The Reluctant Sales Rep
In college, I worked for the Office of Annual Giving, which is a very calculated and optimistic department name. In reality, I cold called alumni and asked for monetary donations to the university – in return giving them a tax write-off and a sense of charity.
I chose this job for purely selfish reasons. Not to improve the quality of my degree or get the Arts school the proper funding for a new wing – it was the highest paid on-campus job. Meaning I could work less and earn more. Done and done.
I quickly discovered sales was not my strong suit. In fact, as I sat in front of my computer screen, desperately practicing the pronunciation of the alumnus’s name before me, (“Wow there are no vowels. I wonder if the second ‘T’ is silent? Is it Slavic? Greek?”) I prayed it would just go to voice mail.
When someone did pick up the phone, I was immediately overcome with guilt. Thoughts ran through my head, “I’m sorry I’m calling you. You’re probably relaxing after a day of work, eating dinner with your family, spending time with your children… Yes, I’m asking for money, but it’s not for me! It’s for our school! Remember our school?”
While my desperation and muffled cries earned me a few pity donations, I heard “No” most of the time. And each time, I had to brush off the last rejection as the automatic dialer decided I was ready to try again.
That was the beginning and the end of my Sales career.
Unfortunately, too many companies in the business world employ similar Sales strategies – bringing on inexperienced Sales personnel selling complex products and services. Being cold called often makes business consumers feel as if they’re being talked at, instead of engaged with.
The modern B2B buyer wants to be educated, either through self-directed or vendor-directed research. People buy from companies they like and social media has facilitated nontraditional buying opportunities. Social media sites allow buyers and sellers to come together in an informal environment, often pushing company culture just as much as products and services.
Traditional cold calling doesn’t work anymore because buyers feel as if the sellers (Sales reps) are taking something from them – their time. Time can’t be replaced and creates an off-balance relationship from the first conversation. Buyers can feel cornered and quickly pigeonhole Sales reps as a “seller” only interested in closing a deal.
Instead, we want Sales reps to be viewed as a trusted resource during the buying process. Someone prospects and leads turn to with questions and concerns, receiving honest and educated answers in return. This is why buyers have to first be nurtured, through social media, email campaigns, and event opportunities created by the Marketing department.
As buyers work their way through this content, either independently or gently guided by a Sales rep, they are driving their own sales cycle. They decide when they’ve consumed enough knowledge to make a purchasing decision or that they need to learn more about your competitors, current customers, pricing options, etc.
Through a tested and perfected lead scoring model, you can ensure that Sales reaches out to qualified leads at the most opportune time.
I have incredible respect for Sales reps. They face pressure to meet their numbers, internal competition with other reps, and mentally exhausting responsibilities. Quality Sales reps depend on quality marketers, so each department must work together to produce products, qualify leads, and close the sales cycle.
So, how did I end my short-lived service as a student caller? Easy. I applied to become a supervisor and spent the next two years training other students how to cold call.