First things first let me just say that this is not an anti-donut campaign and I certainly have nothing against the basic concept of doing nice things for people. Now that we have established that premise I would like to tell you a story that illustrates the difference between relying solely on personal relationships to gain new business and balancing relationship building with functional sales skills.
My story involves a motivated sales professional that I knew at a company I was consulting for. To protect the guilty I will call him “Bob”. Bob was incredibly diligent and one of the hardest working sales professionals you would ever meet. Nonetheless, he was failing miserably at his job as a route sales professional with a major consumer goods manufacturing company. He was meeting every activity goal such as calls per week, his customers spoke well of him, yet he wasn’t hitting his sales targets.
When his new manager traveled with him he was quite impressed with how Bob would start early and stop at the local bakery so he could take fresh donuts to his morning appointments . In the early afternoon he would visit the bakery again to take cookies for his later appointments.
Everyone was glad to see Bob and his freshly baked treats. While Bob was universally liked by his customers (at least the ones who weren’t dieting) it became apparent after a couple of ride along sessions with his new manager that Bob just never quite seemed to get around to talking about business. He was so focused on trying to make friends and get his customers to like him that he never took the time to learn about his customer’s business or their needs. He was well versed in their personal lives but knew very little about their businesses.
The new manager came to learn that Bob had been rushed into the field as a new hire to fill an open territory. He was well schooled in the industry and knew the product line inside out. Unfortunately Bob had never received any training on how to sell, a situation not as uncommon as you might think. The sales manager arranged for Bob to be professionally trained in a selling system that taught him to leverage his relationship building skills in order to build upon the rapport he had already established. Once his customer’s began to trust him as a business advisor they began to share their business needs with him. Bob was still bringing donuts but now he was also bringing business value to his customers.
At last report Bob had turned things around in his territory. He is still not quite hitting his numbers but he is getting closer every month. Bob has learned what many sales professionals are learning every day. Gone are the days when going out and just making friends is enough. To succeed in sales today professionals need to be able to add value to the businesses of their customers. Success is built upon a balance of both interpersonal skills and functional sales skills and processes. One without the other is nothing more than “Bob the Donut Man”!