Salespeople: It’s Halloween but Don’t Be Creepy

don't be creepyA little more than a year ago, SAP implored other tech companies, “Don’t be creepy!” The request was in regard to data privacy and personalization (and I couldn’t agree more), but this admonishment applies in other ways as well, particularly in the area of customer experience.

Since tomorrow is Halloween, allow me to concur:

Don’t be creepy!

Here’s a story to explain what I mean.

My husband and I were wandering a furniture store, checking out various living room displays just to get a sense of what we like, what would work for our house, and what would fit into our budget.

The space was enormous, so we felt like we had picked the right store to get a sense of all the options.

And then Barry showed up. Barry approached with a tablet in his arms and a handshake. Barry started off as helpful enough, simply offering assistance if we needed it.

We were upfront with Barry. No sale today, I’m afraid. We’re in the very early part of our process and we are thoughtful buyers.

Barry’s words were “no problem, take your time.” But his actions – literally following us by just a few steps behind – proved uncomfortable and intrusive. I could sense my husband’s anxiety creeping up, and I began to feel watched.

We left the store in about four minutes with Barry close behind as we exited. Eek!

It was awkward and uncomfortable for us, but I bet Barry will continue that behavior because he can justify that every once in a while, he makes a sale.

How can we balance the sales process and the customer journey?

It comes down to one thing – emotions.

I’ve reviewed countless internal processes and journeys and most of the time, they don’t consider customer emotions. Sales culture is notorious for phrases like “It’s a numbers game” and “Always be closing.” Those phrases don’t refer to customers as people with nuanced emotions. They literally refer to a process that almost disregards customers completely.

Barry ignored how his hovering, intrusive and creepy pursuit of us might make us feel. He wasn’t interested in reading the signs of our behavior or connecting with what we really needed, which was space. He was actively on the hunt of a sale that day with total disregard for our upfront explanation of where we were in our customer journey.

While this is a classic business-to-consumer example, business-to-business (B2B) sales teams must understand these concepts just as much, or maybe even more!

Do your salespeople understand the emotions that drive positive and negative experiences?

Sales team training is often focused on product features, what our brand has over the competition, and promising outcomes from the sale. Business-to-business is often a longer sales process, involving building a relationship over months or years.

Research from Beyond Philosophy and the London Business School revealed a Hierarchy of Emotional Value, which identified 20 emotions that drive or destroy business value. It’s not terribly surprising to see that the “Destroying Cluster” of emotions includes customer feelings like “stressed” or “hurried.” Perhaps we should add “creeped out” to that list?

Emotions, however, don’t necessarily drive all our behaviors as customers. Consider Barry. He makes a sale sometimes, even with customers who feel as we did about his behavior. Emotionally, they may report how creepy and unnerved it was to be followed. But they couldn’t risk losing the discounted price on that dining room set, so they swallowed their feelings and made the sale happen.

What This All Means for Your Sales Team

So now I’ve told you how emotions both matter and don’t matter in customer behavior. What does all this mean?

  1. People want to feel heard and recognized as who they are from the beginning of the sales journey.

With all the data available, it’s easy to cross over from charismatic salesperson to certified creep. Respect what your customers WANT you to know. Respect where they are in their own journeys. (Don’t know your customer’s journey? It might be time to fix that!)

  1. Train on emotional journeys, not just product features and benefits.

Your customers have a lot going on, and this sale might be a source of stress for them. To them, it’s not a sale, it’s a big risk. Will they feel good about that purchase in 48 hours or 90 days? That’s what they need to know. Since we know feeling “stressed” is a destroying emotion, consider ways to alleviate that stress during the sales journey.

  1. Consider success metrics beyond the numbers.

Single metric focus (like monthly sales) can lead to poor customer empathy. Leaning on a single number to define success around strategy is like defining your personal financial success on how much you earn without considering your expenses. A single metric like sales won or monthly revenue forces a singular focus. We subconsciously subtract the customer’s experience and emotions out of the equation.

Multiple metrics can paint a more accurate picture, as well as data beyond that first sale. The ongoing emotions of your customers post-sale should be understood as a way to measure success, too.

Does your sales team understand what sort of emotions your customers have during the entire customer journey? Does your sales team get training on how to prevent those negative emotions for customers? If you can’t answer yes, I’m guessing you know what you need to do. Barry isn’t the only one losing a sale for not understanding.