Curmudgeon Rant

Blame it on the repetitive snow storms, the cold, or the blahs of January.  I feel compelled to spout off about a number of subjects:

  • Self proclaimed experts.  In the Social Media/Digital 2.0 world a self proclaimed expert pops up every 15 minutes.  Malcolm Gladwell had it right in this book The Outliers where he said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert.  One more blog or article about the need to listen, act and integrate social media by some 20+ year old blogger will convince me that the millennials never learned about plagiarism.  I would settle for one good report that tightly links repeatable social media actions to sales by a B2B company whose products sell for over $50K each.  (By tightly I mean, I did this digitally and as a result this specific sale occurred, not that we listened, responded and our overall revenue went up 10 %.)

 

  • The assumption by the social media “experts” that the same tactics used in B2C apply to B2B. Listen up!  B2B is different than B2C.  Any time a company is going to put out 6 or 7 figures for something, and that something is tied to a person or committee in the company, they want to see, hear, and talk to a person…directly.  Yes the significant influencer will do research on the Web.  Yes, they will appreciate “nurturing” emails as they progress through the buying cycle, but at the end of the day the person/committee making the decision wants to sit across the table from a person, have him/her look them in the eye, and talk about the product.  A corollary to this action is that many buying companies want “one throat to choke” and they cannot choke a plug in the wall.

 

  • Providing a value add.  It appears that fewer and fewer companies are providing a true, differentiated value add.  Most companies seem to feel that they can or should offer something that is similar to what is already in the market, and then gain revenue and profit by exploiting a distribution, service or promotion flaw in the market leader.  I recognize that many “first movers” fail, and that being second in a market is a valid strategy, but being 4th, 5th or 6th speaks to either unbelievable hubris or stupidity.  How some of these companies get funding or resources remains a mystery.  If you have a fully differentiated product, go for it.  If you are planning to be a “me too” go back to the drawing board.

 

  • Most buyers are smarter than sellers think. It took less than 2 years for B2B buyers of software to realize that the later in the month/ quarter that they negotiate their purchase, the bigger discount they get.  Buyers quickly learn about, and subsequently reject, ploys to get them to part with their money.  Three things count for a B2B buyer:
    • Does the product do what I want it to do?  (References are key here.)
    • Do I respect the seller and do they respect me? (Personal contact required here.)
    • How long have they been in business and what is their reputation? (Due diligence required.)

The buying company will use the Internet to get some of the information to answer these questions, but in order to               achieve the emotional comfort that is part of the purchase, a person has to be part of the equation.  Note that often price is number 6 or 7 on a list of key criteria.

  • Being polite.  People made fun of the way IBM used to enforce a dress and behavior code.  But their salespeople always showed up “presentable” and conveyed an image of respect, helping propel IBM into profitable leader.  It is  not clear that today’s sellers of $100K+ software packages or hardware project the same image or give the same impression, either by their dress or the way they act, with the resulting negative impression reflecting back on their companies.  For some it seems acceptable to show up in jeans and a black T-shirt and say, “Dudes, glad to see you guys here.  Sorry I am late, can you wait a few moments while I get my x%#**g presentation hooked up and by the way do you have any Diet Coke?”  Sure, I am going to give this guy’s company $250K over the next three years.

As someone has said, the only constant is change.  However, underneath the change remain certain bedrock principles of trust, respect, responsibility and doing what is right.  It goes without saying that the higher the value of the transaction, the more important these principles are.  Personally, I don’t know of any way these can be accurately conveyed over the Internet…a knowledgeable, articulate presentable person is required.

I have to go snow-blow my driveway for the 12th time this month and put another log on the fire.  Your thoughts?

RHM  1/27/2011

4 comments to Curmudgeon Rant

  • Bob Sullebarger

    Great piece. Couldn’t agree more. Demand generation is one thing; professional selling is quite another.

  • Homer Shannon

    Bob: I loved your rant. But, it is more than a rant. It’s a tongue lashing to all those that think they can be sales people by just showing up to take an order. Understanding the customer’s needs is the MOST important part of sales. Dressing and acting appropriately are just basic demonstrations that you are willing to do so. But then, what do I know about sales in the post-millennial era? I’m already a fossil.

  • Jim Matorin

    Bob: Is rude the new civility?

  • Robert Mannal

    Murray,

    Thanks for your succinct comments. However, this is a G rated site and we cannot post you comment in its entirety. Since editing would diminish the message, we have elected not to post it all.

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