I admit, I’m not a dog person. But those little lapdogs some people carry around are kind of cute, especially when they do little tricks like speak on command or walk at their owner’s heel.
Still. I don’t want my salespeople behaving like that. And neither should you… and yet, many sales organizations let buyers turn their salespeople into lapdogs.
Here’s how, and why that’s a problem.
The ideal lapdog is low energy, amiable, obedient, and small. The ideal lapdog salesperson is low energy, amiable, obedient… and their achievements tend to stay small.
Buyers may not respect them, but they do love to love to order lapdog salespeople around. Here are some of the commands lapdog salespeople eagerly obey.
A salesperson’s first contact with a buyer is often a low-level employee tasked with filling out a chart with options and prices. The first conversation this buyer has with your salesperson is usually, “How much is it going to cost?”
Eager to please, a lapdog salesperson will scurry off to put together a solution and draw up a price, or quote a potential price range, or deliver a pricing sheet, without ever having had a value conversation.
This forces your solution into a price war with other solutions, and nobody wins that war.
Almost every rookie salesperson, without adequate guidance, will jump to the presentation stage of the process too quickly. This isn’t always their fault! Often, it’s what the buyer thinks they want.
Today’s buyers come into the process more educated than ever before, and they often think what they want is a presentation. Too often, salespeople behave like well-trained lapdogs and eagerly show up to do it… again, without ever having had a value conversation with the right stakeholders.
Understandably, buyers expect salespeople to be amiable and warm. That’s a reasonable expectation, and it’s important for salespeople to “shake” and build rapport… to a point.
But a good lapdog never, ever growls or expresses disagreement with its masters, and often this is how salespeople behave as well. Even when they know better, they’re reluctant to tell a buyer where they’re making a mistake or to walk away from a bad deal.
Often, buyers want salespeople to “shake” on command and say, “yes, yes,” to whatever they propose and scramble to make it look good and work out. This often ends with the buyer getting less value, and/or the seller making sales that never should have been made.
Now that your salesperson has obediently followed commands to “fetch,” “speak,” and/or “shake,” the buyer now wants them to sit tight and wait for them to make a decision.
A close companion to the “sit” command, the “stay” command asks your salesperson to be patient. It comes in the form of “our process is complex,” or “we need one more stakeholder to buy in,” or “we have to get budget approval.”
It demands that your salesperson sits on their hands… and then sit on their hands some more… and meanwhile, your opportunity pipeline is weighted down with months- or years-old opportunities that aren’t really opportunities anymore… while your salesperson is patiently obeying the buyer’s “stay” command.
Ah, “heel.” Such a sweet behavior for a lapdog, and a dangerous temptation for the salesperson. In the dog world, the “heel” command orders the pup to stay close to the master’s side, usually one particular side, and to sit when the master stops walking. To a bystander, it looks like a beautiful feat of loyalty and obedience.
If you listen to the advice of many sales experts, you might start to think this is a desirable behavior from a salesperson, too. In place of a sales process, they preach that the seller should “align with” the buyer’s process. In other words, stay right on their heels.
In a recent LinkedIn conversation, Dave Kurlan explained why this is a problem:
“When salespeople align with the buyer's journey, they become facilitators, and when they facilitate, they are the same as everyone else and become commoditized.”
A salesperson trained exclusively to follow the buyer’s journey has no room to point out where the buying process isn’t serving the buyer’s needs, to disrupt that process, or to take control of the process.
lapdog salespeople will never reach their profit potential for your organization. They’ll always miss deals, weight down your pipeline with bad opportunities, and make bad deals.
What you want are salespeople who are free of the lapdog role, assertive, and able to guide prospects and customers to a profitable win-win solution (or to let bad prospects go quickly and without fuss).
To break your salespeople out of the lapdog trap, what you need is a clear, strategic milestone-based process, and the tools, training, and coaching to guide them through it. While the process should be aligned with the buyer in the sense that it’s sensitive to the way buyers buy, their buying needs, and their decision-making process, it should not do so at the expense of guiding the buyer to a more effective way of buying.
Along with an effective process, your salespeople need training, including assertiveness training, coaching, enablement, and a tool like Membrain to guide them through the process and serve up training and enablement content in context.
I’d love to show you how Membrain supports stronger, more assertive and effective sales. Let's start by figuring out the financial upside of increased sales effectiveness in your organization? Sign up for our sales effectiveness ROI session here.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills and processes.