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Business Strategy Is Your Salesperson Useful or Useless?

I was not going to write about this today, but I was provoked this morning. It was right after I walked into work and, like many of you, I am not the world’s happiest early morning person. I saw one of our vendors arrive and begin talking with our purchaser. I was near them and happened to overhear the salesperson introducing a new product to our purchaser. Normally I wouldn’t stick around for the conversation but something the salesperson said caught my attention and made me want to stay and participate. “This new product will save your company a lot of money!” was the phrase. 

“How will it save us a lot of money?” I inquired. The salesperson immediately stuck out his hand with a brochure in it and said, “It’s all in here!” I stood there silent for a moment. I felt my blood pressure rising. I started to see what was going on, so I asked, “Do you stock this item?” The salesperson replied happily, “We can order it for you!” Still restraining myself, I asked another question. “How many customers are using this item?” The salesperson didn’t miss a beat. “Lots!” was the answer. 

I decided that was the right time to leave the conversation because I didn’t feel like attending a company-mandated anger management course, which would have happened had I kept asking questions and getting riled up. 

I started to cool down when I got back to my office. My anger turned to bitterness. I realized what an utterly useless conversation that was. The problem was that it wasn’t an isolated incident, I’ve had many similar conversations with many other salespeople in my lifetime. 

The salesperson is not to blame, many are not even trained properly. They are hired, given a stack of brochures and sent out into the great big world to sell, sell, sell – without any real clue what they are actually selling. Don’t even get me started on the fact that their companies don’t even stock the products they are selling!

I can’t imagine how much valuable time is wasted by these useless encounters every day in the world. What really gets to me is how many companies buy these poorly represented products with no real concrete facts on how or where to use them properly, or how in fact these products are supposedly saving them money. Many companies only know the fact that the product was cheap. Cheap is another word that will send this article off the rails if I get started, so I won’t go any further down that route. 

The issue is that many salespeople in the business world do not have a clue what they are selling. Okay, that was harsh. Let’s rephrase it. These salespeople were sent into the field before their time, like an unripe tomato! They do not have the ability to help their customers in any way. The worst part is that these salespeople are armed with enough information to perhaps actually make a sale. That’s truly frightening because most of the time, even if it is a good product, the customer will not know how to use it properly and therefore the product will fail.

I guess what I am really saying is that good salespeople usually see know how their product will work for the customer’s unique situation. Good salespeople will also know their product will make their customer successful and how to make that happen. Good salespeople will know where to get concrete support information quickly if there are any issues. This kind of knowledge is needed for everything, from small to large items.

I have calmed down now, I swear. The bitterness is almost gone. I guess I need to remember to qualify the incoming salesperson first and not take it so personally. Don’t talk to useless ones and concentrate on the useful ones. Working with a useful and knowledgeable salesperson is infinitely more productive, and less time consuming. 

What has your experience been like working with salespeople from your vendors?