Customers. We love our customers. They’re the best. They help us do the great things we want to do. We love our customers.
Team members. We love our team members. We wouldn’t be “we” if we didn’t have the team. We wouldn’t be able to execute and flourish without the right team members. We love our team members.
Shareholders. We love our shareholders. We appreciate their guidance and commitment so that we can execute on our grand vision. We love our shareholders.
That’s covers it, right? I hear it so often from leaders these three constituents. We care about and tend to these groups of people. Maybe we sprinkle in there the community we’re in, too. Okay. But are we missing another group who help us get from scrappy to growth to the Dream? I think so, and they’re our vendors.
Take a pause for a second to think about your vendors. Why are we not thanking them? Maybe because we see our vendors as websites and applications. Working in a SaaS high-tech company, it’s easy to think of our vendors as the screen in front of us, and not the people who helped us get here. Why is that?
If we do not support and recognize our vendors, we’re actually doing something fundamentally wrong. Bear with me because it may take me a few sentences to connect the dots.
We’re Humans Selling to Humans
I attended a conference last week for sales professionals. A message I focused on was that selling is still very much “human to human”. The machine learning and artificial intelligence that are being developed to help sales are sales assistants. The art and profession of sales is still critical. Businesses are still made of people. We sell B2B. The associative property tells us, then, that we’re H2H – human-to-human.
But then a second message was mentioned at the keynote that was quickly tossed around, laughed about, and then moved on – many of our sales reps follow cadences (great), but adhere almost too much to the process (bad). In this way, we think we’re creating selling machines. Instead, we’re creating selling robots. We’re creating robots. I’ve seen Terminator. I don’t like robots. They signal the death of our profession. They signal the death of the human-to-human interaction.
How Are We Losing Authenticity
I’ll mention the requisite, “just look at how folks are communicating today – they’re not calling. They’re texting. There are four friends sitting at the table talking to friends not at the table. Yes, they’re staring at their phones texting someone else.”
What happens today is a loss of authentic connections. We enter these conferences and networking events. Instead of connecting and sharing, we’re huddled with our included-breakfast and coffee talking to the same people we knew before. But then, we also scan the room and look for company names and try to recall if those names have recently been on our target account list.
Through Green-Colored Lenses
Here's a billion dollar idea – take Snapchat’s Spectacle, add facial recognition, and connect it to LinkedIn and the CRM. Tell me the company name, are they growing, what technologies the company is using today, and what the most recent company news. I’d call these green-colored glasses, “Sellinators”.
That’s how we’re starting to view the people we meet. What value can we get out of them?
We make small-talk to those around us, but want nothing more than the minimum to move about our days. We ask, “how are you?”, but damn it, if you say anything other than “I’m good”, we think, "crap, I knew I should've just said, 'Hi'". We want to gloss over the real stuff, and get to what’s in it for us. This translates to walking by the same people at the same places at the same times over and over again without getting to know who these people really are. (See 100 Strangers, 100 Days.)
Circling Back to Vendors
How does this translate to vendors being important? Well, vendors are selling to us. We’re selling to others as vendors. But we’re not recognizing the vendors who help us enough. Maybe we toss them a testimonial. Thumbs up. However, we ask our sales/ business development reps to make cold calls. They get the demos set. Our account execs have a great call. There’s a verbal commitment to do something – start a trial, close the deal, and then... fade to black. Like a Tinder connection, our sales teams are wondering why the prospect just ghosted them. (Note: Maybe you didn’t sell to all the key decision makers.)
It’s easier to pocket veto a vendor selling to us. It’s too difficult to say, “this isn’t working” or “hey, we can’t move forward because of organizational changes right now”. It’s not you… it’s me.
Sales leaders will say, “you didn’t reiterate the value, the urgency, etc.” Welcome, Blame Bias. We focus on the individuals, and not recognize the macro-trend extending its ugly tentacles over our business and communal interactions. They're squeezing us till we have no human left.
As our SDRs and BDRs rise up the ranks, they assume that it’s their duty to imbue their hardships of selling upon those who call upon them. We end up perpetuating the cycle, and we’re happy to continue to do so.
We Need Only Look at How We View Our Vendors
We see those who give us money as our partners, not the ones we devote our money to helping solve our problems. We look at people through the lens of a CRM Opportunity and LinkedIn profile. We celebrate bending vendors over a barrel and beating the heck out of them for discounts. I get it – we have bottom lines to hit. But instead of taking a mutually beneficial agreement, we position ourselves for who can get the better deal.
We ignore (or abuse) our vendors. This, then, permeates into how we treat everyone else who may try to sell to us. This translates to how we, too, are being treated by others when we sell. It’s a vicious, vicious cycle, and I hate it.
Asked on stage (paraphrasing): “What’s one thing that really grinds your gears about sales?” Human-to-human interactions was a big one. Well, if you want to better interactions… if you want better sales, start appreciating your vendors.