When I asked for more details on how a customer could use our product, Tim, our managing director, joked: “Michael, you’re in sales, you’re too stupid to understand.” But the sad thing was that this was what he, and his delivery team really believed.
And when I wanted customer stories, I only got the watered down versions from marketing. Because marketing didn’t trust sales to properly share these stories with customers, they had the executive team sand off the rough corners that made the stories interesting- to the point that they were useless.
So there I was standing outside the walls of customer knowledge, trying to prepare for a potential customer meeting with the few scraps of information management decided to throw down to sales.
And when I left for customer meetings, I felt as confident as a soldier rushing a machine gun bunker, because I knew the odds were high that the customer would be able to poke their finger through my knowledge, because it was paper thin. And although many of my competitors were in the same position, that didn’t help, because the customers generally chose not to buy from either of us.
Fortunately this nightmare came to an end when I became best friends with Lee, an ambitious member of the delivery team. We were both strong where the other was weak. He had the technical and customer knowledge, and I had the sales knowledge. So Lee came to my meetings to learn the front-end of the business, and I went to his meetings to learn the back-end of the business. Although we weren’t required to attend these meetings, we looked at it as a long-term investment in our professional development.
And boy did that investment pay off. Sure customers still tried to poke holes in our knowledge, but they quickly discovered it was a mile deep. And where other salesmen would flinch, we were as solid as steel, because we were confident that we were leading the customer down the right path.
News of our success spread, and pretty soon I was hired by the competition to run their European office. Naturally I took Lee with me. We increased sales seven times, so that we were finally twice as big as our previous company. And Tim, our old boss, lost his job, because he foolishly thought that his salespeople were too stupid to understand.
So don’t underestimate your salespeople. They are smart and ambitious. But they need to be coached on customer knowledge.
Without an accurate customer map, they will only offer vague pain points that do nothing to inspire customers to change. And when you dig deeper, you find that it’s because they don’t have a clear picture of what hell looks like if the customer doesn’t have their product.
The good news is that this information is already in your sales force, because a few members of your sales team are exceeding quota. In as little as 10-minutes a week, for instance, you can start to make this tribal knowledge available to your whole sales team through “Customer Knowledge Story Coaching.” Humans are hard wired for stories. This is how we’ve shared our experiences for the past 100k years. But with virtual teams, this no longer happens naturally.
And because stories present a clear picture of hell if customers don’t and heaven if they do buy your product, knowledge gaps are immediately exposed when the picture is out of focus. This provides you with the opportunity to find, and then fill knowledge gaps. The result is that only quality stories will be published, so your salespeople will have relevant and engaging stories to use to help win future sales opportunities.
So don’t underestimate your salespeople!
Need help uncovering the best sales force automation software for your company?Compare the top solutions in our Top 10 Sales Force Automation report, or head over to the SFA resource center to browse top product reviews and blog posts.