Regress from an advanced robot to a human being
I was recently discussing training for new sales reps with my head of sales here at AdStage.io. This new rep (and a lot of new hires at AdStage) have the potential to become great, not just good. Good is often “good enough” and allows people to achieve some visual manifestations of impact or success. However, how does one truly go from good or great to revered? My conjecture is that in order for one to attain the next level, which I’ll refer to as “revered,” one needs to regress from an advanced robot to a human being. An advanced robot can be incredibly focused, knowledgeable and analytical. Being human, on the other hand, can entail exposing vulnerabilities and allowing meandering away from a target of focus.
This positive regression requires one to forfeit mental laziness, disconnect from “the sale,” educate oneself through unconventional sources and adapt the unconventional learnings into pragmatic solutions.
Robots can have product knowledge, know reasonable responses, handle objections and make a sale. They can typically handle 90% of the job, but they are missing something special that takes them to the next level. The problem is that in most businesses, robots are plenty “good enough” to get the job done. It’s not something one really learns when getting a MBA or in many traditional sales schools. The question is how do you escape mental laziness, which conditions us to settle on “good enough” and push oneself to attain a true level of reverence? I believe it has more to do with being personal, charismatic, altruistic and genuinely empathetic.
I’ve always found that success in sales for our company (advertising technology company) has come when the sales meeting only spends about 10–20% of time on the real sell and morphs into a conversation about the industry, about interesting new trends, ad types, strategies we picked up on with our own ad campaigns or jointly complaining about frustrations from the networks, etc. Or, in many cases, getting the conversation down to a personal level where you can connect beyond the sell, where the sale is truly just a potential byproduct of the conversation. Essentially leveraging his or her knowledge of the domain as a whole and shifting the product/service focused sell to something relatable even if it is outside the scope of what the offering does today. The idea here is to realize that in most sales, the person you are selling to will have far more confidence if the seller is at the same level of domain expertise/domain intelligence or greater. The latter is demonstrated through a conversation, not a product, not an offering.
A truly revered sales person (let’s call them a real closer) realizes what the human is actually going through across the table. You appeal to that, you appeal to their intellectual curiosity and show them you aren’t just a product expert but genuinely have an interest in helping them excel at their trade and frankly, can hang. The latter is critical, especially when you’re selling to sophisticated buyers. If they can trust you and your knowledge/expertise, they will believe (rightfully so) that the product will be an extension and product of the minds that are selling the offering to them.
I can’t tell you how many of our customers that rank us 8–10 on NPS surveys mention our Customer Success / Support team as one of their favorite aspects of working with AdStage. The reason for this is that CS (at least our team) is comprised of domain experts who build a strong relationship with our customers and in turn can empathize with the needs of our customers and help exercise their intellectual curiosity in the industry as a whole, not necessarily our product or product enhancements.
Sure, our platform is fine, but as an advertiser, you often will find yourself with a small team, tucked away in a corner as a part of a larger marketing organization. Paid marketers want friends too — they want fellow ad experts that can help them level up and take their expertise to the next level.
If one can convey that, then by signing up for your product, they are not only getting a tool but an entire team of like minded and intelligent industry experts who are best at their trade, you’ll instill more confidence in them, which in turn should yield not only a higher conversion rate but a decreased churn rate.
The question becomes, why not extend this customer success worldview across all interactions, sales, marketing, personal and beyond? It’s often lost on many that simply being genuine and nice goes a long way. This is not a rant on ethics, but instead, there is something truly difficult with being legitimately genuine in one’s interactions. It’s only once you remove yourself from the goal or desire of self-benefit (i.e. the sell) that you can escape what the majority of society deems “good enough.”
While this may all sound obvious, I urge you to consider the notion of regressing from a robot to a human when you make hiring decisions, conducting introspection or when nurturing young talent.