As much as I use PowerPoint and Excel to make a point, I still think it is a good idea to know how to use a paper napkin or a white board. There is something almost magical in that kind of performance because it is personal, almost intimate, especially when you are dealing with professional sales people. If you are too cool to draw a picture, there are a lot of people you are going to miss. Lest we forget, for many people it is still an analogue world.
One of my clients was a digitally inclined auto dealer who employed 10 to 14 sales people. Automotive sales forces are of a variable nature because they tend to have a 30% attrition rate. It’s not for everyone. The client faced two major problems in sales. Basically, he hated his sales people and they hated him in return. It was a digital divide. The other problem was pricing. The client discounted vehicles below break-even and posted them on the Internet. Sales did not know about it but their computer savvy customers did.
My client invested in ten furnished computer cubicles with really nice big monitors, whiz-bang phones, and the super-duper training seminars that were included. His sales force grudgingly endured the latter and pretty much ignored the former, except for outbreaks of pornography watching and chat-room chatting. The client could not understand why “his guys” did not use the great tools he had given them. When they did use them, he said, “They’re like a bunch of monkeys with typewriters.” He told them that.
It didn’t help that my client had been through a Dale Carnegie sales training program. His framed certificate of training made him conclude that that he was a great salesperson. Unfortunately, he sucked air as a sales person. He genuinely lacked people skills. He did not know how to listen to prospects. That made him impatient with them. Nor could he understand how people refused to follow his robotic and raced through presentations. It did not help that the client told his sales people that they didn’t know what they were doing, which he did.
One thing that auto dealers and self-described great sales people have in common is that they are marks. They are called “lay-downs” because they will buy anything. They have no sales resistance. Since they are such great sales people, they overcome their own objections. They are especially vulnerable to the bane of all professional sales existence called “Susie Sales Girl,” who is the willowy, well-heeled blond woman who sells sales seminars, full-page color newspaper ads, websites, bus advertising that forgets to include the dealership phone number on a 30 vehicle fleet, logo embossed novelty pens, and enough balloons and helium for the Macy’s Parade. When Susie sells computer hardware and software, many clients can’t write a check quickly enough. There is no one to stop them.
Dealers are not the only people who get sold hardware and software. Many business owners buy into the idea that software by itself can solve everything, or at least that it should. It is the using of the software, along with everything that implies that can be problematic after the sale. The biggest after-sale problems are technical support and user training. Support and training are rarely onetime events even though they tend to be treated as if they were. However, when such a tool as a complex computer application cannot be used, the hardware might as well be a boat anchor. Except for sailors who just bought a new boat, no one wants to admit they bought a boat anchor for their business.
My client had purchased 10 boat anchors as well as a jumbo monitor for the conference room, where he routinely put his sales crew to sleep with PowerPoint presentations and webinars. That created a hate-hate relationship I mentioned enhanced by technology.
Organization integrity was the management issue in this case. As an owner, the client had assumed to position of General Manager and Sales Manager. He employed a Service Manager, Finance Manager, Parts Manager, an Office Manager, a Personnel Manager and a Facilities Manager. But in those positions they had no one to report to because the owner was so busy in his area of least competence. So those managers were more or less on their own. The organizations’ lines of communication atrophied and business suffered as a result.