The Learning Dynamics team just completed a sales training roll out with a new community bank client. The program, Building Customer Relationships, is an introduction to sales concepts for people who do not consider themselves to be sales people. This bank chose to include all of its branch employees; everyone from tellers to branch managers participated. What we heard loud and clear, from the senior leaders to the people in the branches, was that a hard-core sales message that could damage customer service was not what they wanted. We didn’t do that, nor would it be wise to do so.
The stress in sales training (and the sales profession in general) comes from asking people to engage in high-pressure tactics that put the company’s needs and interests ahead of the customers’. Most people don’t want to do that. They enjoy treating customers with respect and as they would want to be treated. For most, this does not include being “sold to.”
Here is an important point: the world has changed, and people will not tolerate the hard sell.
Daniel Pink, in his book To Sell is Human, talks about the nature of information in today’s economy. Everyone has information about everything. New companies launch almost daily to provide consumers with information, reviews and tools (e.g., True Car, Angie’s List, Trip Advisor and others) to educate themselves and to negotiate the best possible price. Many car buyers, to name one scenario, have done more research and know more about their dream rides than the people selling them. The old days of the seller having all the information and using this to set the terms of the deal are long gone.
Today’s sales paradigm must start with customer relationships. In our world where competitors and their information are a click or a tap away, smart companies will maximize the value and emphasis on that which cannot be replicated with an app or a few lines of code. That something is people.
Customers want to be understood. Honest, professional employees will want to help customers uncover unmet or poorly-met needs. That can only happen when there is a relationship built on trust that evolves into genuine conversation with the interests of solving problems and making the customer’s situation better.
When the customer wins, the company will win with happy employees who feel like they are making a positive difference. They also benefit from customer loyalty, referrals, and positive word of mouth.
If your employees are not building customer relationships, if they are using stale and wearisome sales tactics, you could find a better way. High pressure is not sustainable. Relationships built on trust, service, and value will stand up over time and will make it much tougher for competitors to poach your best customers.
= = =