Using “outrageous” to describe these tips may seem like an indefensible stretch or, more likely, a deliberate attempt to attract attention. While it may be both, it’s also accurate. These ideas express views that fly in the face of the traditional marketing and sales “truths” that are passed on to those who obey them, mostly without question.
If there’s to be progress, however, those traditional ideas deserve a hearty challenge, if for no other reason than to stimulate thinking and to break free from automatically believing that what we’re told is helpful.
At a time when customers are challenging us, we’re best served by questioning the tenants that guide our work. Or, to put it another way, the wrong assumptions lead to the wrong results. Here are some examples.
1. Can the elevator speech. To put it bluntly, all we really need to do is forget about getting up any higher than the second floor. Instead of an elevator speech, what can be helpful is a line that we can use to get up “one floor.”
Well-meaning sales managers convinced us of the need for an elevator speech, so when someone asked us what we do, we didn’t stammer or make it up. They wanted everyone on the sales team to come out with the same story.
While it seems like a noble objective, it’s also a waste of time because it runs counter to what selling and marketing are all about. What’s even worse, an elevator speech is about us, while marketing and sales are about the customer. In other words, the elevator speech takes us in the wrong direction.
Who cares about what you and I do? We do! Not our prospects and not our customers. What we need is a “one-floor” speech, something that grabs an individual’s or a group’s interest fast. You say, for example, “I help my clients dodge bullets that can put them out of business.” “What does that mean?” the prospect asks. “Let me ask you a question,” you reply. Now, the prospect is talking, and you are headed in the right direction.
Whether it’s marketing or sales, the goal is to engage people, to spark a conversation that focuses on them.
2. Ditch proposals. Next, proposals should go away. Salespeople have educated prospects to ask for or expect a proposal and that takes us down the wrong road by focusing on trying to outdo everyone else preparing proposals.
The head of a company opened a meeting with an account executive from a marketing services firm by saying, “Tell us what you can do for us.” In other words, he wanted a proposal. Instead, the account rep initiated a conversation with the group about what they wanted their company to accomplish.
The information distilled from that conversation became the basis for a relationship and a mutually agreed-upon action plan that has continued for more than a decade. It wasn’t a proposal; it was a plan.
3. Forget about what you’re selling. For the most part, sales are lost because we let what we’re selling get between us and the customer. Amazing as it may seem, what we want the customer to buy becomes a distraction.
Apple’s genius lies in the company’s not permitting its brilliantly designed products to interfere with its customer relationship. For example, paying for a purchase at an Apple store is non-invasive. It’s low-key and handled on the spot, wherever you happen to be standing, by someone who doesn’t look like a salesperson. The transaction is as elegant as an iPad or iPhone. If you want to see it in real time, go to an Apple store and then see what happens at Sears, Macy’s or just about any other store. Apple’s total focus is delightfully customer-centric.
4. No more sales calls. It’s time to stop the nonsense of making sales calls, whether by phone, e-mail or in person. Like it or not, sales calls are intrusive, more so than ever, and are regarded by customers as close to intolerable.