Will Salespeople Follow the Route of the Dinosaur?
Sales reps need to evolve or they will go extinct; some already have. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you a story. It is a bit long, but I promise the payoff is there.
I am confident that most of you reading this have had the “opportunity” to buy a car from a traditional dealership? I needed a gently used 2017 truck. My favorite car to buy is usually less than one year old and has about 5,000 miles on it. Essentially, I am looking for a new car where someone else ate the depreciation.
When I started my search a couple weeks ago, I went to both the local Ford and Dodge dealerships to look at trucks. At both dealerships, I had nearly the exact same experience.
Before heading out, I know my criteria, I want a diesel with at least 11k towing capacity and I want it at a certain price point. I arrive at the lot and start looking at the trucks, they are all locked so can’t look inside or get the information I want to know. Nor is there information posted on a window sticker to tell me the current mileage of the truck or the asking price.
The “salesperson” comes out and I ask them about the ten trucks I see on the lot that might fit my needs, the conversation goes like this:
Me: “Which of these has that towing capacity?”
Salesperson: “Not sure. Let me look it up.” (I wait 5 minutes while they are on their phone.)
Me: “How much is this one?”
Salesperson: “Not sure. Let me look it up.” (Another 5 minutes.)
After repeating this process 7-10 times I can no longer remember how many miles, what price or the towing capacity of each truck. My frustration is growing.
Me: “Can I look inside this one?”
Salesperson: “Sure, let me go get the keys.” (5 more minutes.)
Me: “Can I test drive it?”
Salesperson: “Sure, but I have to go with you.”
We get back from the drive and I ask to test drive a different truck.
Salesperson: “OK, let me go get keys.” (Yet another 5 mins.)
This is such a frustrating process and the sales rep is not providing any help to guide me given the relatively straight forward needs I have shared for pricing, mileage and towing capacity! It appears to me that their role is to go and get keys! In fact, although my expectation was that the salesperson would be an expert on their vehicles, there were at least a few occasions where I had better data on towing capacity of diesels vs hemi’s, etc.
And if all of this was enough to drive me mad, here’s is what put me over the top: At one dealership, (although I had heard about it before) I experienced firsthand the tag team game of the “poser” and the “closer.” After all the back and forth, waiting to get information, and finally test-driving the trucks, the less experienced rep (the poser) made me go sit at his desk. I didn't want to go sit at his desk but, this is the process. He then made me give him all sorts of data and fill out a form. After he walked out of the room with his completed forms, my wife and I were left just sitting at his desk. This is when the more experienced closer came over.
After introductions, the closer (no joking) said to me:
“Have you ever heard the saying: stepping on dollars to pick up dimes?”
Ahhh, I see the upsell. My wife will tell you that this was the point when I lost my mind a little.
"Do not try to upsell me or I am walking out the door!!!!” I may have been a little loud when I said it, and it was only minutes later that we did, walk out the door.
Don’t despair, I did get a truck. But the company that eventually closed the deal, offleaseonly.com, provided a very different experience.
We walked into their lobby and see 40 big monitors that have every detail listed on the over 500 cars currently in stock. Using the monitors, I can easily search for my parameters and it displays the results for only trucks that meet my requirements (price, towing capacity & mileage). Additionally, I am provided the location of the vehicle on the lot!
With information in hand, I can go look at the trucks I am interested in, and guess what? Every truck is unlocked and has three pages of data inside with everything I need to know about the truck! I narrow it down to the two that I think are the best and I text the vehicle #s to the tech inside.
Just a few minutes later, the truck(s) are parked out front so that my wife and I can take them for a ride, by ourselves!
After returning from the test drive, we have selected which one we want. I buy a truck with a lot less frustration and a dramatically streamlined process. What was the biggest difference in these scenarios?
I never spoke with a salesperson.
Why this story you ask? As a lifelong salesperson, sales leader and sales consultant, I am fascinated with sales. It occurred to me that this process was not unlike a B2B transaction where the rep does not add any value to the process.
Going into the process of buying my truck, I was (fairly) certain about what I wanted and the budget I had to spend. However, I was even more certain about the problem I am trying to solve by purchasing the truck. When I went into the traditional dealerships, I was still open to suggestions for interesting ways or alternative approaches for solving that problem. However, the reps that “helped” me, didn’t do that, they simply pushed product.
This experience (and countless others shared with me), begs the question: are we as salespeople evolving fast enough? I don't think so.
With all the discussions of sales transformation, insight selling, etc., I fear that we’re all going the way of traditional auto reps if we don't change. Their approach is based on a 1980’s, or earlier, model(s) for selling. So are many approaches to selling in the marketplace today. If these reps don't significantly transform, they will all be gone and replaced digitally.
We must fundamentally re-think the role of sales. Here is a sobering statistic:
When CSO Insights asked 500+ B2B buyers what were the top three resources they turn to, to learn about solutions… ninth on the list was engage with salespeople.
So, I encourage to take a closer look and ask:
- As a salesperson, am I (or is my sales team) adding value?
- Am I helping people understand how they can use our (fill in the blank) to solve a problem or fill a need? (Or just pushing product?)
- Would my customers and prospects rank me as one of their top three resources to go to for information?
If you answered no to any (or all) of these questions, it might be time to fast-track your evolution before you go the way of the (dinosaur) used car salesman.