I was recently talking with a sales rep for a heavy equipment company. He sells agriculture and construction equipment, you know tractors, front loaders, bull dozers, excavators, forklifts…big machines most men (and all little boys) wish they had a reason to buy. He was telling me about a particular situation he was working through with a potential customer.
He was deep into the sales process and had done an incredible job building rapport, establishing trust, showcasing his company’s capabilities to set them apart from the competition, positioning himself as an expert, and conducting a thorough needs analysis. It was obvious the customer really wanted to buy from him. The reason I know this is because the sales rep knew every single detail about his customer’s specific needs…down to the size of the tires.
Q: So why hadn’t the customer sealed the deal and signed the contract?
A: The answer is revealed when we dive deeper into how this sales rep worked to solve his customer’s needs.
Talking further with the sales rep I learned that he had given his customer several options, all options that he had specifically asked for. He also presented him with a handful of attractive financing options…each one with a different set of benefits. So far so good, right?
Then I asked the sales rep, “What did you recommend?“ He said without hesitation, “I didn’t recommend any one machine specifically; all of the equipment we sell is superior to the competition and it’s usually priced better too!” This is where I stopped him. I said, “Your customer wants to know and really needs to know what you recommend. At this point in the sales process, you’ve earned his trust and he truly values your opinion.
You need to give it to him along with all the reasons you’re making that specific recommendation. Your customer is getting ready to spend over $75,000 on a piece of equipment to do a specific job for his customers and company. He needs to feel confident that he’s making the best choice and spending his money wisely.”
This got the sales rep’s attention.
What happened here is not uncommon. The sales rep was deep into selling his product, the features, and his company’s service. For a brief moment, he abandoned his sales consultant role and became a heavy equipment order taker. He introduced his menu of products and then became a sounding board to answer all of his customer’s questions about feature benefits, options and prices. What he didn’t do was offer HIS recommendation based on the specific needs he uncovered during his needs analysis. He was leaving it up to his customer to make the final decision by himself.
The decision process should always be collaborative, where both the buyer and the seller work together to come up with the strongest solution.
After this conversation the sales rep acknowledged the fact that he was not consulting his customer. He was working hard for him and giving him everything he asked for, but he was not partnering with him to help him purchase the machine that served his needs the best. This is NOT typical for this b2b sales rep by the way. Just as high performing athletes need coaching, so do high performing salespeople.
So what happened next?
The sales rep called me the next day and said, “I called my customer and laid out all the options and then offered my recommendations. He agreed and I got the signed contract today.“
During the sales process it’s easy to get caught up in a conversation about products and/or services, and the many different options you have to serve your customers. However, it’s critical to also remember that your customers’ need your input, advice, opinions, and recommendations. Your expertise matters to them, they trust it and value it!
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Demrie Henry is a Performance Consultant at The Center for Sales Strategy