Manage episode 373760320 series 2952524
Salespeople are always desperate to make a sale. There are targets, quotas, KPIs aplenty and the pressure is unrelenting. When you are in a downturn, a recession, a pandemic etc., which are driving down sales, the desperation becomes even more intense. Getting meetings at all is considered a win and we go for it, regardless of whether the buyer is qualified or not. Telling your Sales Manager you are seeing a potential buyer feels a lot better than telling them you are seeing no one and a five percent chance of a deal is more attractive than a zero percent chance. Self-delusion is like a balm in tough times.
Desperation tends to drive bad behaviour and deals are done which shouldn’t be attempted. Long-term reputations are sacrificed on the altar of short-term gains. We push clients into buying things they shouldn’t buy, knowing it won’t deliver the outcomes they seek. We celebrate in the short-term about getting some numbers on the board and we regret what we have done at leisure. Trust and reputation in sales are worth a fortune, but we can squander that fortune through bad choices. Once the word gets out that you cannot be trusted then the end is nigh for your sales career. The social media world has sped up the revelations about untrustworthy behaviour and bad news travels at internet light speed.
Badly behaved salespeople will move around from one firm to another, but the stench follows them and eventually they have to move again and again until they run out of runway and have to depart Dodge. These are the people who make the profession so difficult for the rest of us. When we meet clients they have that fear that we are a loser and we will dud them, so eager to part them from their company’s money. B2B buyers are worried about the long-term impact on their careers, rather than just the amount of money which has gone up in smoke and they are unforgiving and remain that way forever.
The other side of the coin here are clients who look for weaknesses and who can smell the salesperson’s desperation. They sense they can drive the price down to oblivion and they start playing that game of “sport negotiating”. This means that a sale gets done, a number goes up on the board, the Sales Manager is temporarily assuaged, but the brand and the salesperson’s reputation have taken a hammering. Now there is no real price for the solution and it becomes whatever the buyer wants it to be. Once you get into having special pricing for a buyer, there is little chance of going back to full pricing and you are now trapped in a funnel of death, where the profitability is close to zero or even negative. That buyer will just keep working you over because they enjoy torturing salespeople. It is a game for them.
I had a client who I liked, but he was a bad man. He was very handsome and charismatic and I really got on with him at our first meeting. Where possible, I try to make my clients my friends and I thought I had found a new friend here. He suddenly nominated what my solution would command and as this was the first time to work with him, I went with it. I immediately regretted what I had done. I subsequently realised that this was going to be the price for all subsequent engagements and there was no differentiation across the quality of what we were providing against our much cheaper competitors. I refused to work with that company anymore, because that pricing was very bad for the brand and frankly I considered it an insult. So much for my newfound friend. He subsequently left Tokyo and went overseas, probably never to return and I won’t be in any hurry to meet his acquaintance again. He was a non-client, but I couldn’t see it at the time.
Another client was a sports negotiator and we wound up haggling over pennies on the price. We got down to a substantial discount and very close on the number, but he pushed me to go even lower and I just said no, I wasn’t going to go any lower. That deal never happened because I realised he was another bad man and he was toying with me, for his egotistical gratification.
When you meet someone once in a sale call, it is hard to get a full sense of the individual you are dealing with and you assume the best in people. Which for the most part is the correct approach. It was a reasonably sized multi-national firm and looked promising as a client. As a firm they may be promising, but he was not the counterparty to work with. He was transferred out of the country to a new post and I doubt I will be seeing him again either and “good riddance” is how I feel about it. He was a non-client, I finally worked it out and I terminated him. Yes we lost the deal but we maintained the brand and the pricing and guess what – other clients were happy to pay full price, because they appreciated the value. There is always another potential client and you need to draw a line in the sand and not tolerate bad people masquerading as potential clients.
Did I tell either of these two characters that they were bad people and I was not going to take their crap anymore? No. That is not an option for the sales professional. We can think it, but we cannot articulate it. We have to suck it up, drop them off the client list and keep moving to find a better client. We are seeking to do better business with nicer people. We keep a permanent record in our minds though, to never deal with them ever again. We also refine our ability to spot non-clients in the future and we become better at testing which category they are in, from the early stages of the relationship.