During hard times, the market contracts, people become more cautious and companies become even more risk averse. Despite the evidence that innovation and growth are seeded in rough economic cycles, everyone stops doing and starts over thinking. Which makes it harder for things to progress as the holding pattern promotes more of the same.
Many of the really skilled sales professionals with whom I worked closely taught me that in addition to being aggressive listeners, they embraced the objections - they sold right into them. I was reminded of this in reading Harry Joiners excellent piece about being up front with recruiters and potential employers in the hiring process.
The title of this post comes from the words of Joe Cossman (the inventor of the ant farm): “If you can’t change it, promote it.”
That works in personal marketing situations like finding or creating a new career opportunity and it works in marketing overall. We've always known that people are not perfect. In the age of transparency, when we're asking companies to become more human, being less than perfect and polished (in the non-core delivery of what you buy) can be an asset.
Harry provides the example of the real estate agent who puts the train near the house in the proper perspective by turning on the TV at that volume while showing the house. You, too can learn to build context around what you offer and find customers who can deal with who you are. The disconnect, the problem we have is when the service or product was over promised and then it under delivers. When we thought we bought "x" and we end up with "y".
Part of the disconnect also has to do with the concept of brand, which many overindulge over. Think of it as creating an expectation and then meeting that with an experience. It's not more complicated than that. With the help of social media, we are getting better at seeing that. I have two stories to illustrate.
On recruiting. I receive many calls from headhunters and recruiters because I have a very large network - online and especially off line. That is helpful. What is more helpful is that I remember people with whom I've had conversations years later. I also take the time to get to know recruiters and their sweet spot.
A couple of months ago, I got a call from a recruiter who was looking for a super job candidate. The company wanted everything and the kitchen sink with it. That is not unusual. I, too have hired and know how hard it is to get requisitions for new jobs - you need to make them count. What is hard to tell in an initial call, of course, is the ranking in which the company sees the characteristics they seek.
Plus, there is one more thing. Sometimes the hiring manager has one idea of how they'd like to proceed and will not see past it. The candidate recommended did not make the cut, but the recruiter called back to explain why. She understood that relationships are very important in her business and did not shy away from confronting the issues as they were. Honesty and transparency work very well in human relations.
The recruiter could not change the circumstances, so she chose to help the candidate understand the reasoning behind the conversation with the company that retained her. I also think this made the company look good - what do you think?
On buying a car. I've now bought a total of three cars from the same sales person. Working in a big franchise, he can sell new and used for a number of brands, which is great. How did I find this particular dealer and why do I still go there? He bought my car several years ago when I was given a company car. Took it for a spin, gave me a very honest appraisal and was simple to deal with.
When I was ready to buy, I didn't need to check anywhere else. I called in, told him the specs of what I was looking for and made an appointment. At the day and time, test drove a couple of options, and drove out with my choice. Just like that. The way we settled on the price - he asked me what I preferred to negotiate and started from there. He was upfront as to what he could do and what he couldn't do.
Whenever I have a problem - I did run into a pole once, my fault completely, I had not seen it - he recommended someone who could fix it with original parts at a fraction of the cost. The car was like new. He understands that the relationship trumps getting the extra dollar and it has paid off several times, and not just with this customer. I referred another two people who bought a car from him the same day they walked into the lot and who in turn referred other people.
This sales person chooses to confront the facts of costs and margins up front - he does need to make a living. I respect that - would you?
Have you ever sold into the objection? How did it go? If you haven't, how would you do it? Everyone is so pressed for time these days that getting attention is already selling into the objection. However, that opportunity needs to be used judiciously.
Have you bought from people who promoted the very thing that could have been a turn off? Did the context help make the sale?