To optimise the relationship between salesperson and customer, one should look at job titles (on business cards and emails) from the customers’ perspective.
So in determining job titles for a salesperson, what job title would engender positive feelings of confidence and admiration in the customer’s mind? Conversely, what job titles would engender emotions of fear and the desire to escape (from the salesperson’s attention)?
Arguably, job titles should show three things: position in the profession (to grow empathy with the customer), knowledge about the domain (to be useful to the customer) and ability to get things done internally (within the seller) for the good of the customer.
What does the job title tell the customer?
- Sales manager: customers run for the hills – sales has a bad name in the professions – most align sales with hard sell, pestering and dirty deeds.
- Account manager: a milder form of selling – going to get things done, but really no knowledge, just dirty tricks to get an up-sale.
- Director of sales: the big guy with the company car (few customers have one of those), probably nothing to say, known to be on commission, so avoid at all costs.
- Sales engineer: considered knowledgeable, likely to be honest, will help – usually works with a sales guy though, so still take care.
- Product manager: the bridge between the technical guys and sales, considered knowledgeable but a bit distant from the customer – big, internally powerful.
- Domain specialist: no sign of sales, so OK to work with this guy – though buying agents may see him or her as non-sales and hence want to talk to the salesperson for a quote.
- Product engineer: like domain specialist, but take care in using the ‘engineer’ term for those who are not really engineers.
Managers should also note that anyone carrying the title of 'director' can be considered de facto an officer of the company, picking up the obligations of a director. He or she could be considered to have the same responsbilities as collegues registered as directors at Companies House. So take care bigging up titles!
Recognise that often there are two customers – the one with the problem that the salesperson can solve and the one that holds the purse strings that the salesperson must influence.
The salesperson needs the problem holder to push the seller’s firm and solution upwards to their budget holder. Choose job titles that empathise with that customer and make it clear to that customer that the jobholder is there to help them and solve their problems.
Remember that few customers will be on as high salaries as your salesperson nor on commission. Avoid any hint that the jobholder is in higher ‘class’ or commands a higher salary than the customer.
But still recognise that the budget holder wants to talk to a senior guy in the seller’s organisation.
Finally, remember that internal job titles (on job descriptions and employment contracts) can be different from that on business cards and email footers. The outward facing job titles should be customer-oriented.