Salespeople, like any other group, can generally be broken out into three categories. The first (and by far most valuable) are your superstars. With these people, you just want to get out of their way and do a “brain drain” to try to find ways to help spread their magic to the rest of your team.

The next level is the “average” players–this is an incredibly diverse group, some who may become superstars, and some who will never rise above where they are right now (and may, in fact, sink quite a bit). Often, people in this category who’ve been selling for 20 years still really only have one year of experience (they’ve just repeated it 20 times).

Finally, there are the low performers. This group is incredibly costly and damaging to your company’s sales efforts. This is the group who will say things like, “Our customers only care about the lowest possible price.

Many years ago I heard a sales rep say this, and shortly after the CEO asked what we could do about it. A few of his people were getting crushed, and they were all saying the exact same thing. I told him to go ahead and “Fire them then, and replace them with a $3.00 catalog. If that’s all your customers care about, then you don’t need them. Send the customer a catalog, add a couple of new pricing pages to your website, and call it a day.

He laughed, assuming I was joking. I didn’t laugh. I wasn’t entirely kidding.

This may have sounded a bit harsh, but you as a dedicated reader of the Tuesday Tidbits know this wasn’t my intent. I was asking the question to prove a simple point. In this client’s case, the distinction had already been made by the salesperson’s colleagues who were happily selling, beating aggressive quotas, and generating massive revenues for the company.

In our new book Dealing with Difficult Customers we talk a lot about the importance of having a corporately shared script book that helps identify the most common things that your customers will say, and to work through not only the “best” response, but what the customer is telling you. For example, we all know that when somebody walks into a retail business, there’s a time-honored script that plays out between the floor associates and the customer. It goes like this:

“Can I help you with anything today?”

“No, I’m just looking!”

“Okay, I’m here if you need me!”

This is a bad script, but it’s easy to fall into, and some of the best biggest companies on the planet still follow this script. Retailers see huge gains when they change the script–not only does it make their customers think differently, but it provides new opportunities to help them find what they really want.

A fictitious example:

“Welcome to Flemings! Is this your first time shopping here?”

“No, I’ve been here dozens of times.”

“Oh, that’s great. Then you’ll remember that our revenue generating consulting services are on the left-hand side of the store, charm and good looks are near the back, and our tools and process workshops are over on the right. Which of those are you most interested in today?”

In sales, we often hear things like, “Sharpen your pencil and give me your best price.” Or we’re told, “That’s not in the budget.” Or. “I can get it cheaper elsewhere.” If these were literally true, then you wouldn’t need a salesperson, you’d just need a $3 catalog. If your salespeople (replace with store associates, customer-facing staff, etc.,) aren’t ready to respond to these objections, then maybe they really are just overpriced brochures.

Your Challenge For This Week: Have your VP of Sales or VP of Marketing write out the top 3-5 things you regularly hear from your customers. Ask your customer-facing people how they would respond or deal with each of those situations. If you find they’re all saying different things, then there are two things that you know are true.

There is no consistent response coming from your company representatives (which is scary!) Remember, consistency and congruency IS a critical aspect of the customer experience.
We should talk about how I can help you with that!

As a bonus challenge, have those same people write out the top 3-5 things they hear from customers regularly and see how everyone’s responses line up with your VP of Sales or Marketing.


P.S. Dealing With Difficult Customers is shipping soon! Be sure to pre-order your copy now. If you failed our challenge or found there are improvements to be made, send me an email and let’s set up a time to discuss.