Why Expertise Outperforms Process

Our home has a kitchen that is divided into three different sections. Not very well planned at all and now we’re gonna make something about it. Two heavy walls will be demolished making room for a large kitchen in one single space.

We’ve got in contact with two different suppliers. The first one really caught us. The salesman listened to us, asked a lot questions and, finally, when he presented his layout proposal for the new kitchen we totally gave up. It was fantastic and, even if it was over half a year to when we had to make our decision, we thought we already had made our selection of supplier in our minds. He told us about the process forward, the steps towards the order and after that, the installed kitchen. It was obvious he followed an established sales process – I can see his checkboxes and drill-down questions in front of me. As a sales executive myself, I admit I liked it.

We thought we had met a structured and professional salesman. Indeed, we were in safe hands.

The second supplier also asked some questions, but was more quiet when it came to present her solution. She just sent it by an e-mail, and asked us to just pick up the phone if we’ve got any questions. Her solution was overall much the same as the first; it met our needs and wishes very well. However, we regarded the presentation of her solution as more or less a copy of the first supplier’s one and paid not that much attention to it, because we were so overwelmed by the first charismatic, process driven and professional salesman. The second one didn’t get a real chance to stick in our minds.

Several months later it was time to get into the details. You know, all those detail decisions to make: colors, appliances, equipment, knobs, countertops….etc. If you’ve any time been done a such big project as rebuilding a kitchen in your home – or any other major renovation in a house – you certainly know what I’m talking about. For sure, you can’t do it alone. You need an expert to talk to.

  
And now the expertises of the two salesmen were revealed. The first one – the charming sales guy we fell in love with – he just didn’t manage the situation. All those hundreds of detailed questions we had to get answers to, were left to general responses, references to their website, guesswork or just not responded at all.

In the beginning of this intense decision making phase we, first just to be polite, we asked also the second supplier these detailed questions. All in all, she had put a lot work into her proposal, so why not? But her answers were rapidly back to us with advices from a real expert attached. Sometimes we couldn’t phrase our questions by ourselves, but then she did it for us. Several times one answer led to another question we couldn’t tell from start but the answers came timely, accurate and always with a smile.

In the end we found ourselves completely impressed by her and extremely sure our new kitchen will be just as in our dreams. Of course we selected her as supplier.

How come the first guy didn’t make it? Actually, he did all well by the book. He got a fantastic sales process to follow, told all prepared questions, was charming and made the social game to excellence. I think most salesmen in the world are molded in that way. The creepy part is also that management follows up in this way, so no salesman can leave the beaten track – one size fits all…

No room for a Barefoot Sales Process at all.

To be honest, what went wrong? Of course, the first salesman didn’t had the deep knowledge of what he was selling. And here’s my point: Expertise outperforms process. Everytime. The tricky part is how to find salespersons with that expertise. Think about it; it’s an engineer in a salesman’s suite. That’s really hard to find. 

In general you’ve got two options; 

  1. Train an engineer to become a salesman
  2. Train a salesman to be an expert on what he is selling

To establish (1) is nearly impossible and providing product knowledge on an expert level to a salesman as in (2) takes long time and is really costly.

Instead, I’ve got an easier (?) suggestion. In my Blog post Sales people are heroes – how can we help them I mentioned three properties that distinguish a Super Hero in sales from an ordinary one:

  • Extremely high creativity skills
  • Very interested in customer needs
  • Huge skills doing “matchmaking” between that need and the products or services that would be delivered (with several twists of course).

What I mean is, try to be CLEAR about your work descriptions and to SUPPORT your sales heroes, so they are able to provide:

Answers rapidly back to her prospects with advices from a real expert attached.

Then your prospects perception of your salesmen will be as real SALES EXPERTS.

Best Regards 

Stefan