Planning Sales Tech

If the Customer is Bored, It’s Your Fault

The sales rep I was working with that day had started his PowerPoint presentation, plowing through the thirty-five slides with maniacal fervor.
I was watching the customer; she was beginning to roll her eyes. She looked at me as if to plead for relief. I bumped the sales rep’s foot to get his attention, but his focus was intense.
Then I reached into the sales rep’s computer bag and brought out a sales agreement. That finally diverted his attention from the computer screen.

If the customer is bored

Simply put, it is your fault. Imagine an auditorium full of people; the entertainer’s job is to read the room and perform his best material for the pleasure of the audience. Sales reps need to do the same. Be prepared with your material and a plan of execution.
However, you need to take cues from the customer. You made this elaborate PowerPoint presentation. You included beautiful pictures and the perfect font with just a shade of color. Just know—it means nothing to the customer if it doesn’t fit the need.
You’re not there to entertain, but you must engage.

How does this happen?

This is a bad situation. In working with new sales reps in the field, I’ve witnessed more ways to bore a prospect or customer.
Here are a few:

  • You ARE boring
  • Your presentation is boring
  • You haven’t engaged the customer
  • They feel you are wasting their time
  • You haven’t shown any value

You ARE boring
What if you are boring? Why? Are you speaking in a monotone, trance-like manner lulling the customer to sleep? Maybe you didn’t sleep well and are just tired. Or a tiff with your spouse causes a foul mood.
Whatever the reason, you have to put the customer first and be vibrant and attentive.
Your presentation is boring
The last thing most customers want is a thirty-minute lesson on the history of your company. I promise you this will bore them to tears. Also, if you have more than five slides, you are bordering on too many. If your slides have more than a dozen words each, pare them down. If they include dozens of facts and figures from some study from a decade ago, it has to go.
Think about what you include on your slides. They aren’t a crutch for a lack of knowledge.
You haven’t engaged the customer
If you are doing all the talking, you are failing as a salesperson. The customer has more critical items on their list than to listen to you drone on about your issues.
Your call plan should have the right questions to engage the customer and get them talking about their company and their problems. How will you fix what you don’t know is broken?
The Customer thinks you are wasting time
Wasting their time is similar to the above. If the customer perceives you as a waste of their time, you will get nowhere with them. You have to be considerate of the time they carved out of their busy schedule to speak with you. If you have fifteen minutes, use it wisely so they don’t feel like they should be working on something else.
You haven’t shown any value
Why are you wasting their time if you have nothing to add to their company. Why are you there? What help are you? Is it budget-friendly?
What is the value you are bringing to them?
You are not paying attention to the customer
The worst problem of all is if you are not paying attention to them. The sales rep I was working with was so focused on HIS preparation, HIS PowerPoint, HIS sales plan, HIS problems, HIS time, he forgot why he was there: to help this customer solve a problem.
Think about how that looks to the customer.

How do you resolve the issue?

First, don’t be boring. Prepare well and have a meeting plan but remember to read the customer. You may have to “wing it” once the meeting starts, and it moves over to a tangent. Just because you think you know their problems, you might be off base.
Pay attention to the customer—their feedback—to stay on track. It will pay off in the end.
If they begin talking about a problem they have, stop thinking about your reply and pay attention to what they are saying. You might learn something.
And if you are listening to them speak, you cannot be boring.
Think about it!

What was My Salesrep’s mistake?

He wasn’t paying attention to the customer and was talking past the sale. She was ready to buy, but he needed to finish “selling” her. She was prepared to buy after the forth slide, but he was power pointing ahead. He spent so much time building those thirty-five slides he didn’t want them wasted.

Driving to the next appointment allowed a discussion about a customer first approach.

Business Sales

Are you the person responsible for sales training?

When I started in outside sales, the Sales Manager handed me a 3-ring binder and walked over to a map on the wall. He raised his arm and, with an extended finger, pointed at the map, drawing a lazy circle around an area an hour from the office. He said, “We don’t have customers in this area, so you can call on anybody you like.” It was virgin territory with no list of customers or prospects. That was my training!

Time Passes

Decades later, I became the manager of a wholesale/retail business. In the beginning, I watched the operations to see how things ran. Quickly, I began to notice inefficiencies. 

Customers would come in, and all the counter people were busy, so a manager would have to stop what they were doing and wait on a customer. I wondered what the counter people were doing that was taking so much time. 

It involved two things: pulling their orders and calling around to suppliers to find specialty items, then creating purchase orders and sending when they found items. 

It was Bad

Both issues needed addressing, but it got worse. 

The next discovery was that they were calculating the selling price for each item on their own. I began looking at the invoices and tracking back to the purchase orders and discovered in many cases, they were selling items at a loss. When questioned, they explained they were taught to “get the cost and multiply by 2.5.” That was supposed to be a reasonable price. 

The problem? The freight cost was not considered, so it was absorbed by the company and not charged to the customer for their special orders.

Real Example:

A customer ordered five each of an item. Our cost from the supplier was $2.00 each. With the 2.5 multiplier, the counter person sold them to the customer for $5.00 each. Five times $5.00 is $25.00. It looks like a decent profit until I tell you the UPS charge for bringing the items to us was $15.00.

Adding the cost of the items, $10 plus the UPS charge, $15, you get the picture. Just the items and freight were the same as the selling price, $25.00 Not counting time spent, and all the personnel that had to touch the PO and the order at Corporate. How much did we lose? Probably twice the cost of the items.

Why do I bring this up?

Inadequate training does not constitute training 

I then conducted a training session for the counter people to explain. They were shocked, to say the least, to learn that their training cost the company money, instead of making it money. 

So who was responsible for their training? I was once I found the issue. My question is who should have caught this earlier. The 2.5 times cost was the standard practice in place for many years. I can’t even imagine the money the company lost over the years. And, they had nine locations, all taught the same thing. 

Has This Happened to You?

I’ve noticed a pattern around this type of training. Since it needs to be universal and simple, it is easy to make it too easy and too simple. 

This practice in place at nine locations and used daily and weekly, must have devastated their bottom line.

What is your experience with this type of problem? I am curious if this goes deeper than a few isolated cases.