Online Business Awards Online Business Awards

Peter Linas, international MD, Bullhorn, looks at why Mad Men’s Don Draper’s approach to sales simply doesn’t work.


Madmen_103799438Madmen_103799438“What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.” So says Don Draper in the first episode of the period drama Mad Men. A simple statement – and a quick-capsule summary of cynical advertising. But above all, it’s a love letter to inauthenticity.

Salespeople get a bad rep. There’s the amoral, foul-mouthed culprits of Glengarry Glen Ross and Jordan Belfort’s hedonistic and eventually criminal behaviour in The Wolf of Wall Street.

And then there’s Don Draper. In the popular consciousness, he’s a hard-drinking, womanizing, egotistical character who wins by wining and dining his clients – charm being the starter, BS the main course.

Person to person

Don Draper is a great character, but not somebody you should try to emulate. If you build your client relationships on a foundation of superficiality, inauthenticity, and improvisation, they’ll treat your business arrangement the same way.

The modern workforce is not interested in the same things as Don Draper’s generation, the Baby Boomers, or even the Gen X’ers. Contrary to popular belief, Millennials are hardworking and diligent. They value a better work-life balance and happiness over cold, hard cash – a far cry from the stereotype that depicts them as a generation that expects something for nothing. They want to engage with and be engaged by the world, and they approach both the companies they work for and the companies they buy from with this attitude.

It’s a generation accustomed to brands that get to know them and tailor their services accordingly. The same applies to their attitude to suppliers in the workplace. Given the amount of information available from a simple Google search, they expect you, as a salesperson, to know everything about their business from the outset. The Don Draper approach of ‘winging it’ will leave you wanting.

When you consider that by 2025 75% of the global workforce will be Millennials, the companies that want to get ahead and stay ahead need to up their game when it comes to selling products and tools that this generation will be using in the workplace.

Better preparation

The 1960’s approach to sales may have worked in the 1960s. But in 2015 and beyond, you will need to get a little more creative – and technology represents the best opportunity for you to do so.

As a modern sales professional you are, above all else, busy. You’re busy in the office, juggling internal meetings, client calls, and chasing new business. You’re busy outside the office too, meeting prospective customers and networking with fellow professionals and clients too.

Go to enough meetings, and they’ll all kind of blend into one. Get enough client calls at once, and it’s easy to get flustered and forget things. Software that facilitates automated data capture stores information from these encounters, manages it, and makes it easily retrievable for your team – making sure you’ll always be equipped with the knowledge you need in advance of a crucial meeting.

Getting sentimental

Reporting isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, but contemporary technology makes it faster, smarter, and better than ever.

Modern customer relationship management (CRM) technology isn’t just about formatting reports, storing data, and building queries. Those things are part of it, of course. But once you’ve captured the information, you’re now capable of doing far more with it. You can use historical data to understand how your customers think and feel about your company.

By the time a customer tells you how they feel about your company, it’s often too late to do anything about it – whatever market you’re in, you almost certainly have eager-to-please competitors already forming relationships with your customers. So by the time your customers reach the point where they might complain, they can simply go elsewhere. Automated sentiment analysis lets salespeople identify how customers are communicating with the brand: if they’re unenthusiastic, it’ll let them know so they can fix the problem before it gets out of hand. If they’re largely happy, it lets them identify areas in which they could secure the relationship even further.

Proactive sales

In Season 5, one Mad Men character says to another: “You’re excellent at making the clients feel their needs are being met. But [another character] has the rare gift of making them feel as if they haven’t any needs.”

This is the one bit of Mad Men sales wisdom that has stood the test of time. A client shouldn’t have to wait until they’re ready to buy to get excellent service. Ultimately, they don’t really want to think about you that much at all: the less work you make them do, the more likely they are to stick with your company.

The right software can provide you with the ability to anticipate your customers’ needs and act on them well in advance. It will let you know things like the best time to connect with your customers, and which devices you should use to do this. This technology knows what happened five years and five seconds ago, and will give you the means to act on it. It will keep up to date with buying trends and individual customer habits, allowing you to build your sales strategy around solid, actionable information.

Solidity, reliability, taking pre-emptive action: these are the things Millennial customers value, and they’re things you should value as a modern sales professional if you hope to stay relevant. Nobody’s going to mind the odd meeting over a glass of wine, but it’s not a business strategy: if you’re not providing value, it’s a lot of old smoke without fire.

And smoke – as Don Draper knows all too well – gets in your eyes.