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Published January 11, 2017
Published January 11, 2017
Photo: Patrick McManamon via Unsplash

Whether you’re in beauty or any other industry, vetting potential third-party partners is a fact of existence. It almost always puts me in a foul mood. Why? Because the sales and onboarding process for so many companies is designed in a way that almost guarantees that important questions and considerations will either be (a) difficult to get addressed or (b), simply not addressed.

As someone who’s been a techie person/power user of all sorts of systems for a number of years, I understand the construct—it’s designed to protect the time of the people who are actually building things. And to be fair, I have had a few great experiences with salespeople that had deep knowledge of their product, but it’s been rare. When the rest of the organization is ill-trained, or simply not intellectually curious enough to learn about the product they’re selling, making important and expensive choices about services becomes a harrowing experience for the rest of us.

See if this story sounds familiar:

  • You search and find a service provider that you think could provide the solutions you need
  • Their demo content, such as videos or white papers, is gated content that requires you to provide your email to view. You do this grudgingly, knowing you’re going to get a canned response from a salesperson (often junior).
  • You get a canned response from Junior Salesperson, and are mildly annoyed. When you don’t respond, you get two more canned emails about how they don’t want to be a bother, but simply wanted to get to “the top of your inbox.”
  • You relent and book a call knowing they probably won’t be able to answer any involved questions. When you ask, Junior speaks in unhelpful generalities or with uncertainty (“I’m pretty sure we’ve done that before”). When you press, the say they’ll talk to their developer/tech team.
  • Junior gets back to you with some answers, and you realize that this game of telephone tag (and their lack of product knowledge) has resulted in your questions getting lost in translation. You give up and just sign on, OR:
  • You insist on a call with someone with technical knowledge. You have to suffer Junior’s presence on the line as you try to have a proper conversation.
  • Armed with the answers you sought, you decide to sign up for the service; as soon as you do, you’re assigned a “Customer Success Ninja” who speaks in unhelpful generalities, or with uncertainty, and incorrectly communicates your questions to people with technical knowledge. You cry, because you just signed a two-year contract.

Ideally, salespeople should be able to recognize their customer’s knowledge early in the process and recruit help—but failing a marked change in sales processes, here are some pointers to help “break the sales funnel” when looking at add a service.

  1. If you’re not technically savvy, rely on someone in your organization who is. Or call a friend. Get them involved in the process early. Explain your needs and have them help you formulate questions.
  2. Reach out to people who use the service or system. Usually, companies will have some form of a Clients page on their site. Or request contacts.
  3. Insist on getting a live human being with technical knowledge as early in the process as you can. Be fussy.
  4. NEVER impulse-buy software or services. If you’ve lived without it this long, you can take the extra time to learn about it. An end-of-the-month discount incentive is not worth a poor choice.
  5. Always press to get a demo, walkthrough, or even a trial, so you can see and feel the user experience.
  6. Don’t sign up for anything you’re not sure will do what you need it to do.
  7. Don’t sign up for anything unless you have the staff that can, or is willing to become, power users of said system.

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