We are consumed with efficiency. We want to produce more with less and less. As we try to keep pace with the rate of change in our environment, software has eaten the world and technology continues to promise that we can do more and more.
Efficiency is the strategy of the fast-food restaurant, offering speedy service, lower-quality, and poorer outcomes. Efficiency is pervasive, touching every part of our work and lives, speeding up the pace of the world. We pay for efficiency with the quality of our lives and relationships, which suffer from the fast-food approach. If you want a better, more fulfilling life, you need to slow down and not make efficiency a priority.
Your Extreme Self-Orientation
Over the last couple of months, several sales organizations have automated prospecting sequences. Instead of having a salesperson call the client directly to ask for a meeting, the prospective client is treated to six emails, one on top of the other.
The sales leaders who approve of this approach may not think highly about this strategy, which suggests that the sales organization isn’t willing to provide you with a salesperson and their time. It also implies they have no real interest in anything other than converting you by closing a deal.
Automation is limited as a tool for communicating with your prospective clients. It suggests the salesperson has an extreme self-orientation because they aren’t willing to put time into a relationship. This is one of the original reasons for the bad stereotype that persists about sales.
What Automation Can’t Do
Automation has no interest in the person it is spamming. It is easier to have a computer send six emails in a few days than to have a series of conversations that are tailored to the needs of each client. You would have a difficult time getting a salesperson to manually send the same six emails on the same timeline without feeling bad about themselves and their company. Automation has no conscience to plague it for being a bad actor. Can we agree that the results are efficient, though the yield proves otherwise?
Automation lacks empathy, understanding, and interest in humans. It is also limited by its programming. Soon, however, we will not be able to distinguish a human from artificial intelligence. Scammers are already capturing voices and using them to steal from people by pretending the voice belongs to a family member. Our technologies can fake empathy and concern; our algorithms can mimic human conversation.
The Sales Leader’s Mistake
Sales leaders want faster wins. To accomplish this, they demand velocity, which requires taking time away from . At the same time, buyers struggle to make sense of the decisions they need to make, a conflict that may be one reason deals stall, get stuck, or die prematurely due to an inadequate sales experience. This is supposed to be efficient, even though it comes at the price of lower win rates.
A generation of young salespeople who experienced the pandemic have been taught to believe a virtual meeting is efficient. In the comments of a recent LinkedIn post, two of these young sales reps said they had no interest in meeting their clients face to face. When one salesperson refuses to give the client their time, they are almost certain to lose to a competitor who walks through the client’s facility and learns about their business.
As more sales organizations regress to transactional sales approaches, they believe will increase the speed of acquisition.
Caring is a superpower in B2B sales. Most salespeople want a relationship that prevents them from having to compete for orders and allows them to acquire all the orders with no competition. Transactional approaches often result in lower win rates.
In Praise of Inefficiency
Four months ago, I sat down with six senior leaders. I expected to spend an hour with them. When I left, I had been in the room with a few highly paid executives for two and a half hours. We scheduled a second meeting, and the same group spent another two and a half hours with me. They were looking for the right partner, not a fast conversation and decision.
When humans work with others, they seek trust in the relationship. We are tuned to notice the patterns of those who may not be trustworthy. When you are transactional, trying to be efficient with your time, you may cause your contacts to feel a lack of trust.
If you believe the outcome is most important, you would do well to be inefficient, taking the time to ensure the outcomes you and your clients need. Your gift to your clients is your time and your ability to help them produce the better results they need. Your client’s gift to you is their time and trust, the foundation of every important relationship. In human relationships, better is better than faster.
To Hell with Efficiency
You may have me wrong here. Being inefficient is how you dominate your competitors. If you are sitting across from your contacts, they are not spending that time with your competitors. More time with you means less for other salespeople. Your clients appreciate you spending the time to learn what you need to ensure they succeed.
Your willingness to share your time also allows you to capture your contact’s mindshare, a strategy few of your competitors know. Most believe the problem and their solution is how they win deals, trying to be efficient.
Presence is a present nowadays. Showing up in person is inefficient, which makes it a strategy that puts you in a dominant position. When the rest of the world zigs, you can be sure that zagging is the right thing to do.
One of my clients paid a speaker for an event. The speaker didn’t say hello to the CEO before going on stage, nor did she say thank you before leaving, as she kept the car running. He turned to me and said, “She transacted me! I will never invite her to speak again.”
If you put the relationship above efficiency, you will have better relationships and win more deals that improve your own results and your clients’. Worry less about speed and more about the more important outcomes that matter in life.