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Upsetting the Client

You don’t want to upset the client…do you?

By Matt Pearce

I caught up with my father Wednesday night (A 40-year sales professional who had worked the full spectrum of sales leadership) to watch the State of Origin.

He asked me how my new job was going? My answer was great, I am learning a lot and an enjoying myself immensely.

I gave him some insight around what we do and talked through the Objective Management Group (OMG) Assessment Tool we use and its ability to measure the Sales traits (DNA) of an individual and how that underpins our Sales Selection process.  

Then I proposed this to him:

“You’re a dinosaur who came through the age of relationship-based selling. Do you believe it’s critical a sales person is liked by a client?”

His response: “Of course, they must be liked.”

It opened a great discussion around what underpins a strong sales process and the old sales adage of people buy off people.

One line that stuck in my head was:

“It’s all about the relationship and sales people need to be able to build a relationship to sell”.   

I then proposed the more interesting question:

“What if a sales person believes being liked by the client is critical to be able to sell to them and have an ongoing relationship?”

I then rolled out the stats from the OMG assessments. The top 5% of sales people across the 1.7 million assessed have minimal need for approval from their clients whilst the bottom 50% all have high needs for approval… or being liked. 

His response was great:

“Let me clarify my first statement. It’s not about being liked. It’s about being able to establish a professional relationship. A personal relationship is where you are liked, a professional relationship is being respected and trusted.”

“When people talk of relationship based selling it is the professional relationship that will lead to a sale. This can happen quickly if executed correctly. People who focus on the personal relationship (need for approval or being liked) for success will at some point fail”  

It made me reflect on a situation a friend of mine found himself in several years ago.

We met over a beer to celebrate him starting a new role. It was a blend of new Sales and Account Management.

He had inherited a territory and was contacting existing clients, going out and meeting them.

On meeting his largest client, he realised they were presently paying 40% under what they should be for the services the company was providing, this was $100k a year the business was losing.

Worse was he was told by the client “We loved the old Account Manager he was a great guy.

The classic “you have big shoes to fill” was rolled out. Ouch.

Heading back to the office, he asked a colleague who had been there for a while were they aware of this and how did it happen?

The response was his predecessor loved the relationships he had with his clients and didn’t want to UPSET them. He preferred to let it be rather than have the hard conversations.

They hadn’t had the annual price increase applied for the last 4 years and further to this had grown by 30% in that same time. This was the first of many.

Much to say, for my mate it was a challenging six months of difficult conversations and negotiation to align the existing business to the company’s commercial requirements.

It also meant he was spending more time “cleaning up the mess” then growing the territory.

So full circle to the discussion with my father and how did he assess this trait.

He said it was difficult.

He had used several personality and behavioural assessment tools with different companies and it was one of the trickier things to uncover, even during interview.

His next comment:

“I would know once they started working if this was going to be an issue. If they were unwilling or unable to have the hard conversations externally that need to happen from time to time, we had them internally. It was that simple”,

This was telling.

My question was, “So if you could have uncovered this before you hired them it would of help?”.

You can guess the answer.

It was then on to the game and watching our mighty Maroons fall.

My father turned to me after the game:

 “I reckon the referees had a greater need for approval from the NSW fans than the QLD fans by some of those calls.”

If you want to understand more about how you can discover these challenges before you appoint someone to interact with your clients, please reach out for a discussion.