How to Sell and Serve with Technology

By Jeremy Blake on June 5, 2017

Many of you reading this were born well before CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software was born.

Early pioneers were husband and wife team Robert and Kate Kestnbaum, who pioneered terms and thinking including ‘customer lifetime value’. They were among the founders of contemporary database marketing which has evolved into CRM.

There is a high chance that as a consumer you often find yourself having conversations over the phone or face to face, whilst the sales or service person looks at a screen and inputs things you tell them about you.

The “take a seat so we can have a look” is sometimes an experience that leaves one in a cold sweat, looking at your watch and driving you back to the safety of an online interaction – where you find yourself now.

CRMs drive marketing automation, with the most common form being an email addressing what the database believes are your interests and preferences. The CRM also drives business to business telesales and field sales team activity, which results in someone calling you or arriving at your office as the CRM tells them you either own a version of what they can sell you, or you are the right demographic for what they sell.

CRMs allow marketing people to design and deliver campaigns across multiple channels and as we click, read or like, more stats are generated that are designed to continue making the marketing more bespoke.

Nothing should be more bespoke than a human interaction and yet whether buying something for our business or our personal lives too often we feel we are being lead through a linear step by step process where the agent can’t move on or listen more intently until the fields are complete for each stage.

What people are encouraged to do in the vast number of organisations is to follow an IT lead process. The belief being that the system and the process they make their people follow will be infinitely superior to their own thinking and method of interacting with the human being they are sat next to or speaking to over the phone.

Imagine going on a date where the CRM had matched you to a potential partner and as you both took your seats in the pub, and with your lap top before you, you asked the question, “Which television series have you enjoyed recently?”

The person responds, “Well I think the Handmaids Tale is quite gripping and I also enjoyed Department Q the Danish drama.”

As this exchange takes place no eye contact is made to pick up on what isn’t being said which means a deeper set of questions can’t be asked. All that is captured are the facts, not the feelings behind them or the further feelings that might come from being able to express oneself more clearly.

This kind of date wouldn’t go well and the bond that could form would have very little chance at the outset. And yet this is what is happening right now in literally thousands of stores, showrooms, offices, dealerships and other buildings that have been built to house compelling conversations between potential buyers and sellers!

‘Don’t start looking until you understand the booking’, is a phrase we have coined to help the travel industry. The fear of having a natural two way conversation without the system seems too tricky to contemplate for many in this market.

Without you mastering the principles of conversation, it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t input into your CRM as the person will be simply availing you of facts and not the feelings they have about how the product or service you can provide will make their lives better.

The definition of Rapport according to my shorter Oxford English dictionary is: ‘A posited state of deep spiritual, emotional, or mental connection between people, esp. one in which one person may mesmerise another; a feeling of sympathy and cooperation between therapist and patient, or tester and subject.’

Now that is surely something to aim for!! Achieving 20% of the above would account for a whole lot more sales and a rocketing of your NPS.

5 Principles that matter more than your process:

  1. Eye contact – every time you look at the screen you lose connection.
  2. Listening not looking. Listen to what they are saying and not saying.
  3. Questioning - The CRM can’t develop a better question than you can, right there in that moment.
  4. Smiling, laughing, thinking, responding naturally – Your CRM can’t do any of these things.
  5. Take notes don’t type – Make a handwritten note, that shows personal care and accountability, when you type we feel that the system may come back with, ‘Computer says No.’