What is it about sales tools? Is it the way we introduce them, the way we conduct training for them, or the way we present them to sales professionals when they are first rolled out? I am not sure exactly what the issue is, but it doesn’t matter how good or how effective the tool is, if we as sales professionals don’t see the value in it, we don’t use it and the tool just never gets implemented.
Years ago, when I was a business banker, my job was simply to get out and bring in new business and care for and develop relationships with my existing customers. I loved my job, and I loved my customers. Lucky for me, I had inherited a strong portfolio of existing customers, and our company was well-positioned in the highly competitive market area. For me, meeting my goals and getting my numbers was never an issue.
So, naturally, when my boss approached me about going to sales training, I balked at the idea. Why would someone like me, someone who is hitting her numbers and exceeding expectations, need to go to sales training? Well, he explained that the company had hired a consultant to train us on the bank’s newest initiative, their Key Priorities Tool (KPT), their version of the customer profile. He was pretty excited about the tool and suggested that his entire team attend the training and implement the tool. Now, I was smart enough to figure out that “suggest” did not really mean “suggest” at all; it was his way of saying, “I am giving you a choice to attend before I force you to go.” So, I signed up, and for three hours, I sat through some of the most boring training I have ever attended in my life. I walked out of there with a “suggested” goal to use the KPT tool three times per week.
Well, I figured I had done what my boss “suggested” I do: I had attended the training. As long as I was meeting my goals, who would know or care whether I used this tool or not? For me, the training I attended just reinforced what I did not like about sales tools. This thing, this KPT, was trained in a way that made it so formal, so time-consuming, and so invasive for our customers that there was no way I was going to use it. Besides, I didn’t need to use it, because I lived and breathed my customers; no one took better care of their customers than I did – so I thought.
Finally, one Wednesday afternoon my boss showed up in my office and “suggested” I start using the profile at least one time per week and turn in a copy of the profile to him by Friday each week. Again, I am not that thick-headed, so I knew I had to start using it, if only for one customer.
Now, I have to admit, I am a little embarrassed to share this next part. As I was feeling that I was forced to use a tool that I did not want to use or think had any value, I went to one of my favorite clients and asked if he would mind if I used this “stupid tool” (direct quote) that my boss was making me use. As I walked the client through the tool, it felt awkward and uncomfortable, and at first redundant; I knew all of this stuff. Then I got to the section about my client’s long-term goals, his trust and his will. See I knew Sam (name change – privacy laws, you know) was the sole owner of five businesses, and that his wife worked alongside of him, but I did not realize until then that she did not share full legal ownership. I also knew Sam had two daughters, and that his oldest daughter was recently divorced and had two small children, and that she had moved back home. I did not realize she was financially dependent on her parents, and would be for some time, as she was back in school. As we started to explore this part of Sam’s life, I discovered that while he had goals and financial concerns, they were just thoughts in his head — he had nothing down on paper. He had never discussed or explored a way to legally protect his family if he had an accident or passed away. In addition, there was no will, no protection in place in case anything happened to the businesses or the income or him. He was the sole income earner and provider for his family; his biggest goal in life was to ensure they were well taken care of and safe. As his banker, it became clear to me that since no provisions were made at this time and we had never discussed it, I had clearly let him down.
I could go on and on about what I discovered through this tool, but the reality was, as Sam’s banker, I had done a poor job of truly having a relationship with him. I may have known his favorite lunch spot in town or his kid’s birthdays, but I did not know what his challenges were, what his goals were, what obstacles were in the way of achieving those goals, and most importantly, what his dreams were. Without that information, I wasn’t able to truly partner with him to achieve his goals, partner with him to ensure he was protected, and partner with him to give him peace of mind that his financial worries were taken care of.
As you can imagine, I left that meeting a little frustrated and irritated with myself. First, for not knowing my client, second, for refusing to even explore a tool that could help me, and third, for leaving there understanding the good the tool accomplished, yet still not wanting to use it! See, even though I was convinced after this experience that these profiling tools were important, I still did not enjoy or desire to use them. The result was incredible, but the experience still felt pushy, aggressive and invasive, and left me feeling that I was bothering the client.
Not one to let things go, I went back to my boss and asked for help. I told him the whole story, including how badly I had positioned the tool to my client, and that I was convinced the tool was good, but I knew me and I knew I would never use it until it felt comfortable and natural to use. To his credit, he listened, he understood, and was open to helping me solve the problem. He suggested I pull together a team of our best and brightest, calling officers to work on the problem of redesigning or positioning the profile to make it easier and more effective to use.
Turned out to be a great idea (guess that is why he is the boss) because in a short thirty-minute session, a team of eight of us set about taking each section of the profile, and while we did not change the form, we came up with ways of presenting each section that created what we eventually called a “profiling conversation;” an easy, consistent and very comfortable way to introduce each section, discuss each section and then determine which sections were the highest priorities for our customers.
Yes, it turns out there is a lot of power in sales tools, and I learned the hard way that by not being open to at least exploring what they have to offer, I may just be under-serving my clients and missing out on a great opportunity to create stronger relationships. In addition, I learned that it was not the responsibility of marketing or training to make me the banker I wanted and needed to be. If and when they offered me tools, I needed to step up to the plate and learn to integrate them into my natural sales style. Yes, the power of sales tools will set you up to win in the trust and value economy!