15 years ago I saw a bumper sticker that said “if you have it, a sales person sold it.” Despite what many would have you believe, this statement is as true today as it was then. Sure, the world has changed. What hasn’t changed is this: despite the preponderance of mobile device Apps and Sales Automation initiatives, people still want to do business with people.
Someone they believe will say what they do and do what they say – beyond the feature, function and benefit of your product or service. It doesn’t take 10 minutes to figure out there are more than 40 CRM software packages on the market. More are coming. Improvements at every turn in the road, no doubt. Automation of nearly every activity is already here and AI is close at hand. What’s a salesperson to do? When do I turn in my cell phone and laptop and head to the retirement village? (Before I go any further I should make it clear that I’m referring to sales people in the Industrial B2B world selling value-added goods and services to repeat customers.) What do I do when the bots take over?
The good news is that there will always be a place for salespeople who deliver value that leads to success. Success is typically determined by performance achieved against stated objectives. I’m not going to focus on how to achieve success – many others have already done so, and done it well.
My focus is on how you deliver value for yourself and your employer because delivering value creates opportunities for success. CRM packages and machines can’t develop high quality interpersonal relationships. You should, can, and must to deliver value. There’s nobody between you and your customer. It’s as simple as that. If you can’t deliver value there might as well be a machine involved.
Let me tell you a story: A couple years ago, I was doing contract work for a rapidly growing company. They had already invested in a subscription-based CRM tool, and devoted considerable resources (time, talent and funds) in customizing the platform for their use. These good folks could measure every aspect of each bid. What product lines were involved, dollar value, estimated start date, customer personnel involved, likelihood of success, in budget, budget pricing only, degree of difficulty, customized reporting… All this data went into the CRM database.
What the CRM tool couldn’t tell this company is WHEN the RFP was going to turn into real business. In any business if you don’t know when orders are coming in the door that’s bad. It makes life a lot harder and can have a significant impact on success. Fortunately, this company has excellent salespeople. These reps knew their customers, the customer’s processes and the customer’s tendencies. The ability to tell when no news really is good news (“my contact in Purchasing says there’s nothing to worry about – we are going to get the contract”) versus (“I can’t get anyone to return my call about this deal.”)
These salespeople are constantly providing value to their customers and to their employers in ways that no CRM tool can possibly do. For example, what will the CRM report tell you about a change in the customer’s organization, when all the work gets put on a temporary hold because of a promotion. Does the CRM know who might or will get the job? What the successor’s approach to this business and your company will be? Did you ignore him or her when they first came into the department or did you school them up on different aspects of your employer and how you can help them formally and informally? Are you keeping them current on developments in the industry? Do you really know your customer well?
CRM tools are here to stay. I look at them like a turbocharger on a car – it can boost the power and make the whole process more cost effective, but somebody still has to know what to do with it. That’s your job: Bring value every day.