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I read a comment in a post, “Sales people don’t have time to create value with their customers anymore.” In fairness to the author, he was claiming sales is broken—it is.

My knee jerk reaction was, “This is complete BS!” Upon reflecting I realized it’s true, and it’s probably an understatement.

Without a doubt, sales people are busier than ever. They have too much on their plates, and keep getting more and more piled on. Sales people, just as their customers are time poor.

At the same time, they are pressed by management for more volume. They blindly send hundreds emails, followed by dozens to hundreds of calls. All of this is aided by the “sales stack,” tools that are supposed to make them more efficient—though possibly not more effective.

When they eventually reach and engage their prospect, that prospect is equally busy and time poor. Too often, sales people are ill equipped for this initial conversation. While they have the tools to research and prepare, they don’t take the time. They’ve been trained on their products, but have had too little training on the customer, their businesses, and challenges. They don’t know how to bridge the challenge their customer face and how their own solutions help the customer address those challenges.

Instead they pitch their products to a customer who may not be interested or engaged or care.

At this point of the argument, let’s pause and reflect.

Our sales people are clearly speaking with customers and engaging them. They are having conversations with customers—albeit with great struggles. But sit with any manager, look at any dashboard, and you will see all sorts of data on the number of calls, the minutes spent with customers, and so forth. They are taking time with customers.

In those moments of time they are taking, they could and should be creating value.

Perhaps the real issue isn’t that they don’t have the time to create value, it’s they don’t know how to create value in the time they are taking.

In fairness to sales people, it may not be their fault!

Afterall, look at the scripts and training they have had. It tends to be very product and internally focused. Their prospecting programs are designed to maximize their efficiency, not necessarily to maximize customer engagement in talking about their business issues.

Or look at the coaching they get, if they get any, on their calls. In the hundreds of reviews I’ve participated in during the past year, I have never heard a manager ask the simple question, “What value did you create in the call?” In the pre-call planning sessions, I’ve never heard the question, “What value will you create?” If we aren’t coaching them on how to create value in each interaction with the customer, why should we expect them to take the time to create value?

It must be unacceptable to accept that sales people don’t have the time to create value in their calls/meetings with customers.

That, after all, is their job, it’s what separates them from everyone else, it’s what engages the customer and makes them choose to buy.

The issue isn’t they don’t have the time to create value, it’s they don’t know how to create value in every interaction.

It’s the responsibility of management to change this.

Sales management must insist that people are trained in creating value–whether that training comes from sales enablement, marketing, product management, everything hast to be positioned in the context of how what we do creates value for the customer.

Sales management must coach sales people on creating value. In every call review, make sure you ask, “What value did you create?” In every pre-call planning meeting, ask, “What value will you create?” If the sales person can’t answer, they aren’t ready for the call.

Afterword: There has been a fascinating discussion on this in LinkedIn. You can read it here.