We’ve all experienced the fact that buying is changing in the B2B world, that customers use technology to shop for picture providers, that more business is being conducted through RFPs and district bids, and that decision-makers are increasingly unwilling to see our salespeople.
When they do see a sales representative the decision makers complain that the salespeople don’t listen. They go on and on about their products, they give the same presentation as the year before, they don’t care about what the educators are trying to accomplish, or they didn’t fix the problem they had the last time around.
Salespeople complain that they can’t get in to see the principal or the decision maker. And, when they do all the school wants is more…more free stuff or more commission.
I’m going to offer three theories on what’s happening to the sales environment in our industry.
David Brock author of the “Sales Manager Survival Guide,” and CEO at Partners In Excellence has an interesting perspective on what’s been happening to the selling process.
Brock says “What’s killing sales is not the changing buyer. What is killing sales is inept and inattentive sales management. Focus on building the sales capability and capacity of your business.” In other words, build a sales engine and manage it properly.
Statistics reveal that 48% of sales people never follow-up with a prospect yet 80% of sales are made after the fifth contact. Poor sales discipline, a lack of a sales plan and inattentive sales management contribute to failure.
So my first theory is; sales leadership is not doing a good job of managing the sales process and adapting to the changing customer.
This leads me to my second theory. We compete in a space where it’s all just “more of the same ahead.” Differentiation of product quality and choice is minimal, package content and pricing differences are marginal, routine customer service is just that – routine, Picture Day execution is acceptable, banners, planners, and freebies are too similar.
One school photographer is no different than another. So the real point of difference is good luck and favorable timing. You happen to visit the day after a competitor stumbles on Picture Day or the yearbook coordinator learns of another surprise charge from the publisher.
So my second theory is; the school picture business has become a commodity and being in the right place at the right time can make the difference in gaining new accounts.
This leads me to my third theory. Let’s assume that there is truth to both of the previous two theories. Sales leadership can do a better job of managing sales and listening to the customer and the school picture business lacks innovation, it has become a commodity with one school photographer being no different than another.
Is it possible to be different? Brock suggests we “…focus on hiring the right people, developing the right skills, coaching them in improving their effectiveness and impact.” Simply put are your people better than the rest, better than the norm in this industry?
So my third theory is; we exist in an industry that is too much the same and therefore it is the people we chose to lead, sell, photograph, and serve in the midst of that sameness that makes the difference.
The difference is people and how we lead them.
Joe Cristina of JCristina Photography Tools says it well, “People buy people.”
It’s a good thing I didn’t charge you for that theory…you’d be demanding your money back…because it’s too simple, too obvious. Okay, I admit it…it’s staring us in the face.
Mark Schoenrock – President PSPConsulting