As readers of this blog know, the majority of the insights, stories, and key learnings I present for consumption are based on our real-world experiences working with some of the world’s largest and most successful (and unsuccessful) business organizations.
Today, I am sharing an interesting story about how one of the most influential companies on the planet is teaching and supporting its own sales force to do the wrong things without consequence or accountability.
Obviously, the names and specifics have been changed so as not to embarrass anyone (or get us into legal trouble) but what you are about to read actually happened.
The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) saw an unrecognized phone number pop up on his Smartphone and decided to take the call thinking (hoping) it could be a potential customer. The voice on the other end introduced himself as “The new Account Executive for ABC Software-as-a-Service.” He immediately started to push new features and upgraded modules to the software. The CMO shared that he was very busy and wasn’t interested in learning more at this time. Like most decision-makers in 2017, the CMO knew exactly where to find information online and would reach out to the Account Executive if he ever needed more information about features, benefits, or cost.
Less than one minute later, the CMO’s phone rang with the same calling number from moments earlier. Thinking the ABC Software Account Executive may have misdialed or something, the CMO answered the call, but this time the ABC Software person asked for “Jack”. The CMO explained that Jack works for him and asked the Account Executive why was he calling Jack? The voice on the other end unapologetically replied, “I had Jack in my system and I wanted to introduce myself to him.” The CMO gently explained, again, that he wasn’t interested in the upgraded services at this time and there was no need to call anyone else in his company.
Less than a minute later, there was an incoming call to the main number… and once again it was the Account Executive asking to speak with another person in the company. The CMO watched in amazement as somehow the Account Executive got a hold of a company directory and was literally calling everyone in the organization in an attempt to generate some interest. After about 5 more calls, the CMO got back on the phone with the Account Executive and demanded that he stop calling the company and if it continued, the CMO would terminate their contract effective immediately.
The Account Executive then did something totally unbelievable. And unacceptable. He sent the CEO and the COO emails complaining about the CMO. In other words, he attempted to throw the CMO under the bus and somehow insert himself into the organizational dynamics of the situation. He basically went nuclear; with no purpose and no objectives.
In this story, I am the COO, but more importantly, I am the lead subject matter expert for our Strategic Business Selling solution set. This scenario presents the opportunity for sales professionals to learn what not to do in the sales process. Below is an email crafted for the SaaS Account Executive that can share ideas and insights:
“Dear Account Executive,
As a seasoned expert in Sales Training, I'd like to take a moment to extend a professional courtesy and provide you some feedback that perhaps can help save your career. As I see from doing a quick background check on you in LinkedIn, that in your last 7 jobs you've had the tenure of 9 months, 15 months, 4 months, 13 months, 12 months, 5 months, and 9 months. By my calculations that is an average tenure of 9.5 months over 7 jobs.
In my Strategic Business Selling programs, I emphasize that the most important thing a sales professional needs to achieve is a deep understanding of the customer's business. What's the customer's business strategy? What are the customer's opportunities? What are the customer's challenges? The answers to these questions are determined through an interactive business dialogue with the customer. In order to have that dialogue, you must aggressively prepare by doing your research, such as reviewing the customer's website, reviewing LinkedIn, and gaining insights about the people you are calling on including understanding who the key decision maker is and what the decision-making process is.
Once you have established this foundational approach, you must then do everything possible to have the customer perceive that you know their business, that the customer likes you, and that the customer trusts you. This is the secret to long-term sales success! You have failed on all three of these key aspects of Strategic Business Selling.
By calling our CMO multiple times without presenting any value proposition, you have shown that you don't know our business. When you did engage with the CMO, you product dumped and were confrontational with him. I can assure you this approach will not get him or anyone to like you. And finally, by sending an email to the COO and the CEO in an attempt to go around the CMO and badmouth him illustrates a complete lack of trust.
I truly hope these words of wisdom are read carefully and that you take some of them to heart.
In the meantime, I am going to respectfully ask that you voluntarily remove yourself from being our "Account Executive" by forwarding this email to your supervisor and copying me.”
In summary, Strategic Business Selling is harder than ever. There is more competition, more information, and less accountability. Don’t hurt yourself by making unforced errors and alienating your customers. It’s not cute, it’s not challenging, and the bottom line is... it doesn’t work.