Wrong Direction (Lesson 3)
Years ago, when I was working with a large technology company that handled a lot of custom software development, I witnessed a gaffe so major, it reminded me that I must always be talking to multiple departments in an organization.
The company had a small, overworked research and development team, so every once in a while, the software developers themselves would be deployed into the field to determine a potential client’s needs.
The software engineer who told me this story said that in this particular instance, they were tasked with determining why the client’s software was “too technical” for its end users. I’ll call this company XYZ Corp.
XYZ Corp. realized over the previous year that their new software wasn’t living up to its promise because its users were not savvy enough to perform its functions in a timely manner. Essentially, this engineer told me, XYZ Corp. wanted our company to “dumb it down” for them.
Our company went to work making a more user-friendly interface for the software. They were working on the project for several months when my sales manager came into the office looking angry and aghast.
He told a couple of us who were in the office he’d just returned from lunch with the sales manager of the XYZ Corp. It was more of a casual lunch as they were friends, but talk eventually moved to the software revamp our company was working on.
“The problem isn’t that it’s too technical. The problem is that it doesn’t do what the users need it to do,” he said. “Nobody, them or us, went and talked to the users. They all assumed that their employees just weren’t ‘getting it,’ but the core problem is that it doesn’t do what they need it to do, but none of their decision makers use the software.”
My sales manager brought this to the attention of several people in our organization and they quickly followed-up with the XYZ Corp. From what I was told, it quickly devolved into finger-pointing on both sides, with each contending the other didn’t perform adequate due diligence.
Eventually they got on the same page, but this proved to me that, as a salesperson, I must gather information from as many different sources as possible within a company if I didn’t want to find myself heading down the wrong roads.
It’s About Strategy
If you’re not asking for the right information or conducting proper research about a potential client, you’re almost asking for a long, drawn-out, misdirected sales campaign, which can lead to a lost opportunity. I’ve seen it time and again where not getting enough good, verified information on a large account extends the sales cycle, frustrating everyone involved.
There are many salespeople who view themselves as foot soldiers, and I think that leads to some of their mistaken decision making. Foot soldiers are concerned with what is directly in front of them and what today’s objective is all about.
Being a salesperson is more like being a general. It’s about the fullness of the big picture. You need to see the entire process and understand your role is to look at things strategically, not tactically.
If you have the mentality of a foot soldier, you’re going to get stuck in the bottom communication rungs. You need to understand the organization you’re courting and where to go if you get stuck heading down one particular route.