I’ve been a crutch.
Not in the literal, propping someone up who couldn’t walk without aid, but in the more figurative, propping someone up who struggles with some of the tasks in their job.
Working in a fast-changing technical industry was great for someone like me. I enjoyed being able to adapt and learn quickly, recognising the challenges that new technologies present as well as the benefits, and getting down into nitty-gritty details to satisfy my own curiosity and then be able to take this knowledge out and break it down to a broader audience.
This allowed me to talk to customers and understand their problems very easily, and to recognise and position solutions to those problems. For other people, this isn’t always easy. In a sales team in this environment, there will be people who can’t relate to and recognise the problems the customer is experiencing, and who won’t be able to explain the value their company can bring to address those. For these people, a technical sales resource can be a crutch to help them do their jobs. This can be especially prevalent with sales partners, who aren’t as close to the products and services as a companies internal staff.
The problem is that some salespeople can end up over-relying on product specialist support. This can happen over time and ends up eroding the confidence of the salesperson to the point that they feel it necessary to attend every meeting with some level of support. Every meeting becomes a meeting where they need to bring additional resources to, even just for initial meetings and exploratory discussions.
Because they do not need to understand the products they start to take less interest in the products, and because of that they don’t understand how customer pains can be solved using them, and that leads them to become unable to recognise customer problems to the point where they can no longer qualify customer opportunities and position solutions, relying on other staff to do that for them.
What else does this lead to? If you have an inability to sell on value then all you will be able to sell is on price. And a discount led selling strategy is good for no-one.
There are ways that this problem can be handled.
Product training is one common answer but salespeople aren’t in their jobs for their technical skills, but for their sales skills, so training will typically be high level and easily forgotten.
A robust new product introduction process will help, but many companies have very little to offer to salespeople in order to support them when bringing new offerings to the market.
However front line sales enablement tools, tools that can be used by salespeople in customer-facing sales meetings, can offer a great balance between supporting the salesperson to understand their own offering and the customer problems, and enabling them to work on their own to sell value to the customer.
Tools such as these can also form the basis of a solid new product introduction strategy, putting new offerings and their intricacies at the fingertips of a salesperson and allowing them access to meaningful information whilst in front of the customer, as well as being able to use it for their own personal skills development away from those meetings.
Tools such as these can prevent people becoming a crutch.