I'm not one to usually take business advice from Vince Vaughn movies - although I did run a meeting once wearing my Speaker City T-shirt (and yes I closed them) - but a little while ago, I got an idea about how best to train salepeople to work with today's customers.
In the movie "The Internship" Vaughn and perennial sidekick Owen Wilson are two hapless middle-aged wrist watch salesman who - in a world where the smartphone has become the timepiece of choice - have found themselves out of a job. By hook and by more than a couple of crooks, they secure a couple of internships at Google.
Yes I know, Star Trek is more believable. The original one, with Shatner. And no, I'm not I'm not going to give you a review of the movie. You can Siskel your own Ebert and fire up the old TV box to watch it yourself.
But one scene struck me and stuck with me - and actually taught me something about sales: Vince Vaughn, as part of his training and evaluation for a permanent position at Google, had to sit on the Google Tech Support helpdesk, and answer questions and help customers figure out issues with GMAIL and other Google products.
Now I identify with Vaughn's character in the movie. I'm in my 40s, I'm a really big hit at parties, and I've been in sales for a great many years. Like Vaughn, I can use technology but I sometimes find myself wishing for a return to the time when the sound of a fax coming in was cause enough for everybody in the office to get excited.
Five years ago, I would have said having someone like me sit on a helpdesk, when I should be out propsecting for new busienss, was a colossal waste of time. If someone would have asked me to sit and answer customer questions about whatever widget I was selling I would have laughed and said "Good Day Sir!"
I said GOOD DAY SIR!
Well, it ain't five years ago. It's now.
What Vince's character taught me is even though the world has changed, and old dogs like us are sometimes lost with all the WiFi and Bluetooth and InstaChatter apps, it's never too late to change with the world - especially if your very survival depends on it.
So today I'm sitting on the ZynBit Helpdesk.
It's 9:15 am on the West Coast and since 6:00 am I've helped a few people install ZynBit for Outlook, I answered a question about enterprise licensing and I even was able to troubleshoot an issue with logging into Salesforce and ZynBit for GMAIL and resolve it in real time. I also connected via web conference with three current customers and had them walk me though their challenges via screen share.
Now let me count the ways these last three hours were much better spent on my helpdesk than sending cold emails, or making cold calls or drilling through my CRM to find leads:
- Real Customer Intel - I was exposed to real customers and how they use my solution. Most of the time, Sale's relationship with the customer ends at the sale. So any and all real world customer feedback about how your widget is doing in the marketplace comes from marketing materials and sales PowerPoints. By spending time on the ZynBit helpdesk, I get a real world narrative and concrete examples of how important my solution is to the daily lives of my clients. I also get the unvarnished opinion of what we need to work on - whether it be product or process related. All of this makes its way into my pitch and my selling narrative. Which bring me to this point...
- Better Insight - image siting in a meeting with a huge (YUGE!) prospect. And imagine them having a question about deployment and/or implementation. And now imagine while you're trying to figure who from Customer Success you need to get on the phone, your salesperson clears their throat and says "Well, that's a great question. Last week I was taking a call on the helpdesk, helping a client in Florida work through those same issues and I after I remoted into their system, we figured out...." Can you imagine what this prospect is going to ask next? I can, because I've been in this meeting and I can tell you, the prospect will be intrigued with the thought of Sales being such an integral part of customer success. The potential for real insight here is staggering. As you know from previous posts of mine, I understand the need for salespeople to provide real insight to clients. What's better for that - giving your salespeople a bunch of marketing material to read and then try to jam it in some type of value prop OR getting them in front of living, breathing customers, sharing their stories and helping them use your widget? And let's not stop at Salespeople.
- Everybody Works Customer Success - I used to believe everyone was in Sales. That's a common theme among us salespeople - we're more than a little narcissistic at times. Well I know I am - I don't know if you are and honestly I don't really care. (HA!) I believed for years that Delivery, Fulfillment, Administration - all of that was "selling." I don't believe that anymore. I think everyone in a company is responsible for their part of the customer's "Customer Experience." Why did I change my mind? Because I have come to find out that not every customer interaction ends with a sale - but they all end with an experience. Imagine if you could say "Well, our core belief is customer satisfaction and that means everyone here, from the CEO to the newest sales rep, has regularly scheduled time on our helpdesk to provide our customers what we feel is an amazing Customer Experience." Can your company say that? Well, ZynBit can. We're eating our own dog food here. Connect with our helpdesk at any one moment and you may connect with me, our CXO, our EVP of Product Dev or, of course, our awesome Customer Success team members. We're all here to help you on your journey and provide you a positive experience.
So what does this all mean? Maybe it just means this: if you've read any of my other posts you're well aware of my thoughts on the sales culture and what I see as the future of sales. Forrester reports that out of 4 million B2B sales people in the US, 1 million will lose their jobs by 2020. In a highly competitive marketplace, it's all about the experience the customer has with you and your brand. The old ways of selling no longer work and it's time for salespeople and sale leaders to embrace new methods and methodologies to stay vital to the customer's buying process.
Because what happens when the customer doesn't think you're vital to their buying process? I don't know, ask your travel agent. In 2000, there were 124,000 travel agents working in the United States. In 2008 108,300 remained. As of 2014, there were less than 75K. How many will be here in 2020?
Maybe you'll be one of the three million B2B salespeople that get to stay. Maybe you sell a timeless product or service that everyone uses that will never be replaced or antiquated.
You know, like wrist watches.
For the rest of us, for me especially, I'm spending quality time learning from my customers. There are many ways to do that. One of the best is sitting on the helpdesk. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not become my main job - my main job is still business development and sales. But it is now part of my job. And it's a job I've got to get to back to it.
You see, a customer in Melbourne has a question about how to file an email with ZynBit when you have duplicate contacts in Salesforce. And yes, I know the answer - because I had the same question last month.