No one likes to feel useless…obsolete. Indeed, when someone feels useless, they sense they offer little in the way of value. It is common for salespeople to become complacent, to continue to do the things that have worked in the past….even in the face of changing customer requirements. Many salespeople engage in some ineffective (obsolete) activities like making too many personal sales calls when customer preferences have changed and phone or electronic contacts are desired. The result can be an erosion of skills – obsolescence. Here is some Selling ASAP Thoughtware to ponder concerning complacency:
- Don’t be fooled by those who think complacency is easy to identify. Perhaps it is after the fact, but what about before the fact?
- For salespeople to identify complacency questions like these must be objectively asked and answered : 1) Has your approach changed in the last few months? 2) Are you simply repeating the past because you were successful? Do you feel like you are becoming lethargic?
- Customers, too, see complacency in salespeople. Are your customers becoming less interested in seeing you? Do your products/services appear to be “too familiar” to your customers?
- During good times, many salespeople become less concerned about things like differentiating and more concerned about transactions.
- During good times, salespeople risk losing their brand identity as they focus on selling rather than on cultivating relationships.
- During down economic times, salespeople may struggle to find new business as they have not developed new programs or approaches to excite the marketplace.
- Success can be intoxicating. Few marketing and sales approaches work across the board with all customers and none last forever.
- Complacency can lead to skills obsolescence, a reduction in effectiveness that occurs when salespeople fall behind in sales-related skills and knowledge of the market. However, even then, salespeople will likely have some degree of success as they are still making some productive personal calls. This is why skills obsolescence is so difficult to detect.
When salespeople actively learn new ways of doing things they can reap the benefits of their willingness to learn in a changing marketplace environment.
When salespeople continue to use ineffective sales strategies those salespeople threaten their own survival.
When salespeople ignore change, like the latest technologies to interact with customers, those salespeople may be inviting obsolescence.
- Obsolescence usually is recognized only after a series of events has occurred. A single event such as a nonproductive sales call can happen anytime and is often ignored. A non-productive sales call may have occurred because a prospect simply had a bad day. But non-productivity may be a symptom of obsolescence if the prospect really wants fewer personal calls. It might likely take many unproductive calls before salespeople realize that calls are producing less than desired results and that something is not being done correctly.
- The threat of obsolescence only increases if salespeople ignore customer desires for more contact value (e.g., electronic contacts, new ideas). Salespeople can control this, but if they elect to continue with only what has been successful in the past such repetitive behavior often has a longer-term influence on sales performance.
As change occurs, salespeople must assess their intelligence – what they know. Then, they must think about what can be done. Ultimately, salespeople must choose a course of action and assess the results of that action.
Knowledge gained from each sales activity must be evaluated during the performance of each successive sales activity. The combined assessment of what is known with new knowledge obtained from each customer interaction helps salespeople to keep “up-to-date” with customers and reduces the likelihood of obsolescence.
- Customers want information, advice, and choices. They also will rely on salespeople to provide excellent value for their money spent. They want to purchase from sellers who patiently learn about their needs and wants and offer benefits of knowledge and creative problem solving. By staying current and becoming a trusted advisor, salespeople can build their image and their professionalism. Salespeople are the only ones who make themselves obsolete.
SYMPTOMS OF OBSOLESCENCE
Check your environment for obsolescence here:
|Symptom: Do you……||Explanation|
|…. feel less useful in their attempts to educate customers about new products||“New” products generally are not new. They may be micro-segmented; they may be “knockoffs”; they may be improved versions of the existing product offerings. When such is the case, customers are already knowledgeable about products and about marketplace developments.|
|…. feel that customers often obtain information on the latest developments from other means, such as trade shows, trade publications, targeted database mailing systems, or electronically via web pages.||These information sources are often available to the customer ahead of a visit from the salesperson. When salespeople do arrive, the news s/he brings is old and repetitive.|
|….find that customers are likely to be more receptive to them if they provide custom design possibilities for specific applications.||Many sales representatives can improve in this area by learning about customers. Such learning may provide opportunities for competitive advantage.|
|…. find that many customers no longer require salespeople to place orders or to provide general information.||Social media, computer databases, e-mail, web pages, 800 numbers, fax machines and express mail shipments have all reduced the “value” of the salesperson as an information provider and an order taker.|
|…. find that much of what is purchased is taking on the characteristics of commodities that are readily available from many suppliers||Buyer loyalty to salespeople has declined. Customers have experienced increased pressure to reduce prices that they pay for commodities and commodity-type products.|
|…find that the cost of personal sales calls has increased dramatically.||Many sales organizations are allowing their customers to “self-serve” in areas of service that were traditionally provided by salespeople.|
|….find that many of their large customers have reduced their “perceived value” of salespeople||The value of the sales force is being diminished due to the occurrence of events described in items 1 – 6 above.|
|….find that many customers claim that they are seeing more salespeople than ever before.||Many customers claim that they are seeing more salespeople than ever before.|