I was just a few years into my career, selling a brand new solution with a partner known for wanting to control deals. This solution (“Widget”) cost the company a lot of money to acquire and develop, and everyone at the company (as well as partners like us) had been through endless training about how to position and sell it.
At the time, I was known as “the smart girl SE” as in, “Can the smart girl SE come onsite with us for this one?”
The smart girl SE came onsite with James* to meet a new customer. James was a boisterious, friendly salesperson who called everyone “buddy”, punched them in the upper arm, and talked a lot about beahs (beers), the Sox, and his good old days on a college hockey team. After a lot of chatter, we starting talking through the customer’s environment, their concerns, and needs. A few minutes of discussion and it was obvious that they were a candidate for this new solution.
“You may want to look at this new Widget,” I said. “It is great for environments like yours that have qualities A, B, and C.”
And then I made an error in judgement.
In an effort to cede the conversation to the partner salesperson, thinking I was being a good partner by doing so, I said, “James, why don’t you tell them some more about Widget.”
I knew immediately it was a mistake. James got a quintessential “deer in the headlights” look in his eye. He started sweating. He looked at his fingernails, at his shoes, and at his watch. Finally, with everyone’s eyes on him, he stammered,
“It’s just bettah.” (That’s how we say “better” in Boston.)
And that was the entirety of his sales pitch.
Relationships are important. Nobody wins deals by being the smartest person in the room – people win deals because they understand the customer’s environment, their concerns, and in cases of extremely good salespersonship, even act as an extension of the customer’s team. But relationships are not everything.
Every person in an organization needs to be able to speak about their product and their value proposition. Customers are looking for guidance, for honesty, and for advice. But they are also looking for information about a specific solution, about a specific product. Sure, they may be 57% of the way through the sales process by the time they approach the vendor directly, but that means the other 43% is still in our hands.
And just saying that the product is “better” isn’t going to cut it.
*name has been changed to protect the….