The role of sales is a difficult one. You face more rejection than acceptance and have to break through the many roadblocks in connecting with potential customers you can solve problems for. We are paid to “make it happen” often in environments that are not conducive to sales growth both externally in our markets but also internally, in our own organizations. A common problem organizations face today is they are turning their sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” because their operations is failing to do what they said they would do.
When you study why buyers buy as I have, you hear things like;
I buy from people, companies who take the time to understand my needs, the problems I am trying to solve, and who “do what they say they will do”.
… let’s boil this down a little more;
I buy from people who listen, hear, and I can trust.
We have seen many changes in our markets over the past 7-8 years in how buyers buy as I have discussed in past posts. The reality I hope everyone will agree with is that how buyers buy has changed. As I have shared ; If you have not changed your sales process in the last six months….it is broken and you are losing sales you should have won.
We have seen many changes within our organizations in the last 7-8 years;
Less time to do our jobs
Less inventory of finished goods
Less product in work in process
Less inventory at our customers
Less time to deliver, just in time
…and more competition, often from competitors who are so aggressive it feels like they must not truly know their costs ( or they are that mush better than we are)
My challenge in this post is with all these changes do you really know , based on your capabilities and market realities of today, what your organization is able to do? able to execute regularly, consistently, predictably? If not your salespeople in the market working with you most valuable assets; customers and potential customers and making promises you can not deliver on. To put it another way;
When your company fails to do what it says it does and or will do, you turn your sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” and it negatively impacts your trust factor.
Back in the days of the wild west there were traveling salesmen who would stop in a town and sell snake oil. When we Google the term “snake oil salesmen” we find;
” a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is himself or herself a fraud, quack, charlatan, and the like.”
Snake oil’s origins are believed to come from an oil the Chinese laborers brought to America made from a Chinese water snake believed to cure joint pain. However the snake oil salesmen of the wild west were known to plant people in the crowd who would lie and say how the oil cured their various ailments. Snake oil salesmen had a sales process of basically traveling town to town and never selling the same people twice because once you bought the snake oil and found it failed to do what you were promised, you did not trust that salesmen.
When your salespeople serve customers , win an order from buyers it is based on a foundation of trust. Buyers naturally , because they have been burned so many times over the years ( by other traveling snake oil salesmen) do not trust salespeople. So trust must be earned and the simplest way of earning trust is execution. ( doing what you say you will do in the small things and the big things, over and over again) When your operations team fails to execute what the sales people have been told to promise, it immediately breaks trust and creates brand damage. This is particularly a urgent problem when you fail to deliver on promises to new customers as we only have one chance to have a “good first date”. ( first order experience)
The unfortunate reality in the world your salespeople live in day in and day out is their buyer’s perception is the reality they must deal with. The buyer rarely talks to your shipping department, plant operations group, your purchasing department, quality, and they are not aware of the internal challenges your team may be facing nor do they care. What they do care about is buying from companies who consistently do what they say they are going to do.
So let me ask you again;
Is your current operational performance turning your sales consultants into snake oil salesman in the eyes of your customers?
Are your salespeople making promises based on a dated information set that was probably true five years ago but not true today?
Is your team aware of operational issue but treating them as politically incorrect secrets you hope your buyers and salespeople do not discover?
Are the competencies you share in your brochures and web site still true today?
What expectations do your buyers have, and how is your team performing to those expectations?
If your team is not focused on understanding what your buyers need, what your salespeople are promising, and what your organization is capable of executing today you need to be and you need to reboot your business.
In my next post I will share how to quickly access if buyers believe your salespeople are snake oil salesmen and how to quickly repair this perception.