Buyer Beware of Sales People Bearing Gifts (Information)
Information selling (product pushing) has generated more talking than listening, more pushing than questioning, and more fragmentation of attention than concentration. It is self-expression run amok. I call information selling our profession's inherited dysfunction; self-centered selling is the original sin of all conventional information sellers. Information sellers receive very little encouragement to change because their dysfunctional sales strategy supports their companies sales culture and vice-versa. It is a marriage made in hell.
Can information sellers lose the density of their conditioned way of selling? Can they defy the gravitational pull of their ego and not be so self-oriented? Can they transcend their product and use it primarily as an excuse to talk about their customer's problems? Can they overcome their biases and strong self-interest? Information sellers will change only when they have the startling realization that the way they sell in many cases is the exact opposite way customers process information to make buying decisions.
They have so much to say, and so few who will listen; the quandary of information sellers. They also feel the paradoxical combination of powerlessness and a deceptive false sense of control. "They have the ability of personal broadcasting-Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube – which leads them to believe that whatever they have to say has value. This is reinforced by an exploding number of vehicles our culture provides to promote narcissism, entitlement and habits of self-regard," says Jennifer Senoir.
Like the news media which has blurred the lines and made themselves the story rather than report the facts, conventional sales people have done the same. They have made themselves the center of the story and are far too liberal with their opinions, instead of eliciting the opinions of their customers about their issues and challenges.
Information sellers are like carnival barkers hawking their goods and services. In their quest for premium airtime they provide punishment by acute tedium. Premium airtime gives them a head start to race to the proposal which is the ultimate prize for information sellers.
Sales people are overly dependent on two legacy assets; information overkill, and an over bearing personality to deliver it. To get their message across loud and clear they sell with a heightened persona. For those temperamentally oriented towards upbeat optimism information selling is a godsend. Unfortunately, those who talk the most, so often have the least to say. Information sellers so often lose the sale before it even starts.
The ultimate pay dirt for information sellers is their features and benefits. But those who live by the sword (features and benefits), die by the sword. Everyone is pushing and selling the exact same differences; they are unique just like everyone else.
Feature and benefit selling is not the solution, it is the problem. Point, shoot, aim, ready, repeat gives you very low odds even though a stray bullet will eventually hit its target. The biggest problem with feature and benefit selling is it gives the illusion that communication has taken place.
The harder you push your advantages, the more vulnerable you are too seriously diluting your message and your impact with customers. The content of features and benefits may change from company to company, product to product, but the same structure operates. In other words; the differences are only superficially on the surface. Most product pushers are too superficial to get below the surface.
Feature and benefit selling does not work enough to compensate for the negative reactions it creates. "Feature and benefit selling makes customers feel like a fish that is being offered a worm with a great big hook," says Jacques Werth. Customers are like children. When you tell them not to slam the door when they leave the house, they often hear slam the door. Customers, like everyone, do not like to be told what to think, what to do, what to believe, what to act on, especially from sales people who have not earned their trust.
Feature and benefit selling is like texting; the more you text, the more you have to question is your message really being communicated, and is it being properly received as you intended it to be. To make matters worse your comparative advantages are negligible by most customer's standards. Feature and benefit selling is typified by garbage out, garbage in.
Information sellers are constantly indulging their fantasy of convincing, persuading, and influencing customers of their superior offering. But all it really is, is prideful pundits in search of an elusive audience who desperately want to be at the epicenter of a sales call. Because customers are becoming more information and sales person intolerant, sales people do not realize that the way they sell today (outputting information) could easily be replaced in the future by a far more efficient, cheaper, and effective output device; e-commerce, Google, a customer service representative, a sales person in an Indian call center. Information sellers are working their way onto an endangered species list. If they are not careful their skills will become irrelevant, obsolete and easily outsourced.
Customers know that corporate mouthpieces have a fundamental tendency towards self-preservation, self-promotion, stretching the boundaries of truth and self-perpetuation. So they are obviously on guard. They are looking for a creative and innovative spirit from sales people, and all they are basically getting is a talking brochure full of propaganda, waxing on poetically about their pots and pans. They can get that on a seller's website without having to spend valuable personal time with them.