Trust Is A Two Way Street

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“You sales people will say anything. I’ll believe it when I see it!”

I encounter the above statement, or some variant of it, far too often. It typically comes from angry prospective customers who are in trouble and they have read the marketing materials, but they have failed to do adequate research and planning. If you are offended by this article, then you are probably one of these types of customers.

Clients with the “trust no one” mentality believe that sales and marketing people are unethical by nature. The truth is that if you want a career in sales you have to be ethical and you must hold yourself to standards higher than what your customer’s have for you. This is the age of the Internet and social networking, so an unethical sales or marketing person is doomed! Our reputations are on the line with every deal that we enter into. Our reputations are a big part of what we build our careers upon.

I, for one, am not going to risk my reputation, my career, and my means of providing for my family by using deceptive practices. Yet I consistently run into prospective customer’s who from the very first meeting make it very clear to me that they do not trust me, but that they do expect me to deliver a working solution as quickly as possible for an incredibly low price.

This always causes me to think “If you do not trust me, then why the hell did you reach out to me or agree to see me?”

This blog post is my plea to such customer’s to change their ways! I meet with far too many of you, and you are not doing a good job.

I repeat: Untrusting difficult customers are not doing a good job! You hurt yourselves!

You see, the sales process is a feedback loop. When one side enters into that feedback loop with a pre-existing expectation of being deceived (not to be confused with healthy skepticism) that adds cycles to the sales process. The more cycles added to a sales process the less profitable the deal becomes for everyone involved. As a pre-sales resource I have to judge what the length and effort involved in closing a deal will be. Just as a prospective customer must judge if the cost of a solution will be worth whatever value the solution will provide, I am judging if the potential cost of the sales process is worth the revenue that the sale will provide.

Now just as I am competing for your purchase against other sales teams, you are competing as a customer for my time and attention. Furthermore, just as my reputation is being monitored through social networking so too is your reputation as a customer. Sales people, even competing sales people, talk to each other. We help each other avoid bad customers.

This means that if you come off as or have a reputation for being a difficult prospect I might decide to walk away from you and your deal. This is why I not only need to win the trust of the prospective client, but the prospective client has to win my attention and devotion.

I sometimes wonder if perhaps it is the wide use of the “unethical and desperate sales person” trope in fiction that causes some prospective customers to think that they alone are crucial to my personal success. Do not assume that I need your deal to make my sales number, or that I am going to do anything and everything in order to keep you happy or else I will lose my job. That is not the case at all. That is a mere fiction.

I, and many other people in sales and pre-sales roles, am very good at what I do. I have skills that make me valuable to many organizations who need to fill many different types of roles. I am far from being pigeon holed in terms of what I can do, and for whom I can work for. You need to know that I choose to be in pre-sales. I do not have to be in pre-sales.

So why do I choose to be in pre-sales?

I choose to be in pre-sales because I like people, I like technology, and I like to help people solve their problems with technology. The great thing about being in IT pre-sales is that the overwhelming majority of prospective customers that I meet with are actually very open and trusting of me (and I of them). We meet and have great conversations. We learn from each other. We help each other. I have great job satisfaction, because I deal with great people most of the time.

Yes, the money is good. I am paid handsomely, but believe it or not I can make the same amount of money and possibly more doing other jobs. The money is a factor, but it is definitely not the deciding factor with many deals that I work on.

Case in point, I once had two deals that both needed a great deal of attention. One customer had a smaller deal that was quite complex, but he was a great person to just hang out and talk about technology with. The other customer had a larger deal, and was demanding that I provide proof of any claim made with references from multiple third parties. This demanding customer also said that our profitable 30+ year old company had better pass his personal business analysis so that he knew we would still be in business after selling him our services. Guess which customer got my undivided attention and which customer’s deal I told the sales person to pass on?

Despite the one deal having larger potential revenue the sales person agreed that the level of work involved was not worth it. Instead we worked on the smaller deal so that we could work with the customer that we both liked dealing with. We just wanted to make a reasonable profit while at the same time having fun doing it, and people are the biggest factor when it comes to having fun at your job.

This kind of decision is not uncommon despite what some people think about sales people. No one succeeds in sales by spending $1 to close a $1 deal. So do not make demands that requires us to spend $5 in the pursuit of your $1 deal for a solution that you need. Ridiculously untrusting and suspicious customers are too costly for us to work with. We have other customers that we will pursue instead, and we will fulfill those customer’s needs first. We will make those customers more successful, and we will have a lot of fun doing it.

And those other customers just happen to be your competitors.

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