Earlier this year, I consulted for an organization with about 8 independent data communications networks. Some of these networks were highly sensitive and warranted such separation, while others could, both technically and politically, be merged onto shared infrastructure. Such a hardware consolidation would reduce both capital and operating costs for the customer. Now, suppose you were a network device supplier staring at a 70% drop in revenue.

It is make-or-break situations like this that create the best salespeople. I say "best" because I've been on all sides of the selling game throughout my professional career. I've always admired salespeople who create win-win solutions that bring value to customers while meeting or exceeding their revenue commitments. I always pay close attention in any sales call regardless of which role I play.

I once worked at a company where increasing the quantity of products sold was the only way they knew how to make money. The products were good but the quantities being sold, in some cases, were far beyond what the customer could realistically use. True, the customer did place an order for the products and there was nothing illegal about the deal, but the account team knew it was far in excess of what was needed. Within a year, many of these products ended up in long-term storage, generating value for no one.

What would my ideal salesperson do in the scenario outlined earlier in this blog? First, acknowledge in no uncertain terms that the customer's design team is making the right decision to reduce cost and hardship by consolidating their many disparate networks. Then, ask how you can be part of the solution. Offer suggestions for products that would fit their need, and perhaps offer professional services to help with the design, testing, and implementation. Offer your best security technology to supplant the former air-gapped design. Make money from new offerings designed to solve the customers new problem. Pushing old products or resisting change just strengthens customer stereotypes around salespeople. Be actively part of that solution and maintain the long term trust you've hopefully built over many years. And remember: customers love to buy but hate to be sold.

This scenario is still playing out today, and I'm rooting for the sales team to do right by the customer and their parent company through ethical selling.

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