Last week, I was sitting in a workshop where the theme was a customer-focused selling program.
Now I’m all for customer focus in every aspect of business. That’s what it’s all about. But something was sticking in my craw as I sat through this session (which had to do with a customer-focused selling methodology in the pharmaceutical industry).
Here’s what it boils down to: is this “customer-focused” approach an end in itself? Or is it just a means to an end?
Let me explain. A pharmaceutical sales representative succeeds by promoting the usage (hopefully, by promoting the properly defined usage) of his/her company’s products. Fair enough. But how is success actually MEASURED? Is it customer satisfaction?
Actually, a few of the key tangible measures of success by which a sales rep is held accountable are the following:
- 1. Increased prescription business
2. Number of calls made per day
3. Promotional actions correctly taken (samples delivered, dinner meetings set up, etc., etc.)
These are company-centric, quota-centric, performance-centric measures. And, in fact, these more tangible, objective activities and outcomes are more easily measured than something such as customer satisfaction.
I’m not saying that any of these are unimportant, or shouldn’t be tracked. What makes me uncomfortable is that the real goal ends up being what is measured. Teachers “teach to the test.” And reps perform to the yardstick to which they are accountable.
All of which makes a “customer-focused” selling program seem like a means to an end, not an end in itself. There is the whiff of hypocrisy that seems to hover over the whole thing. Are companies rolling out these programs because of a core belief in being customer-centered? Or because they “work” better toward the real end, which is better numbers? Is it, ultimately, just another form of manipulation, albeit based on good selling principles?
Is it a core commitment? Or just another technique? You see, I absolutely believe in customer focus. I practice a consultative approach, as everyone knows who knows me. What I’m driving at is belief and motivation. Do I/we do it because it is right? Or just because it works?
I should conclude this post by saying that I have been in sales – in one form or another – for 20+ years. The times when I have been most uncomfortable as a salesman are when I’ve seriously questioned, in my own heart and conscience, whether what I was offering was really the best choice for the customer. Does slathering a “customer-focused” technique over that cognitive dissonance make one a better salesperson? Or just another peddlar, trying to make a buck any way possible?
Or am I just being too cynical?