have to sell “VALUE” first before pulling the product out of the bag. You do this by knowing and understanding “The Customer” better than they know themselves. Have you ever started a conversation with a customer that sounds something like this: “After doing some research on your company and the market you play in, I came across some challenges that you might be facing….”? The fact that customers do extensive research on your product & company stands to reason that we should take a page from that same playbook and do our own research thus bringing “VALUE” to the customer. My whole mantra has been to blow up how we look at the role of a sales professional and change its dynamics, and the best way to do that is by selling value first before selling product.
Gaining CONSISTENT access to the customer is probably realistically gone the way of the dinosaur, but that doesn’t mean the access you do have shouldn’t create customer value……the key is knowing the customer better than they know themselves.
Checkout my presentation on: Selling “Customer Value”…..instead of your product! I provide specific ways on accomplishing such a task: http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/selling-customer-value1
“CUSTOMER ACCESS”…..getting more difficult!
AH2 & Beyond Consulting