TALKING SALES 84: “The downside of sales automation”

Spreadsheet human2                            “We must maintain the human element in sales” – Discussion with  John Smibert.

 

In this discussion Cian McLoughlin expresses his concern that the incessant driving of new technology and methodologies into sales (and marketing) often veils the need for salespeople to be human.  He says it “can lead to a negative impact on the first impression you make with your customer”.

Cian Portrait570x618According to Cian the application of technology often has the effect in the mind of the salesperson of unwittingly “reducing the customer to a line item on a spreadsheet, or an opportunity in the sales forecast, as distinct from recognising that he/she is an individual or a group of individuals to whom the salesperson is selling”.

And most importantly Cian says “If we put everything into the commoditization of the sales process, we’re losing the human element, and I think by doing that we’re missing out on a really, really integral part of selling, which is people.

Cian recommends once implemented we put technology and methods to one side and then focus on the human qualities that we bring to the table, the credibility and the authority. That’s what’s going to help you to establish rapport, and ultimately to get the job done.

View or read the interview below to learn more.

Cian McLoughlin is a guru in win/loss analysis, he’s a speaker, an author, and a leading advisor to the sales fraternity.

See more of the ‘TALKING SALES’ series here

Interview

John: Hello! I’m here with Cian McLoughlin again – welcome back, Cian!

Cian: Thanks, John – nice to be here!

John: Cian, you and I have both expressed concerns about automation of the sales process and the impact that might have on sales. I’d like you to elaborate on that a little bit.

Cian: Sure. I can understand why there is so much focus on sales automation. If you’re a large organisation and you’ve got lots of salespeople, you want to have a consistent sales process, and I think that’s fine and it makes sense. But what seems to be happening nowadays is there is too much emphasis on sales automation, email campaign automation, marketing automation, and really what that does is it has a negative impact on the first impression you make with your customer.

John: It does sometimes, doesn’t it?

Cian: Yes.

John: Particularly less experienced and less successful salespeople tend to want to follow the process religiously and forget about the customer a little bit. Is that your findings?

Cian: It is. Not so much even that they’re forgetting about the customer, it’s that what they’ve done is they’ve reduced the customer to a line item on a spreadsheet, or an opportunity in the sales forecast, as distinct from recognising that it’s an individual or a group of individuals that they’re selling to. What that does is it divorces the level of empathy and interpersonal skills that are actually required, certainly in the B2B world, to make that connection with your customer, and ultimately to move the conversation forward to a point where it might turn into a sale.

John: To some extent you’re saying you lose that realness of being a real person talking to a real person, and sometimes it’s going to affect the transparency you have in discussions as well.

Cian: Yes. I mean, it’s a cliché almost in the sales world to say, “People do business with people,” but they do, and ideally they do business with people that they like and they trust. I had a meeting yesterday with a sales executive, a senior sales executive in a large tech company, and he made a really interesting point. He said that he sits down with a sales team and they have to jump through a whole lot of hoops in their CRM in order to move a sale or an opportunity – from stage F to E, etc., etc. – but sometimes they’ll actually do that. They’ll move it through all the stages and they’ll still lose the business, and they can’t understand why, because they’ve ticked every box in CRM. But that’s not how deals are done, let’s be honest.

John: Yes. Yes, you have to know where you’re up to in the sales process, but it’s probably just as important in the buyer process, understanding where the buyer’s at and being real with the buyer.

Cian: Absolutely. We’ve got all of these different sales methodologies. We’ve got SPIN, we’ve got Challenger and we’ve got all the… and they all have a very useful basis in putting a structure together. But we have to realise that they’re a means to an end, they’re not the end in itself. If we put everything into the commoditization of the sales process, we’re losing the human element, and I think by doing that we’re missing out on a really, really integral part of selling, which is people.

John: So the bottom line then, the key message you’re trying to bring across, as I understand it, to sales leaders and salespeople is you do need to automate, but you’ve got to be very careful not to lose the human feel, to be person-to-person and relate well with the person you’re working with. And that’ll be different from person to person to person.

Cian: Absolutely. This concept of almost the “McDonaldisation” of the sales process… In the B2B world there’s a commoditization happening at the bottom end of the market anyway. A lot of the tasks that we used to do are being commoditised, and that’s fine; put those to one side and then focus on the human qualities that we bring, the credibility, the authority that we bring to the table. That’s what’s going to help you to establish rapport, and ultimately to get the job done.

John: I think it’s a great message. I think the audience will learn a lot from that, and I really appreciate your time and your thought, and your experience you bring to the table. Thanks, Cian!

Cian: It’s a pleasure, John – thanks for having me!

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More interviews with Cian McLoughlin:

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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.

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