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Nine out of 10 salespeople wing their way through sales calls

Bill Lee sales & operations

“Good morning! My name is Oliver Witten. I represent Eagle Supply Company out of South Hampton. Do you have time for me to give you a few prices on several of our most popular products?”

This is the way Oliver introduces himself and his company to virtually every prospect he visits. Just ask his company’s veteran salespeople, and they will tell you the same thing; their entire company believes selling is all about price.

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The odds are this perception is not accurate, but opening conversations with prospects by quoting a handful of prices is the same as saying, “Our company has the lowest prices in the market. Let me quote you on a few products so you can see how cheap our prices are.”

Is this really the message you want to lead with? Assuming your quality and service are acceptable, the odds are your prices will still need to be in the ballpark, but there’s almost always a lot more involved in taking business away from the competition than having the lowest price.

Managers who promote a value-based marketing approach by their sales team, combined with an incentive-based compensation plan, will find that their sales personnel will close substantially more new business at a faster rate than those who rely upon a commission plan alone.

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When is the sale made?

Is it when the customer finally says, “Yes?” Is it sometime after the decision maker gets to know you and trust you? Or is it possibly when the prospect heard the way you introduced yourself the very first time you called for an appointment?

I believe that any of these moments can be when the sale was made, or possibly several other times, as well. I also believe that most of the time buyers have to “warm up” to salespeople before they make the decision to do business with them. This is why salespeople must be easy to be with, non-controversial and knowledgeable, but not cocky or arrogant.

Meet the prospect

I have always maintained that a salesperson’s number one goal on a prospect call is to get permission to come back. And I still believe that is a critical goal. I’m not going to ask for an order on the first call, but what I am going to do is something my prospects will perceive as solid evidence that I genuinely care about them and their priorities.

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The first stage of relationship with prospects is to give them a positive impression of you as a salesperson; that is, someone they believe would likely be an asset to them and to their business. I have found no more effective way to accomplish this goal than to approach prospects with a servant mentality.

Displaying a servant mentality

My favorite book on this topic is “The Servant” by James C. Hunter. The author says: “To have a servant mentality, you have to think more about what’s good for others, i.e., your customers and prospects—and less about what’s good for you.

“Great leadership is not defined by what you accomplish; it’s what your influence and inspiration helps other people accomplish.”

Certainly a salesperson wants to make a sale, but don’t rush into asking for an order. First, observe your prospect. You are looking for areas in the business your prospects are attempting to improve. Here are some examples of areas I frequently observe:

  • Be more effective business
  • Be better at training and developing their
  • To put more money on the bottom

To determine what kinds of things are preventing them from growing their businesses as rapidly as they would like.

(In next month’s issue, Bill Lee will explain why he believes sales is more about science than it is about persuasion.)

Bill Lee is a respected sales and business consultant in the LBM industry. For more information, contact Bill at leeresourcesinc@gmail.com

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