Why are some sales people less successful than others? They create customer relationships that should lead to a sale, but it doesn’t. Does CRM make a difference? What can they learn from successful sales people? In my youth, shortly after beginning my career in business (which was a long time ago), I got to talking with a salesman on a long train journey. He was making notes in a black book. (This was in the days before Blackberry and PDA’s and IT-supported CRM.) He noticed my curiosity; didn’t seem to mind my rudeness. I asked what he was doing. “These are my customers”, he said. I said, “It doesn’t look much like an address book to me; you seem to be writing a lot about each one. He said, “I write in the names of spouses and kids and birthdays and anniversaries.” I said, “Why?” He said it helped when visiting a customer to ask how his wife was or to ask how the kids were or if one of his kids had some critical exam at school; how did he get on? I don’t remember what he was selling, but he had to keep in touch with over 500 customers. “Remembering something personal establishes some common ground”, he said, “which helps a lot. It helps re-construct some relatedness from previous calls and visits before we talk about new products and getting an order. I might not have had an opportunity to visit for 1-2 years so I can’t remember things like I would with personal friends.” I was a recently graduated engineer and was working in a team at Dupont, where remembering personal things about colleagues was an unconscious part of working together. I had difficulty feeling comfortable with this ‘black book’ kind of relationship-support way of relating to people. I said, “This sounds a little bit phony to me; don’t people find it offensive?” He said not. “If you ask about someone’s son Arnold and how was their skiing holiday, they take it as a compliment. Get his son’s name wrong and it’s an insult.” “It takes a little while to learn how to do it sincerely; it’s a different kind of relatedness builder, but it’s not dishonest. It has to become part of who you are, seamless, you know? You just need to remember that there is a business purpose to your relationship, and you don’t have all day, and you need to close the deal; and that’s who you are.” This was my introduction to CRM systems (though the label and the TLA came much later). Looking back on this encounter with many years of sales force consultancy work and CRM projects behind me (JI Management Consultants),...
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