The sales maverick goes it alone. He doesn't wait for campaigns, barely listens in sales meetings, and immediately knows how to pitch any product on just hearing its name. White papers, market research, and even case studies are useless to him. After all, customers don't read that stuff. He'll pick up a couple of percentage and dollar stats from the headline on a company news release and he's off. He has his own way of grabbing a prospect's attention. His personal hook is followed by his own story of the brand, a story that tells prospects exactly what they want to hear. Then he closes, hands the buyer to customer service, and goes out to get another. Oh, he'll spend a little time with the customer on the phone, assuring them that whatever promise customer service didn't keep will be handled immediately.
Do you have salespeople like this? Are you a salesperson like this? It sounds like an exciting life. It's a career method based on movie stereotypes. These salesmen see themselves as rainmakers, always bringing in the next big customer. Unfortunately, they actually bring in low customer satisfaction, high attrition rates, and frequent job changes. Customers come in with expectations that don't jive with delivery realities. The old adage of "under promise, over deliver" is impossible to follow. In fact, they often feel as though the brand they're experiencing is a totally different brand from the one they bought into.
Building long-term, effective brands isn't brain surgery, it requires preparation, supervision, teamwork, and discipline. Without these elements in place, the brand won't survive. A brand is a message with a promise and like any promise, it survives on trust. When a message is inconsistent, it undermines the trust people are willing to place in the brand. Are you a national chain or the corner market? The consumer won't believe you are both. Are you a retail brand or a health care provider exclusive? Is your pricing based on fair markup of costs or arbitrarily changed to meet sales quotas? Is a new customer more important than an established customer?
It's great for a salesperson to be gregarious and quick on his feet, however, it's better to be well-versed in products, services, and the company-wide brand message. Understanding how the brand will truly benefit the customer in all stages of the customer life-cycle allows the sales person to set expectations that will maintain trust. When sales, marketing, and customer service echo the same message to the customer, they reinforce the customer's brand perception. The reinforce the seeds of trust.
Who owns the brand? This needs to be pretty far up the corporate ladder to be effective. Whoever owns it, mechanisms need to built into marketing and sales to ensure that the brand is communicated consistently. At it's simplest form, the head of marketing rides shotgun on sales calls to verify a consistent message. This is a communication chain that can flow both ways. Marketing may decide to adjust the message based on customer feedback during sales calls. Day to day, the head of sales needs to champion a consistent message and ensure its use among salespeople. If the head of sales is the maverick, you may need to rein him in or find a different leader.
Successful organizations have found that marketing and sales alignment are essential. Having these two groups at each others throats can cripple the ability of a company to develop and maintain quality brands. Often, companies make marketing subservient to sales. Believing that sales is the source of income and marketing is a sales support function. This is like depending on a sale to steer a boat and lashing it to the rudder. The boat will swerve wherever the wind blows ultimately deadheading into the wind and going nowhere. Marketing is about research and campaigns to drive a brand's direction. Whereas, sales is about dealing with the needs of the customer at hand. They have to work together within the brand owner's vision.
In any sales situation, the temptation exists to say what the customer wants to hear. To keep them interested whether or not your service really meets their needs. Sales people need to have the discipline to accurately describe the value of their brand and more specifically how it will benefit the customer. Puffery, pitches, and cheap sales techniques get in the way of honest dialog and long-term success. Have the discipline to prepare answers to common concerns. Have the discipline to stick with the company approved value proposition. Have the discipline to make sure the customer is happy with ALL the details before putting ink to the contract.
The gregarious maverick can become the gregarious rainmaker. All it takes is an organization the insists on preparation, supervision, teamwork, and discipline. Happy hunting.