Recently, I’ve been researching salesforce automation vendors for expanding emarketing and lead nurturing capabilities. I’ve gone deep with a couple of vendors, but since I’m a the end user, I made it clear that I was just investigating their product and others would be involved in making the decision. I did not disclose the name of my company either.
For portions of this project, I’ve been spending time in meetings with IT folks and have been observing their linear approach. We frequently complain about how long it takes to complete a project, but this linear approach requires problems to be solved before moving to the next step and sometimes, unexpected problems arise. (Sound like pipeline management?) Testing and validation always take place before the solution goes live, and if a problem is detected, they fix it, then retest. No shortcuts. (Hence, our complaining about project delays.)
On Monday, December 30th, I get an unexpected phone call from the sales rep at one of the vendors with whom I was speaking. He was my original point of contact. His pitch went something like this:
Seller: “Hi Mike, I hope you had a good Christmas.”
Me: “Yup, you?”
S: “Good, good. The reason I’m calling is that we’re closing in on a great year and want to finish with a bang. We want to get all outstanding business in right away, so essentially, we’re having a Fire Sale.”
M: “I see.”
S: “For any deals that close today, you can just about name the price. We’re offering very heavy discounts to hit our goal today. Are you ready to move forward?”
M: “Sorry, but there is no deal to be had here. I told you from the very beginning that I was merely investigating your product’s capabilities and that I was not the decision maker.”
S: “Yes, I recall, but could you speak with the others today because if you close today, you’ll save a lot of money.”
M: “Again, I told you there is no deal here and we’re not yet at the point where such a discussion would be appropriate. I thought I had made it clear that if we felt your product offered the right solution, I would get the rest of the team involved and we would look into your product more thoroughly at that time. Was I at all unclear about that?”
S: “No, you were perfectly clear, but…”
M: “Thanks for calling me, Happy New Year.”
After the call, I sat in amazement. Literally, I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I’ve heard hundreds of lousy sales calls, made many more than that, truth be told. But I’ve never heard one single call do so much damage across such a wide swath.
The most egregious offenses (in descending order of egregiousness):
- NOT PITCHING THE DECIDER – It’s the #1 reason we don’t get the order. He knew I was not the decider, pitched me anyway and didn’t close the deal.
- FAILURE TO QUALIFY/EXPOSE NEED – We had 2-3 conversations about the technical issue we needed to solve, but beyond that, he didn’t even know the name of my company, let alone our buying process, business needs, etc.
- ASSUMING OBJECTIONS THAT HAVE NOT BEEN EXPRESSED – At no time in the process was cost even discussed. I had no idea what their pricing model was, let alone the cost to my company. So a discount was an impotent weapon.
And the damage done (in descending order of severity):
- COMPANY CONCERNS – If someone is telling their sales reps to hit the phones and drop their shorts on 12/30 to close TODAY, I wonder why? Is the company in financial distress? Will they be able to support us if we bought from them in the future? It would be difficult for me to recommend this product if I had such doubts.
- PRODUCT CONCERNS – If they hire this caliber of sales people/managers, what about their coders/software architects? And if they take these kinds of shortcuts in the sales process, what shortcuts were taken in product development/testing that could cause breakdowns later. Buyers want to have confidence in the solutions they buy.
- SELLER CONCERNS – Nah, not really. I don’t remember his name and as long as he continues to shoot blanks like this, it is unlikely our paths will cross again and, if so, I would expect a similar outcome.
There are many things that make shortcuts attractive or necessary. Time, goals, commissions are all factors that add pressure to close deals. Sometimes you are forced to take some shortcuts to try to speed the sales cycle to conform with your company’s business cycle or your earning needs. But some shortcuts are not shortcuts at all. They are the immutable fundamentals of building your business; the blocking and tackling of sales.
The above is a typical result of skipping these fundamentals. Imagine how well your software would work if the coders skipped some subroutines because they were hurried, or did not test your company’s new website before going live.
More on the blocking and tackling of sales this quarter in future posts.