What does it mean to be a salesperson? Many salespeople believe it means taking a product and selling it to a customer whether they need it or not. They believe that the ultimate way to receive the sales order is to be the cheapest.
I have a different approach to sales. If you win the business based upon price, you will lose the business on price. To be a great salesperson, you must listen to the customer and their problems understanding what they are trying to achieve.
The Sales Process
Ask the client good questions to thoroughly understand and clarify the problem/opportunity. Try to understand the customer’s goal…savings, production, or return on investment.
Put together a presentation based upon facts and figures to show how you are going to solve the problem and what benefits the customer can expect.
Most importantly…Deliver what you sold the customer.
When you sell solutions, you offer more than price or a widget.
Price Reductions Are Not The Answer
One of my salespeople came to me with a problem at a very large client. We were selling materials and a competitor had come in and undercut the price. The salesperson’s solution was to reduce our price which would have created a race to the bottom. I took a different approach looking at the client’s process. Then, designing an engineered a solution to save the company $300,000 per year. Instead of playing checkers, I changed the game to chess. The customer is happy, and we still have this business today.
During the financial crisis, my largest customer asked all vendors to reduce their prices by 10%. I was already offering the customer a fair price and was not able to meet the 10% reduction. Instead, I showed them how I had saved them $1,200,000 annually through the design changes we had implemented over the past five years. I received an email stating that they appreciated our relationship and the value that we brought to their company. These were just the facts they needed to show how they were driving down costs in the organization without compromising quality.
Communication Is Important
Customers who believe in the total cost of ownership are in it for the long term and allow you to build long term relationships that is beneficial to both parties. Document the solutions you provide so you can quantify the total cost of ownership for a project. Once you provide great products and service, hopefully you will get a referral from the customer both internally and externally. A referral is gold in the sales process.
Just as importantly, follow up and make sure your existing customers are happy and there are no unresolved issues when an order is complete. One dissatisfied customer tells ten people. Your reputation is important, and it takes good communication to ensure the expectations of the customer are met.
Understand Pain Points
If you are having issues getting work with a customer, change the game. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what is important to them. My purchasing manager used to work for a large aluminum producer. I asked her how she made her decision when looking at bids and she stated that she had a cost savings goal she had to hit through negotiating a better price. So, in this circumstance, you would look at products that might have a higher upfront cost but would deliver a lower total cost of ownership over the life of the product. Provide the purchasing agent the numbers to put towards their cost saving goals.
I had another customer who oversaw cutting, heat treating, and shipping large quantities of steel. What was important to him was reliability. We were the same cost as the other people installing refractory, but we could also perform the combustion maintenance on the furnaces at the same time. The customer went from having three unscheduled outages a year to having zero unscheduled outages over the past five years.
People Like Them
People do business with people they like. Your organization needs to have ease of doing business and a commitment to doing what is right.
I wish someone would have shared this prospective with me when I went into sales fresh out of engineering school. Hopefully, my process will help sales people and customers in better understanding each other and how you can better work together.