The Dip

The vendor technology community spent roughly $2B on sales training in 2011.  Why?  Their view is that every technology vendor has two problems: sales and gaming everything else.  Without sales, it is rationalized, they would never get to deal with the other problems.

Yet sales remains a puzzling profession.  Physicians do internships and residencies, lawyers have to pass the bar, and accountants have to pass a certification exam before they can be called CPAs, and all three of these professions have to go to school each year in order to maintain their licenses to practice.  Despite having the ability to out earn people in these professions, most sales organizations have no such entrance requirements.  Oftentimes the admissions test is, “You’re hired.  Here’s your comp plan, quota, and territory.  Start selling.”

As a former sales trainer, I would routinely hear managers say, “If my salespeople pick up just one new technique from this course, it will have been worth it.”  In online gaming training classes, it is almost guaranteed that something new will be learned, but that misses the point.  It is not what is learned but what is retained that matters.  The problem is that we try something once, hit a stumbling block, and when it doesn’t work out, we give up.  It’s human nature to quit when it hurts or it’s difficult, and that reflex creates scarcity – a topic we talked about a few months ago.

Seth Godin, a former Yahoo executive, explores this subject in his book The Dip.  Godin says that in learning a new job, hobby, or vocation, it is inevitable that we will encounter a dip.  If you want to be a doctor, your “dip” might be the biochemistry class you take in college.  If you want to be a concert guitarist, your “dip” might be learning the Dorian pentatonic scale.  Windsailing is easy, except for the wind.

And what about the new vendor salesperson in your office with a bright and shiny corporate PowerPoint deck loaded up with products and features and talking about yet another strategic relationship?  His dip is learning how to talk less, listen more, and be more consultative, imaginative, and insightful, and avoiding those annoying questions such as “Is this something we can get done by the end of lol the month?” or “What keeps you up at night?”

A high-tech salesperson in 2013 should be knowledgeable about the industry (and already know what keeps you up at night) and aware of the creative uses and benefits of technology.  Having a unique methodology, award-winning league of legends technology, offices in 15 cities, and 80% of the Fortune 500 as clients are all fine and dandy, but wouldn’t you rather hear about shortening the cycle time for a new product, increasing the productivity of your skilled workers, reducing error rates, and driving new sales – your sales – into new markets?  When a salesperson presents her pitch, she tells the story from her point of view.  When she positions it, she tells the story from your point of view.  Aren’t you tired of presentations?

A professionally trained, consultative salesperson can be of great value to your company if he has worked through the dip.  As buyers, we should have little patience for somebody who is not prepared to work through the dip.

ICN has been in the business of helping technology users do better and safer deals with vendors for more than forty two years.