Cultivating a World Where Salespeople are Allies, not Adversaries 

I am a salesperson, but I get why people dislike us.

In our digital age, the inundation of sales pitches is relentless. And once you bite, you just unleash another barrage of emails, phone calls, and texts. It never ends, it’s gotten so bad that some of my clients are loathe to ask vendors questions about a product that might help them solve problems because they don’t want to touch off another torrent of sales calls.

But selling is my job. I have to use those very dreaded tools – emails, calls, and texts – to find new clients. But I do so judiciously.  And the clients I deal with – Chief Information Security Officers – are prospected more than most because they are the people who are responsible for keeping our personal information and organizations safe.

With our entire lives online today, cybersecurity is essential to our welfare, the well-being of the businesses that power our economies, and the protection of the countries we live in. Many vendors are out there pioneering new solutions to keep us and our digital assets safe. But piercing the armor of customers just clenching their teeth at the prospect of another phone call is tough.

Tough, but not impossible. What’s required though, is a mindset change in approach and process by salespeople.

First of all, call off the bombardments and the cold calls. Sales used to be a numbers game – for every 50 calls you get one person on the phone or one email returned to discuss your product or service. That model doesn’t work anymore.

You don’t want to be on the receiving end of the following complaint I saw on LinkedIn:

“I get significantly more emails from email security vendors about stopping SPAM and phishing than actual SPAM/phishing.”

Nor is today’s sales prospect going to be taken in by swag. Those who want swag don’t have the budget for your product.

What you need to do is position yourself as a problem solver and trusted partner and look for those moments to prove that.

This requires salespeople to practice “a longer game’. First and foremost, you need to have the best interest of the customer in mind not always your best interest.  If you do the first, then the latter will automagically happen.  Do the legwork, so you can present a cogent argument, customized to the needs of a specific organization and it’s ok to respect “no thank you or not now”.  They have many other priorities that may not include your product at this moment.  But if you treat prospects as knowledgeable subject matter experts then most of them will respond in kind.

And while salepeople are told that any client out there with a security program needs their product, it is best to judiciously identify the right one.  The right one is an organization in ‘the buying cycle’, actively looking for that solution because it solves their problem.

These organizations will have a budget, a clear timeline, a champion dedicated to making this project a success, executive sponsorship, and the operational resources to support it.  Funny how many times, I  see salespeople alienate customers with calls and emails just because they took a single meeting when there was no real interest.  I admit I have done this in my less experienced days.   When there is real interest, you will find customers very responsive to working through the next steps.

Scare tactics and bullying won’t work, either. Clients won’t bite because they’re afraid of losing their jobs or finding their names splashed all over the papers if they don’t buy your product. Sometimes there is just no budget, time, or resources. Again going back to the criteria I mentioned previously.  You have to be able to demonstrate a value proposition tailored to the specific organization you are targeting and know there are other factors internal to their organization.

And most importantly – ask valid and appropriate questions about their selection and purchasing process but respect that, even if you think you can make it quicker or easier. The customer is always right even if you have a different opinion.  it is their concept of the best solution, not yours.