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Servant selling as a marketing tool

Bill Lee

Let me begin by reminding our readers that it is the job of a building supply sales force to sell the capacity of the business they work for. Well-educated sales people are called upon not to pick and choose, but to do their dead-level best to sell the full product line their organization brings to market.

While there are occasions when a newly hired salesperson is handed a “full book of business,” perhaps because a career salesperson retires or abruptly leaves the company, nine times out of 10 there are only two ways for new salespeople to grow sales: sell more to current customers, and take business away from the competition.

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It’s no secret that a significant percentage of our industry’s salespeople are reaching retirement age, and the next few years will see many newly recruited salespeople joining a company’s sales team. The first step will be to learn enough product knowledge to know what they are selling, and the second will be to make a big decision: What benefit—what value—am I going to offer my customers and prospects to motivate them to do more business with me and less with their current suppliers?

This is what sales is all about, folks, and for a greater percentage of your customers’ purchases to be from you, you are going to have to figure out how you are going to make that happen. Some salespeople will resort to begging, because they have nothing to offer that their customers are not already receiving. How about you? Where will you begin? What will you propose to your customers and prospects to persuade them to do business with you?

Based on my experience, the more educated salespeople become in regard to the “business” side of home building, the higher the odds their advice will be sought after. Salespeople who are new to the selling profession quite often receive very little training on how to approach an existing customer for the first time or how to make a prospect call. I encourage new salespeople to ask their sales manager or one of the highly respected salespeople in the company to give them some pointers for making initial sales calls.

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Here are a few of the pointers I recommend managers cover with new salespeople:

– Current customers are especially important. Introduce yourself and tell them about your background and why you are looking forward to servicing their account in this market. Ask if there are any unresolved issues you need to be aware of. Make sure in case of an emergency your contact knows how to get in touch with you and vice versa.

– One idea that has worked well for me is to put together a hand-picked “Best Practices” list that I believe any manager would benefit from. At the bottom, I include the source of the article and the author’s name. Since this is a marketing piece, include your cell phone number, name and address.

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– One of my favorite “Best Practices” I lifted from chapter 75 (entitled “How to Fire!”) of Jim Sobeck’s book, “The Real Business 101.” Most of us botch firing an employee. We wait too long to do it. We are unprepared with the right words and demeanor. Keep neat, fresh copies of your favorite “Best Practices” and use them like a leave-behind with those you visit.

Industry guru Bradley Hartmann puts it very succinctly: “You are owed nothing. Deliver value first.” If these lists are well presented, they represent value.

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