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Guest articles > Robotic Selling
by: Lee B. Salz
The sales process you are defining to grow your business may be the very thing that is keeping your sales team from selling.
As the economy has made sales competition fierce, companies have heavily focused on the sales process. Many, for the first time, are clearly defining all of the critical steps for their sales team. Some are even taking this to the level of providing detailed scripts that are to be followed to the letter by every sales rep.
It's as if they are taking all of the thought out of selling so it's like the robotic arms on assembly lines. Every time a sales process begins, every step is followed identically by the sales representative. Eureka! A sale with zero defects comes out the other side just like the prior ones.
This isn't bashing a documented process. As a matter of fact, I'm a huge proponent of having a defined sales process (I refer to it as a buying process, but that is the subject of a future article.), but I am also a firm believer in the importance of the personal side of selling. You've probably heard before that companies don't buy anything…people do. People don't like dealing with robots that don't think, don't care, and are inflexible. If you aren't careful, when you define your sales process, you could be creating an ineffective sales team that has adopted robotic selling.
Recently, I was asked to consult with a boutique travel agency. This agency dealt exclusively with five-figure voyages. Yet, they still faced stiff competition. I met with the CEO to try to ascertain what was missing as he was frustrated with the performance of his sales team.
He was puzzled to say the least. He showed me his detailed sales process, but the success was not there. He showed me the documented goals for the first call with a prospective traveler. Every sales rep on the team knew their objectives like the back of their hand. There were flow-charts and diagrams and training for the reps. Each one was tested on their proficiency of the process. Success is imminent, isn't it?
I asked the CEO to role play with me, with him as the prospective traveler calling in about a trip and how that call would begin.
"Hi, I'm interested in talking with someone about a cruise that I'm thinking of taking…"
The CEO responded, "OK. Where were you planning to go? Did you have a preferred cruise line? Did you have a budget in mind for your trip?"
I interrupted and the CEO looked perplexed. He said confidently, "See, we have a clearly defined approach for handling a needs analysis discussion on the first call. We get the information we need to help our prospective clients with their venture. I still don't understand why our team is not more effective."
I asked if we could try the role play again, but flip the roles, to which the CEO acquiesced.
The CEO started… "Hi, I'm interested in talking with someone about a cruise that I'm thinking of taking…"
My response… "How fantastic! Cruises are so much fun. The food, the music, the service…it's great! Have you taken one before?"
Just like in the cartoons, a light-bulb appeared over the CEO's head. He got it. His process wasn't flawed and the information requested by his team during the needs analysis was perfectly appropriate. What was missing was the personal side, the personal touch. Eventually, I would have asked the needs analysis questions that the CEO had documented, but I guarantee that I would have received more information as I had developed a bond.
Study after study has shown that people buy based on emotion and justify their decision with logic. Robotic selling removes all of the emotion from the process making sales people ineffective. Think about the caller in this scenario…how excited they must be to be planning a significant vacation. They are looking to work with someone who shares that joy, that passion. They want to work with someone who they feel understands them and what they are going through. In the role play, the CEO quelled all of my excitement for the trip…like the fireman's hose putting out the fire. He was such a dud that I may have decided to paint my house instead of taking the trip…a total downer.
This change of approach with their clients had a number of benefits. Their prospective clients bonded more quickly with the agent and shared more information. The agents also cited that prospects said that they sounded different (positively) than other agencies. Differentiation is always a big winner in sales. Their success rate tripled! Interestingly, the agents said that now they were getting calls after the trip from their clients to share the experiences. And, referrals soared!
So, now you think this was just a cute sales tactic. Wrong! An entire cultural shift was needed to make the process personal. At the outset, the prospective traveler wanted someone to share passion. As they moved through the process, there were other personal needs. For example, they wanted to know that someone cared that their trip went exactly as it was planned. And, when things go wrong, which something usually will when traveling, that there is someone who will do everything in their power to get it right.
Define your sales process so you know what to do at every step, but don't adopt robotic selling and lose your personal touch. It's the personal touch that differentiates and makes people want to buy from you.
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Lee B. Salz is a sales management guru who helps companies hire the right sales people, on-board them, and focus their sales activity using his sales architecture® methodology. He is the President of Sales Architects, the C.E.O. of Business Expert Webinars and author of “Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager.” Lee is an online columnist for Sales and Marketing Management Magazine, a print columnist for SalesforceXP Magazine, and the host of the Internet radio show, “Secrets of Business Gurus.” Look for Lee's new book in February 2009 titled, "The Sales Marriage” where he shares the secrets to hiring the right sales people. He is a passionate, dynamic speaker and a business consultant. Lee can be reached at lsalz@SalesArchitecture.com or 763.416.4321.
Keywords: sales process, robotic selling, buying process, salesforce effectiveness, sales best practices, sales force effectiveness
Contributor: Lee B. Salz
Published here on: 05-Jul-09
MSWord: Robotic Selling.doc