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Why do sales people like failure?

Submitted by on Thursday, 19 August 2010

Why do people attempt to turn my decision facilitation material into a sales model? Why do they use some of my vocabulary to try to manipulate clients? Frankly I am flummoxed by this. They’ve got a whole sales model to use to manipulate with.

Today I’m going to vent about sales folks and their stubborn choice to remain doing something so flawed, with such paltry results, that it’s a shame it’s been allowed to exist. Can you think of any other business model that builds in a 90%+ failure rate as acceptable business practice? Amazing. We hire 9x more people than we have to, wait 8x longer for sales to close than we should, get in to 1/2 of the prospects we should be meeting, and have to diminish our prices to accommodate confused buyers – and we keep this model and just keep trying harder? You know that’s the definition of insanity, right?

What is it about sales folks that makes them hell-bent on selling – regardless of their horrific close rates, or the amounts of time they waste, or the prospects who truly need their solutions but don’t get the help they need to buy? I have a guess: that because sales is based on the identity of the seller, and not really committed to the success of the buyer, we’ve implicitly agreed with the failure that’s built in to using this approach. Let me walk you through my thinking.

UNDERSTANDING THE NEED OR THE BUSINESS PROBLEM IS NOT ENOUGH

The problem begins with the basic flaw in the sales model. Sales treats a ‘need’ as if it were an isolated event. Data Point: Buyers live in environments that are actually systems, and any needs they have are part of a whole that maintains itself daily. NO ONE lives outside of a system. NOTHING exists outside of a system. And yet the sales model acts as if having a ‘need’ and a proper solution were all that’s necessary to make a sale! We don’t lose weight unless we’ve decided to eat differently and exercise: knowing about a gym nearby won’t cut any ice with us unless we’ve made those internal decisions first. We can’t move house even if we find a gorgeous place to live, unless we’ve figured out school districts and transportation routes and neighborhoods and banking details. Buyers have to move a bunch of stuff around behind-the-scenes, and sales does not handle this.

Next. Buyers don’t buy until they have managed all of the internal issues that need to buy-in to bringing in something ‘new’ making their internal struggle a CHANGE MANAGEMENT management issue. Will the new department heads be able to work together? How to tell the tech team they will be replaced? What needs to happen with the old beloved vendor? How can we incorporate the new business partner? Data Point: without buy-in, there is resistance to change. It’s a law of nature. Systems seek homeostasis. Hence, when we pull out one piece (i.e. a need) and try to resolve that one piece, the system rejects it.  I’ve actually written a whole book about this (Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it)

Sales doesn’t address these issues, but until or unless the buyer manages all of their internal systems issues and interdependent parts some of which have little or nothing to do with the ‘need’ and everything to do with the day-to-day working of the status quo, they will do nothing. Data point: buyers will seek to maintain the balance within their organizations or teams (i.e. their systems)  rather than fix a need, no matter how vital a fix might be. The system is sacrosanct. Our focus on understanding need and placing a solution plays right into the necessity, the absolute necessity, of the buyer to resist. We create objections, delays, and money issues.

THE FIELD OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT SEEKS CHANGE

I’ve spent over 20 years of my life writing writing writing, training, speaking, writing, training, speaking, about changing the sales model to add a front end that helps buyers figure out how to manage the change first. They have to do this anyway (You can’t move into that great house until you’ve figured out all of the details re neighborhoods and schools, etc).  Visionaries, thankfully, have found me. But the rest of the field has fought me tooth and nail. It’s fascinating that there is such a fight to maintain failure.

I’ve begun writing for, and doing podcasts with, the Change Managment field. They are ecstatic! ‘Yippee! they say. You’ve showed us a way to minimize resistance and help change happen effortlessly! We’ve had such failure for years! And now with Buying Facilitation™ we don’t have to have these problems any more!!!’ This, after just 3 months!

Why do sales folks fight to maintain their ‘system’ of failure? With close rates of less than 10% sellers not only harm themselves, but their companies (who accept these numbers as being industry standard), and their prospective clients who truly need the solutions!

What do sales people want? To get an appointment so they can show up looking smart and pretty? To complain about the stupid buyer? To run around and waste time trying to accomplish something (the operative word here is ‘trying’)? To feel in control? To do whatever they want the way they want and if they don’t achieve anything the other person is nuts — and then they get paid anyway?

Because if sellers REALLY wanted to accomplish something, and companies demanded results of, say, 35%, they’d have to close more sales! So even the management is enabling bad practices.  If they were to focus on actually helping buyers buy, they’d see that before they could buy, stuff needed to happen that sales wouldn’t be fruitful in managing. And they’d be excited to add a new skill set.

But until then, the Change Management field is ready for new material, and I’m going to show up and help. I must say that after 20 plus years fighting the good fight in sales, I’m rooting for sellers to eventually get it and want to change. I’m still hoping. But getting really tired.

sd

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  • Mark

    hang in there Sharon Drew. You're fighting the good fight. Sellers would do well to listen to themselves as they 'solve customer problems' and 'understand needs'…sellers can't make buyers do anything; therefore, the sooner they embrace the alternative the faster they'll really make a difference for their customers

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1172843769 Vincent Vanderbent

    Fear of the unknown and the inability to solicit constructive feedback are two big hurdles Sharon Drew. Inspired by your work, I decided to do a small survey among car sales people (or should I say “men” since no women worked at any of the dealerships I visited!). The worst one started our conversation with “my boss gets to make a $300 bonus if you buy a car today.” He didn't make the cut. The best one approached your paradigm most closely by actively seeking my feedback as to what vehicle most closely matched my needs and interest. After that the dealership still failed at the after-sale process, but it was a good start… Hang in there!

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    well Why do people attempt to turn my decision facilitation material into a sales model? Why do they use some of my vocabulary to try to!

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