Think of two or three words you want your customers to use to describe you. Build toward terms like: advocate, credible, trustworthy, or knowledgeable.
Or think of our NSCA tagline and begin your career by striving to earn the right to be their voice, to become their trusted advisor, and eventually a business resource.
Here’s a list of nine lessons for the new sales professional …
- Know your audience. I hear both independent and factory direct reps using condescending terms like “it’s so simple that anybody can install this” or even “end-users can program this themselves.” Integrators make their living on what you’ve just oversimplified. Don’t underestimate the challenges your customers face, or your eventual influence to make their business better.
- Don’t waste their time or yours. You will get the dreaded call: The boss wants to go on sales calls with you. This comes with the territory. You can make it either a great experience or a huge time suck.
- Have something of real value to offer. Don’t drop by to chat unless you have a purpose, and have something that will make a difference for your customer. Use technology to send routine product updates or information that’s already well documented.
- Don’t talk smack about the competition, especially starting or moving rumors along about other integrators in town. This backfires more than it builds value; we live and work in a very social (and small) world. The impression this leaves is: “If you will do this to them, what do you say about us at their office?”
- Avoid “special deals” if they aren’t truly special. That exclusive offer or year-end special better be of real value. Savvy customers can sniff out a sales spiff program in minutes. Think about the pitch, be honest about who it benefits, and be clear if it’s really exclusive.
- If you have a lead, be up front and honest if you are sharing it with others. Don’t be the rep who whispers that you’ve got the inside track on a deal you’re bringing to “just this customer” when you repeat the same story on your next call.
- Stick to what you really know. Don’t talk about saving labor in the field when you’ve never been on a jobsite. If you do, use industry labor unit figures, not the brochure. And one thing you can learn quickly and know well is the dealer agreements you are responsible for. Eventually, you will have to know your products better than the customer. Until you do, dial down the urge to impress with product factoids.
- Avoid the temptation to influence a design. The system chain is a complicated and ever-changing maze of hardware, software, and programing. One little substitution can be the difference between acceptance and commissioning going off without a hitch or dozens of extra hours troubleshooting a compatibility issue. If you can’t help yourself, make sure your company carries errors and omissions insurance.
- You have to do the follow-up, even on the small things. Building credibility and trust are gained by doing the small things just as thoroughly as you would the big things. You can really impress the customers by following up, no matter how big or small the sale or problem is.
Before the internet, and before instant information and social media, sales was a different job than it is today. What has remained the same is the basics: product knowledge, finding solutions to problems, integrity and trust, being of real value, communications, and education.