I had lunch one time at a popular eatery in a nearby town. It was a place where on weekends, families and couples would have brunch or dinner; but on a weekday at lunch time, it was usually business people meeting.
On this particular day the restaurant was very crowded and I was quite lucky to get a table. My little table-for-two was positioned between two larger tables. One table had a couple who were eating with not much conversation. The other table had four gentlemen. It’s not my habit to eavesdrop on the conversations of others, but it was hard not to overhear due to the close proximity of our tables and the volume of the their voices.
After a little while it became clear that the fellow doing most of the talking was a salesman. The other three were prospective buyers or clients. The subject matter had to do with the computer software industry…I know this because my husband is a senior software engineer and I could recognize some of the phrases being spoken. I tried my best to keep my mind on my own affairs…I had dropped some paintings off earlier that were going to be in a show and I had some supplies that I needed to purchase after lunch – I had my own business to attend to. But my reverie kept being intruded upon by their discussion.
At one point I confess that I did focus in a bit…one of the prospective buyers began asking questions of the salesman. To my utter amazement, the salesman did not have an answer to a single question. In each case he replied with something like, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” Now, I know that it’s quite possible to not have every answer to every question a buyer might have for you. And it’s perfectly fine to let the buyer know that you will indeed get back to them with information. But to not know any answers seemed way off base.
What this told me:
- the salesman came to the meeting unprepared
- the salesman’s supervisor did not offer complete buyer information before the meeting
- there was a possibility that the software company was selling a product before it was truly ready – hence the lack of information available to the salesman
The questions I was hearing asked sounded technical…almost too technical for a selling situation. It made me wonder if the salesman could have brought along a technical support person to field those kinds of questions.
What I took away from this lunchtime lesson was the thought: as business people, are we sure of our products and services before we offer them for purchase? Can we answer questions a buyer might ask – no matter how technical? I see a purchasing situation as an opportunity to give the buyer enough information so that he can make an informed decision about my products or services.
Whether your sales staff is just yourself because your business is a solo entrepreneurship or you have many employees, your sales staff should understand fully the philosophy of your business and are committed to what they are selling – this goes without saying. What should also be a given is that you provide your sales staff the tools and information they need to do their job well.