Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sales, Schmales

"Organizations operate under tremendous competitive pressure to improve the customer experience while cutting costs and increasing efficiency."

Nothing like stating the obvious, eh?

This phrase, taken from one vendor's sales literature, might just as well have come from a hundred others'. First off, the insinuation - that my business is not competitive - might be seen as offensive by some. The piece continues to pronounce that the offered product is a "complete solution" (will it even do my laundry?) that promises "best in class integration" (without knowing anything about my current technology?) that includes "superior design tools" (superior to what?).

Why do so many vendors out there posit the same regurgitated pablum? Why are there so many lists of customer "benefits" that include bullet points like: "reduce costs", "improve efficiency", "get to market faster", etc.? Are there really that many decision makers out there that read this stuff and run to dial the phone?

Look, folks, the field is crowded out there. The key to competition is differentiation. Daring to be different. But that, too, gets taken to the extreme. Take the all-black, shaved-head-and-goatee look of the dot com era, for example. Everyone was so busy daring to be different, that they became just like everyone else (evidenced by a walk down West Broadway in SoHo circa 1999).

To be sure, I use as much jargon as the next person. But there comes a point where the meaning behind the words is lost, reduced to saying the words for the words' own sake. If you're selling me a means to obtain a "sustainable competitive advantage", you had better know a lot more about my business and my industry than you already do.

One of the more indelible aphorisms I recall from my early years in business is this one: "Great salespeople do not sell; they create in their prospects the desire to buy." The way to accomplish this? Listen. Listen some more. Listen even more.

Then respond, thoughtfully.

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