Pfizer, the worlds largest pharmaceutical maker, recently (December 2006) announced that it was laying off 2000 of its 10,000 person sales force. According to Charles Green (author of “Trust-Based Selling,” and co-author of “The Trusted Advisor”), a reason for this is that the productivity of the sales force has plumeted, and the reason for that is the low level of trust between the pharmaceutical representative and the physician. You can read his blog entry at Pfizer, Doctors, Sales, and Trust.
The problem, which is common throughout industry, is that the “sales organization is managed as a revenue engine to sellers, rather than as trusted advisors to [the customer].”
It is true that a company must generate revenue, and that the sales force plays a key role in doing it. However, factories used to be run with a “convenience for us” mentality too, and that proved to be wasteful. Now days, factories are working hard to “lean” their facilities, meaning: get rid of the waste. How do they determine what is wasteful? By what the customer will pay for, of course.
Leaning the sales process = creating value for customers = building trust
People are paying for what you offer long before they buy. Customers pay you with their actions: their attention, their response, their information, and their time. If you aren’t getting these things, it is because they don’t see enough value in your marketing promotions and offers.
It is time for most companies to take a hard look at their sales and marketing.
- When marketers are accountable for gross volume and not getting just the right customers to respond, is it any wonder customers turn off to their promotions?
- When the sales process is left up to sales people alone, is it any wonder they try to succeed by hook or by crook (causing customers to worry about both)?
- When senior executives continue to manage marketing and selling as separate functions focused on their cash needs, without worrying about value and helpfullness to customers, is it any wonder things don’t get better?
The fact is this: The value of your company most certainly extends to the way you help customers buy.
In a free economy, business is won by finding win/win solutions. We’re not talking about altruism here. It is simple hard nosed business. There aren’t many sellers markets left. You have to take the customer’s perspective into account because that is the only way you can get their attention, their time, and their trust. In other words, it is just about the only route to getting their money.
Maybe examples like Pfizer’s will help more executives see how pervasive this problem is, so they can begin working on solving it.
Michael J Webb
December 6, 2006