The biggest challenge salespeople face today is that they are part of a dysfunctional relationship with consumers. Even the salespeople in my seminars, courses and coaching sessions, admit that when they are the consumer, they don’t believe salespeople care about them and because of this they don’t believe most of what the salesperson tells them.

These beliefs are reinforced today because companies continue to increase their innovative marketing, creative advertising campaigns and use of cutting edge technology without changing what consumers believe about salespeople. This has resulted in higher expectations by consumers that salespeople are unprepared to meet, resulting in more disbelief and dysfunction.

To most executives, marketing and advertising people, consumers aren’t individuals with their own needs, wants and desires; they are buying segments, target groups, prospects and revenue streams. In most cases, all they represent are the ‘orders’.

Revenue and profits are generated by the relationship between salespeople and consumers and this relationship is obviously, dramatically, affected by the intentions, attitudes, skills and actions of salespeople. When we started making the bottom line our singular focus and sacrificed the relationship with consumers, this intention spreads to the engagement with consumers and started to sabotage the revenue and profits we were focused on. It’s very much like focusing on winning and not on what produces winning in sports.

Executives, sales managers, sales trainers and salespeople have all been focused on making sales, not making customers. They focus on sales skills, the sales process or sales tactics to increase sales while also increasing the intention to make sales as the focus. As salespeople go to work with the dominant focus of making a sale, consumers rightly decide salespeople don’t care about them and only wanted to sell them their products. They based this on the attitudes and behavior of the salespeople they engaged.  This lack of trust has led consumers to now state in surveys that they just hope the salesperson will stay out of their way. Being knowledgeable, helpful, interested and engaging are not even on buyers’ radar screens of their expectations of salespeople, even as they state that what they want most when shopping, is help!

This intention to make a sale creeps in slowly. No one wanted to damage the consumers opinion of salespeople on purpose. A great example of this, is as Peter Drucker said, “The purpose of business is to make customers”.  In the recent publication, “Selling Is Dead”, the authors paraphrase Mr.Drucker by saying, “The purpose of business is to make  new customers”. This subtle change reinforces and shifts the intention back to making a sale, not a customer.

In every sales engagement, the most powerful communication is non-verbal.  When a salesperson engages a consumer with the intention to a make sale, it is felt by the consumer and they retract from the salesperson. It also creates the salesperson’s behavior and together they have broken the relationship that produces revenue and generates profits.

The consumer and salesperson relationship has deteriorated to the point that consumers no longer believe or trust salespeople. Since everyone is a consumer, this mistrust has spread to the non-sales employees in most companies. Since they believe they can’t trust salespeople, why would they trust the salespeople in their own company? Remember what I said earlier… for nearly two decades, salespeople have told me they don’t trust or believe other salespeople when they’re the consumer!

This culture has also invaded the executive branch in most companies. While most management teams today complain that their salespeople are just order takers, the entire company needs to assume responsibility for the culture that created this. Executives, sales managers and sales trainers must realize they participated in this dysfunction and new intentions will be needed to heal the relationship before the skills they’ve been teaching will produce the best results.

The good news is that it’s easier today than ever before to separate yourself from your competition, increase revenue and profits by shifting your intentions to making customers, not sales.

By Mike Moore

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