What’s your sales brand? If you’re like most, you probably believe you’re the ideal salesperson who “partners” with your customers in a special way. And while most salespeople are self-assured about the value they bring to the table, the things others say about them often fail to mirror the salesperson’s beliefs.
Take Roy, salesman for a manufacturer of building products, and Charlie, the VP of sales (not their real names). At a business dinner, Charlie asked, “You work with a lot of our dealers. What is the best piece of advice you would offer our salespeople?”
Without hesitation I said, “Make appointments. Dealers are tired of manufacturer reps who show up unannounced without a productive purpose.” The answer was barely heard by Charlie because he was tracking down the waiter for more wine. Roy heard me and was quick with a retort.
“That’s good advice for most,” he agreed before continuing. “In my case it’s okay because my customers know I’ll always be showing up on Tuesdays.” I said, “That’s what most salespeople say.”
He asserted, “I bet they do, but in my case it’s true.” I replied, “They say that too.”
Roy, like many in our industry, is a “professional visitor.” He gets away with the behavior because dealers and contractors, in the absence of a truly consultative salesperson, settle for mediocre performance.
If I ask salespeople why they don’t make appointments, they assert that you can’t get builders to make them. This begs the questions: Do builders make appointments with their dentists, their customers, the building inspectors? The answer is, of course, “yes.” The clear conclusion is that builders and industry professionals make appointments; they just don’t make them with salespeople who haven’t established their credibility.
Another popular sales brand is the “hero.” This is the salesperson who is constantly negotiating on behalf of customers for special considerations. There is nothing wrong with being a hero to your customers until it starts to harm profits. This happens when opportunity costs are created by allocating resources that could be used profitably for other customers or operational efficiencies.
Perhaps the most common brand of salesperson in the LBM industry is the “beggar.” This is the salesperson who relentlessly asserts that price is the most influential factor in a buying decision. Of course, this is false. If it were true, then only the cheapest provider would be in business today.
Consider the reasons why a buyer might say “no” to the salesperson. It could be the buyer was never really interested in the first place and was only using the salesperson to keep an existing supplier honest. Perhaps the buyer simply didn’t like the salesperson. Maybe the salesperson had bad breath. Maybe the salesperson kept showing up without appointments. Instead of telling the uncomfortable truth, buyers defer to the rote script, “Sorry, but your price was too high,” and salespeople, eager to deflect blame, accept this as gospel.
There is absolute truth that price matters until the “beggar” asserts that it is the only factor for doing business. There is nothing wrong with cold calls until the “professional visitor” argues they should be standard operating procedure. There is nothing wrong with advocating for buyers until the “hero” starts costing the branch unreasonable expenses.
So, what is the ideal brand? It’s the salesperson who schedules appointments; balances advocacy between the supplier and buyer; and the one whose customers assert that while the price might not be the lowest, the value the salesperson brings to the table makes it all worth it.
Rick Davis is the Sales Education Leader for ABC Supply and the President of Building Leaders. You can buy his books or learn more about his online sales training platform at buildingleaders.com.