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BILL LEE: Plant Seeds For Future Sales

How to use prospect calls to gain competitive business.

If there’s one thing that’s often missing among the sales approaches many of our industry’s salespeople use, it’s the failure to maintain a consistent prospecting presence among contractors who don’t buy from us, but who are presently in the enemies’ camp.

For years, I have filed away insightful articles I’ve read in our industry’s trade press. I recently ran across one such article written by Mike McDole (now with Massachusetts-based National Lumber) in which Mike wrote about “loss-leader quotes” from salespeople who are on the outside looking in, trying to get their foot in the door with another company’s

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If many of the salespeople in our industry had ever learned how to prospect using professional selling techniques, just think of where our margins might be today. It’s difficult to point fingers at the competition, however, when your own salespeople are equally guilty of using the same tactics.

I believe it’s the sales managers’ job to teach the sales force how to take business away from the competition without
using price as a weapon.

Low-ball quotes are still the most popular selling technique salespeople and even branch managers in our industry use in an attempt to get a prospect’s attention. While all contractors are looking for ways to save money on both material and on subs, I have to believe a price that’s too good to be true is just that. How many contractors would you think are actually
gullible enough to believe that one supplier in town either buys so well or operates so efficiently that they can offer comparable material at 10% under the other suppliers in town?

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It’s not easy to take business away from the competition, but if on each prospect call, salespeople would begin to plant something in the prospect’s mind—something that just might prompt them to call them in the future—they would be surprised how much more effective their prospecting efforts would become.

My friend, Art Sobczak, author of “Smart Calling” and a Scottsdale-based telemarketing expert, illustrates this by giving an example of how not to do it: Ending a call with, “So, keep us in mind, okay?” is one of the most worthless phrases ever to pass a salesperson’s lips. I wonder how prospects manage to keep a straight face as they say to themselves, “Oh sure, I will.” This is like when you say to someone, “Hey, we should get together sometime and do lunch or something.”

Instead, what you should tell the prospect to do should remind them of what future unfavorable circumstances they should be on the lookout for which just happen to be problems you could solve. For example: “Okay, Mr. Keenan, it doesn’t look like
I have a fit for what you need today. Here’s something to keep in mind, though. The next time you see some of your leftover
material sitting out in the rain turning black or warping from too much exposure to the weather, be sure to think of me because our company just instituted a policy to pick up all credit returns within 48 hours. I’ll tell you what I’ll do…I’ll
leave you my business card. Please keep it in on your desk for easy reference, okay?”

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Notice the last sentence. It asks the prospect to place the card (or literature) in a place that they’ll see it when they’re most likely to need it.

Situations change, and when that happens, this technique might just help the prospect to first think of you and what you are selling.

The beauty of a money-saving idea is that it’s something you can share with your prospects that you receive 100% credit for and the competition will have a difficult time duplicating.

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