“The jungle is dark, but it is full of diamonds, Willy.”
-from ‘The Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller
And that is the problem salespeople have had for years and years and years: the jungle is dark but it is full of diamonds. There are sales out there to be made. People, businesses, organizations, families — they need the things salesmen sell. The problem is the jungle was dark, and finding the customers who need or want to buy what you are selling is time-consuming, wasteful and exasperating.
My first job straight out of college I was in sales. I sold dictation equipment for Lanier. It was a grind. I’d walk the streets of San Francisco — my territory was from the point where Market Street and California Street meet and extended as a triangle all the way to Van Ness. This was old-fashioned knocking on doors selling. I had virtually no information about any prospect and would try to find a picture on a desk or trophy on the wall to find something we had in common. It rarely worked. How great would it have been to have the LinkedIn profile of the guy I was pitching? Where he went to school, where he used to work, etc? Or what connections we had in common!
When I’d stay in the office to cold call, that was it…COLD. Blindly dialing businesses. Ouch.
Everyone who has ever worked in sales immediately recognizes this scene from “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
That was sales preparation in those days: here are the leads, now go out there and make some calls and close some sales.
It was a remarkably frustrating and inefficient system. All I knew about these “leads” was a name, a business and a phone number.
This has begun to change dramatically in recent years. A number of cloud-based software packages have emerged that significantly increase the amount of data a salesperson can access from almost anywhere about customers and potentials customers.
Knowing more about my leads, as I do today…boom! Success. And I don’t need to be in the office tied to some proprietary database to do this…it’s all in the cloud. I’d rather do it from home in my pajamas anyway, and now I can.
Salesmen are now armed with enormous amounts of information. They have access to prior purchases with the company (great for upsells, renewals, etc), complaints from the customers (Zendesk), and basically every interaction anybody in the company has ever had with a prospect or existing customer (Salesforce).
They also have the ability to work from anywhere, 24/7, and appear as professional as if they were sitting in their office, thanks to all the cloud-based information and tools.
My frustrating experiences in sales informed a lot of the product decisions we made early on in designing our company’s teleconferencing product: UberConference. UberConference makes great sales calls possible in four ways:
1. We make it easy for a potential customer to get on a call (no PINs). The easiest way to lose a potential customer is to provide them with even the smallest barrier to communicating with me. PINs are a potential barrier. That’s why I insisted we not require them in UberConference.
2. You won’t waste everybody’s first 15 minutes figuring out who just joined the call (visual). We provide on-screen updates so you know who is there as soon as they sign on. No need to reintroduce yourself each time a new caller signs on.
3. You know who’s talking at any point: is it the IT guy or the finance guy? That may not only be helpful to know, it could be critical in closing a sale.
4. You get a rich UberProfile on each caller. You can see their LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ accounts and get an idea of who the person is to whom you are speaking. This could prove to be crucial in the trust-building phase of a sales relationship. The more you know and understand about your customer, the better you can serve them… and sell to them.
I lasted only one year in sales. I realized it was too hard for me so I went back to school to get my MBA and then to law school to hide for a longer time. Had I had these tools I may have stayed in sales. Thank God they didn’t have them back then!