Selling To Sellers

“When I were a lad…”  Yes, buckle in for a trip down memory lane.  In the 80s I was involved in selling computers.  They were easy to spot.  No matter how new they were, they always looked grubby.  The screens weren’t much better.  Epilepsy inducing green flickering text on a blackboard.  If you paid more, mister customer, how about the delightful amber text instead?  Then a long lead would disappear against the skirting board, held by gaffer tape, leading to a windowless air-conditioned room.  Inside a bespectacled bloke would sit in silence.  Probably weighing up which day of next month to wash his hair.  He must have been busy, ‘cos everytime you asked him to do something, he’d take his head out of what looked to be a large industrial top-loading washing machine, tell you he was busy and that you should come back in stardate 1277.1.

Yet how awe-inspiring.

For anyone in sales, and perhaps all those that weren’t, unless you were already on the financial barrow-boy greasy pole, you simply had to force your way into selling computers.  It was a bonanza of clubbing seals proportions.  And just as analogous, once begun, unethically nothing good ever came of the project.

Then manufacturers discovered the Far East.  Plummeting hardware prices meant less commission.  So the reps jumped ship.  The natural liferaft was in software.  Produce code that could do the job of a real person in less of the time, and people’s pockets were suddenly deep.  The trick for a rep was to calculate the difference to as tiny an amount as possible.  If someone costs their employer $100 a day, why don’t we charge them $99.  Wow, just think of all that saving, an extra whole percentage point slashed off your costs and added onto your margins.  The City will love you.  With business bursting with software, every bean was counted, every widget shipped.  Then someone realised that the last bastion to repel the tide could now be tamed.  Welcome to sales software.  Life would never be the same again.  Where did I park my Ferrari?

Then programmers discovered the Indian sub-continent.  First desktop, then web-accessed code benefitted from software factories where the average annual salary for a Masters qualified webmonkey was only $4,000.

And the reps salivated.  Even more margin.

The software was an essential component of every management control plan.  Was it any good?  Did it work?  What value did it add?  Who cared.  Tick in the box achieved, let’s get back to that dodgy email from that irate customer.

But at long last, the swindle caught up with them.  So now what does every sales operation use?  Well, the equivalent of quill and abacus.  And I’m not joking.  Ask yourself why no field-based reps use their crm to the full and what do they do to keep records themselves?

One meeting with a prospect I had recently started with this unpromising gambit from the prospect, “so you’re yet another person selling me information, why should I be interested when I can’t digest all the info that I currently get?”


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