28 Apr 2014

On our way home from dinner the other day Shale and I decide to stop for some soft serve. We walk into the Burger King on 5th, look at each other, and decide it was my turn to deal with the humans. I stroll up to the counter and announce my order to the woman. She gets wide panic eyes and says: “oh no we’re out of co… wait did you say you wanted the ice cream in a cup?” I did, 2 cups of vanilla, one with caramel and the other with chocolate please. Relieved she didn’t have to disappoint another cone covet-er she relayed my order to the drive thru chick. Had I known the only operable register was by the window we would’ve stayed in the car, but whatever ice cream was coming - not the ice cream we ordered, but ice cream nonetheless. 

We take our chocolate *and* caramel sundaes and make our way to the condiment counter which is strikingly absent of a utensil bin. So I pivot about, scurry back to the counter, and ask the woman for a couple of spoons. “Oh, we don’t have any spoons,” she says as she spins back to face her faux register as if the conversation was over. Shale heard my “Seriously?!?” and appeared behind me prepared to rescue the woman from a lecture, but lucky for her she better continue chatting. Forks were about to be good enough.

Seriously how the frack do you insist someone take their ice cream in a dish knowing full well that you have nothing to them shove it into their face with?!? That’s like selling someone software with full knowledge that it’s incompatible with their systems. Or an integration that’s a horrible idea just because it’s possible. Oh wait… we do that last one, don’t we?The battle between could and should gets bloody quickly. Sales breathes down your neck to refrain from becoming an obstacle to new business. Implementation gets irritated when they realize the coding effort involved in your bright idea that *technically* fits inside the package parameters. Prospects really want to hear that their ideas are as brilliant as they sound in their head. It’s easy to make the SE feel like an “expert.”

How do we, as SEs, stand our ground? How do we, as salesmen, stop bullying our brethren into blessing bad ideas? Simple: tell the customer both. Sure you *can* but advise them not to. Such a simple sentence as, ‘you’re right, our application comes with the methods necessary to complete your request, but it wasn’t designed for that so I’d recommend you do <anything else>.’ If the client chooses not to take the advice, at least your bum is out of the sun, and if they do go the better route, everybody wins.

So this week, have a spoon when you sell that sundae. There will always be prospects who demand to have their cake and eat it too, but don’t confuse complacency with consultancy. Ultimately our job is to not just get customer, but keep them too; focus on prospects who will stick and your stock will soar.

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Last modified on Thursday, 08 January 2015 20:04
Erin Wilson

I find great amusement in everyday absurdities and am constantly surprised by how my bar-ventures, my travels, and even my food-qusitions relate to the shenanigans that is software sales. I am grateful for the opportunity to leverage the Sapient Salesman as an outlet to share with you my follies, and I hope you can enjoy the schadenfreude.

Website: ebullienterin.com/

Erin Wilson is the author and publisher of the Sapient Salesman

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