Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The New Salesman: Thinking Like Your Customer

Trade publications aren't just for decorating the lobby!
Trade Publications

One thing that differentiates great salespeople from the new guys and the “also-rans” is their ability to think like a customer.  I am told that the only real way to gain this type of insight comes via years of customer experience.  I’m not buying it.  We can accelerate the process.  After years of direct customer visits, I cannot think of a single lobby that didn’t have at least one (often a pile) magazine catering to the customer’s industry. 
These trade publications are a wealth of information surrounding the customer’s day to day problems.  Editorial pieces often prominently make the case for solutions to common critical issues - literally begging to be solved.  Other times, published studies point out detailed economic justifications for our products.  Our table is set; the sale is half made.
I recently came across an article so valuable to the economic sale; I forwarded a copy to many of my clients (it’s linked below).   If you happen to be a Sales Manager responsible for new guys selling pumps, drives, or other process related equipment, I recommend you devote time to ensuring your staff can talk intelligently about all of the points mentioned.
This wasn’t intended to be a sales brochure, but I believe it could be one of the most powerful tools in a new salesperson’s arsenal.  The short piece outlines the current state of many plants, the economic value of fixing the problem and everything the new guy needs to jump start the selling process. 
To get you started, here’s how I would approach my customer:
“Mr. Customer, I ran across this article in Plant Engineering.  I know you have many pumps in your plant and wanted to get your feedback on the points they made.  Do you think the numbers they present for cost of ownership are correct?  I know you have a plan and priorities for attacking the economics of your plant.  Can you share a bit about your plan of attack?”
Then I would pull out my notebook, shut up and take notes.  No product pitches, no fancy selling techniques – just listen.  Why?  Because only through a solid understanding and the ability to talk about these problems can a distributor salesperson become the provider of key business decisions.
Now a question for the new guys:  Was this difficult?  And for the new guy’s manager:  How many of your sales people use trade publications to further their cause?  If not, we need to talk.
Here’s the promised link…

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