Earlier today, I was listening to this podcast on Salesman Red, when I heard a quote so true and so short that it struck me as what I like to call brilliant common sense.
“People Don’t Typically Fix Small Problems, They Fix Big Problems”
The podcast guest, Rob Jolles of Jolles Associates, Inc., goes on to explain that most people sit on the fence of a buying decision until they are forced to make a decision, rather than acting proactively. For example, many times, a person will “make do” with the solution they have in place literally up until the point that solution fails them.
I found this to be a very accurate point not only because change can be expensive and time consuming, but also because it points to the deeper problem that people fear “being sold” on things they may not understand. In todays market, it’s easy to google a pain point and find tons of solutions, but often difficult to sort which is best.
Sure, you could go with the biggest brand name or the cheapest option or even the one with the most reviews… but does any of that necessarily mean it’s the best product? Hard to say.
Additionally, for most medium or large organizations, once the wheel finally turns enough that they pick a solution and get moving forward, it’s almost impossible to turn back even if it doesn’t meet expectations. Think of bringing on a new software, onboarding even just 100+ employees and then realizing that it doesn’t solve the problem as well as you thought it would.
At the same time, you have salespeople who are driven to meet quota and may or may not have the customer’s best interest at heart. Let’s be honest, companies run on money and in order to survive, folks have to sell. Sometimes, the salespeople are selling something they truly believe in, but often they may not be.
As a result, the consumer market has become wary, slow to act and very skeptical of most sales transactions. Whether this may be a plumber, a car salesman, a software solution or almost anything else outside of unbiased do-it-yourself retail shopping, we instantly begin to question the motives of the salesperson on the other end of the line.
On a personal note, I know that this is true. I research, review and inspect everything many times over before I buy it. As a recent example I was looking for a pair of gore-tex hiking pants that meet certain criteria in terms of weight, flelxibility and range of motion…. my other pair was, of course, no longer functional and we’re headed into the cold/rainy season here in Norway. What started as a 2 minute search ended up as over 2 hours of research and even watching youtube videos of product tests. Finally, I went into a local pro climber shop, asked for pros and cons and advice, and left with exactly what I wanted.
There’s no problem with being diligent in buying decisions, but I wish that the rest of my purchasing decisions would be similarly met by a customer advocate who has my best interest in mind and no ulterior motive.
A lot of times I wonder about the direction that sales strategy had taken in the previous 30 years and how it has come to the point where we are so very skeptical of the same people who are supposed to be helping solve our pain points. Real, honorable salespeople are often in short supply and as a result we often rely on what we have and what we know works… literally until it breaks and we are forced to buy something new.
I hope that sales continues to move into a direction of advocacy and support, and that customers come to trust salespeople again as a result. Sales should be about problem-solving, always.
Setting targets, assigning KPIs and motivating people to close deals will always be a part of sales, but I hope that the coaching, the culture and the sense of purpose are not driven by “sell sell sell”, but rather driven by “solve solve solve”.
If we can manage this, we can help remove our customers’ fear of change and replace it with a thirst for timely solutions.