Before the dawn of the Internet, salespeople played a vital role in a company’s success. They were the purveyors of product information. We relied on them to help us make decisions. They gave us the answers that Google couldn’t because it wasn’t born yet.
Then things changed. Computers populated the world, the Internet appeared and information was easier to access than ever before. This made us more self-sufficient. From ATM’s and self-checkout to 3D printing and online purchases, technology has effectively reduced how much we rely on front-line sales and support.
But we can’t do away with it completely. The more complex a purchase, the more likely it is that we’ll still want a real life person to help us. Buying a new car? First home? Enterprise software? We’re going to make some phone calls.
At Jonar, we couldn’t avoid the idea of sales completely. That didn’t mean we couldn’t put our own twist on the traditional model. Because that’s what we do.
When I say traditional sales, what do you imagine? The first thing that comes to my mind is an uncomfortable and daunting process. I expect to deal with someone whose end-goal doesn’t quite match mine. I want to make the best purchase decision. They want me to decide on their offering, regardless of whether it’s the best decision.
It’s not fair to say that all salespeople personify the slimy seller. But the truth is, there is more competition out there than ever before. It’s harder and harder to make sales. There’s a lot of pressure. This makes it hard to resist telling customers what they want to hear. And oversimplifying the facts. And stretching the truth. And being pushy in the name of getting us to sign on the dotted line.
This isn’t a big surprise. Think about the typical incentives in sales and how success is measured. I’ll tell you one thing – it’s not based on how honest salespeople are with customers. It’s a numbers game. Cold hard sales are the only thing that matter. And this wreaks havoc on long-term satisfaction levels. Maybe if incentives weren’t based on sales but on customer happiness, things would be different.
At Jonar, we decided to move away from traditional sales and towards business development. This isn’t just a fancier way of saying the same thing. But admittedly, if the two were a Venn diagram, there would be some overlap.
Business development generally refers to creating mutually beneficial business partnerships. So we asked the question: why can’t this approach be used for customers? Why are they stuck with salespeople? They’re arguably the most important business partners. You know, because they pay you. So we made a change. We did away with our sales department and moved towards a business development model.
Beyond bringing people and offerings together, business development involves facilitating internal change. It’s a customer-facing role that brings with it valuable feedback. Feedback that should impact marketing, R&D and operations. It isn’t about pushing product down people’s throats, it’s about being a resource. It’s about aligning company efforts to give people what they want. Most importantly, it’s about thinking long-term.
They say the best salespeople are likeable. But customers aren’t buying a salesperson, they’re buying a product or service. Once the sale is done, that person isn’t there anymore. The only thing left is the purchase. The goal shouldn’t be about selling better or being more likeable, it should be about making a better product, creating value and letting the customer come to the purchase decision on their own.
My name is Lauren and I work in business development at Jonar. I look forward to never calling you, unless you call me first.