There are several resources providing tips and sales training for those who sell to the end user or consumer, but very little available specifically for the manufacturer, wholesaler or supplier. The following are some tips for those who service and sell to well drillers, HVAC companies, mechanical contractors, plumbers and water treatment dealers.
Like almost every other industry, we are seeing dramatic changes that impact us directly and it is natural to fall back on what we did in the past rather than evolve with the changes. However, what worked in the past may not be adequate and you must be fully committed to compete to both find and keep your customers like never before.
Your customers are busy and inundated with interruptions that dissuade them from having an interest in hearing from you. In their minds, you are just another person or company taking up their valuable time adding little or no value to their business. Subsequently, you need to be different, delineating yourself with greater value for them, so customers seek you out because you are an essential part of their company’s success. Additionally, today’s approach and relationship must have a professional yet warm feel of genuine interest, as people will more readily make time for people they like and trust.
To achieve this, you need to understand their business and needs and portray what you offer as relevant to delivering what they want, keeping in mind that it is all about them.
When visiting your customers, you need to arrive prepared. You need to have a clear understanding of your objectives and how to attain those goals with your customer’s interests at heart.
Every interaction is an opportunity to sell and selling in simple terms is communicating in a manner that inspires the audience to listen and take action. They need to feel and know what is in it for them up front.
To be effective, you must first clearly know what your virtues are: What are the benefits of doing business with you? Who are you? What earns you the right to reach out to them? How are you making their lives or their businesses more enjoyable, fulfilling or easier? Why are you their choice? What are the features and benefits of your products and services relevant to their wants and needs? More importantly, how is what you have to offer value added to each of the people you are meeting with, whether to them or their customers?
Your visits must be purposeful, resulting in your contributions becoming a measurable part of their success.
The following are a few questions you should consider before you meet with your customers:
What kind of business is it?
Large corporate culture, medium business organization or small company with a family feel;
Where do they do business?
E-mail, fax, phone, counter, showroom, field, in-home;
How do they do business?
Wholesale order takers, reactive service providers, retail, direct sales activities;
Who are their customers?
Wholesalers, dealers, consumers, a niche market;
When do they do business?
Operating hours, short or long order cycle; and
What do their customers buy?
Branding, warrantees, equipment, components, parts, services, print materials, etc.
Knowing the above earns you the credibility and right to be in their business.
When visiting your customers, you need to observe what they are doing right and what they could be doing better. Look for signs, displays and other promotional and marketing tools they use. Is it clear that they sell your product or services? Are they promoting your company effectively? What is missing?
How do they look? Ask yourself, if you were their customer, would you buy from them? What could you do to improve their presentation?
How do they sound? Are they confident and competent? Do they know what questions to ask their customers and how to field questions that come to them? What can you do to help? Who is the gatekeeper? Who is doing the selling? Who has the greatest influence and who makes the decisions?
Get to know each of the players that impact your business and be a key to making their lives and work easier.
Assume nothing and ask many questions. Show that you really care and get involved. Find out what challenges they have related to your products and services. Find out what they like about your competitors, whether at the manufacturing level or end-user level, and do what you can to address those issues now.
If they have warranty claims, credits or returns, be sure to do whatever you can while you are on site to help them clean up any loose ends.
Be sure to offer tips or training, if even for only 10 minutes—it adds value and raises the customer’s confidence level in you, your company and your products.
Make sure they have your brochures or catalog and go through it with them, flagging products of particular interest in their market. Introduce new products, promotions or pricing. Show them how easy it is to add on and up-sell your products to customers, making them more money.
Maintain a detailed file of your customers in a database, along with your salespeople and the contacts for future calls. Familiarity is key to your customers making time for you.
Make sure they know who you are and how to reach you, and extend a genuine invite for them to contact you any time.
As in any sales process, ask for their business and expect to get it because you have earned it. Take an order now. No order is too small. Be sure to get their commitment that they will contact you for any assistance and be sure they feel you are working for them.
Your commitment and investment in your customers will not only close more and bigger orders on each visit but, more importantly, create longer-lasting loyalty from them for many years to follow.