The Dehumanization of the Sales Process in the Digital Era
Prospects in the information economy have an indignant attitude so often of give me, give me, give me...I want, I want, I want. Give it to me on my terms and not a moment sooner. The tides have changed in the information economy, the customer is king, information is free and accessible.
Their attitude often is you need them more than they need you. Their goal is to get all the information they want, as quickly as possible, with maximum convenience on their part and minimum interaction with the sales person. They do not want to meet you, they prefer not to hear your voice, and they prefer to do everything in as much of an impersonable way as possible. They have somewhat dehumanized the sales process because they see little value in making it personable.
If it were up to them they would do everything by email. I have a client who sells million-dollar packaging equipment systems and they get the majority of their leads from prospects calling them directly because they are the industry leader. These are sophisticated projects that require a lot of consulting and custom solutions. When they field these inquiries it is not unusual at all for their prospects to go into an immediate request for proposal or bid because they have a budget meeting the next day. They treat the sales person as if they were selling an off-the-shelf part, instead of a highly complex solution.
Their prospects will do everything possible to depersonalize the transaction that truly requires a personal approach if it is to be done properly. They devalue the input and insight of the sales person so much that they cannot be bothered with talking to them at any length, much less meeting with them. They want to eliminate the human factor. They do not want a peep out of the sales person. Their attitude is sales people should not be heard or seen. They want to totally control the flow and distribution of information, and only on their terms.
This scenario is not unusual for many companies and it is not an isolated example. It is actually a disturbing trend. The idea that customers believe they have practically everything to gain and nothing to lose by bypassing the sales person demonstrates the sorry state of affairs of how sales people are perceived and valued. It says volumes about distrust and lack of professional respect that sales people are facing in the marketplace. Obviously sales organizations in many cases have created this cluster mess.
Sales organizations need to realize that they have had a heavy hand in this disturbing trend. They are a big part of the problem because they are so solution-centric, product-centric and company-centric. As long as they position their offering this way they will continue to be commoditized, marginalized, compromised and to some degree dehumanized.
This Walmart effect is a way for customers to streamline the buying process and eliminate the fat. And the fat is sales organizations who do not bring anything more meaningful to the table than a smile and their product information.
In many cases sales people feel powerless in trying to take control back. The deals are so big they cannot afford to professionally challenge prospects, and so they lose all leverage that they might of had in the sales transaction. They are fearful to even ask basic questions to gather more information because it might alienate the prospect even more.
In many cases they are treated like doormats. The prospect's approach is my way or the highway, or they are committed followers of the Golden Rule; those with the gold rule. They demand unquestionable obedience with their perpetual hide and seek strategy that puts sales people in perpetual limbo.
Sales people make matters worse by granting them full moral authority and a strong sense of entitlement. Customers leave in their wake a full complement of carnage of empty promises and shallow commitments.
Because sales people do not have a Geneva Convention and are not represented by the International Brotherhood of Product Demonstrators Union they end up barely getting by on their own devices.
The shocking truth! Here it is in its full glory. The drumroll please. When legitimate and non-commodity prospects early on take the position of I want, I want, I want...give me, give me, give me, it is code for if you are smart you will not give me that information and you will take the time, have the expertise, the patience and care enough to ask me some very thought-provoking questions to give me new insight and perspective about my business and my most pressing challenges.
This is ultimately what all legitimate, well intended prospects want. Notice I said legitimate, well intended and non-commodity prospects. But because they realize that only 3 to 5% of sales people can give them what they really want, they put on a façade that they do not want to be meaningfully engaged. The percentages for them are just not worth the effort.
Sales people must be willing to ask show-stopper questions to reverse the traditional flow of information and did get their prospects out of this robotic posture. Your attitude should always be, if it is not worth your time Mr. Customer, it will very likely not be worth my time.
When you are not willing to take this posture, and you have a see no evil, hear no evil and question no evil posture, all parties lose out. Selling is all about getting to the truth. If there is no constructive dialogue, then how can any meaningful trust or relationship transpire.
The reason why sales people are not willing to ask show-stopper questions is because they easily get seduced into believing the prospect's interest is real, legitimate and well intended. They easily fall for fairy tales. And they certainly fear hearing a negative response also. If sales people want to "re-humanize" and "re-personalize" the sales proces,s and really bring meaning insight and perspective to the table, they are going to have to get their customers to be fully engaged and be willing to exchange important information.