If I were in Sales…

April 26, 2012

I’m not a sales women per se. Sure, as a small business owner I market, I sell, I do the work, I keep the books and I wash the dirty dishes.  However, I would never really consider myself in sales. I am a relationship builder and develop business with that strategy. That said, I buy and get sold to all the time.

The last month has been a light month for travel so I wanted to use my time in the office to brush up on some products that I often talk about in presentations and recommend to clients.  There are a few companies that I have proactively approached to see a demo of their product and there are others who I responded to their requests to connect. I don’t always have the time to do this and I was happy to have some breathing room to educate myself on the marketplace.

Funny things keep happening to me.

More than once, when I ask for a product demo from various companies, I have had to jump through virtual hoops to see it.  Often it starts with a sales person whose job it is to screen me to see if I am a match. Keep in mind that I usually explain in email that I am a consultant and speaker and that I am not necessarily an end user, but an influencer.  Nothing is more frustrating than sending this informative emailing, scheduling what I think will be a demo and it turns out that it simply a screening call. Did I say nothing was more frustrating? I take that back. Today I was told from a company who I always promote that they have too many services to demo and that I need to have a specific client need before I can see a demo.  Talk about frustrating, how the heck am I supposed to intelligently talk about their services in detail without getting an in-depth look?

But wait, there’s more…I recently hired someone to do some work at my house. They told me that they “weren’t a miracle worker.”  No, I didn’t expect miracles. That would be silly. I do expect someone to do the work that they were hired for in the best way that they can. Silly, silly me.

These conversations make me take a closer look at how I conduct business and serve prospects and clients. This week I was asked to attend a meeting with a prospect that was a two-hour drive for me. They already asked me if I could accommodate their limited budget in exchange for a bigger contract.  I thought about this and decided that it was not in my best interest to make the drive. BUT….I offered to Skype into their meeting and give them as much time as they required to make a decision about hiring me.   The potential client loved the idea and I felt that it was a good compromise. After all, she realized that it was not practical for me to commit so much time to a meeting that could be accomplished with a little help from our friend technology.

So what is the right answer? If we over qualify customers is it worth the risk of losing the good ones?  Do we need to qualify in order to be efficient? How is our reputation impacted by our approach to sales? Is there a fine line between being flexible and being perceived as difficult to deal with?

I definitely feel differently about the companies that I perceive to be ambivalent about my business. I am trying to see it from their side. Would I do the same thing? Perhaps more training and feedback is necessary to help these companies modify their approach. Maybe I can coach them and cultivate a relationship with them on another level. Maybe they just don’t care.

What do you think?