The sales function is arguably the most important part of any business regardless of whether it is a start-up or a multinational, an electronics security wholesaler or a sales and marketing company. Without “orders” or “work”, you have nothing to build upon – no efficiencies to work on, no staff to hire, no supply chain processes to create, nothing.
Having been in business for 25 years and having worked in the building security industry for a majority of this time, my experience has taught me that there are certain techniques that are key to being able to effectively sell your product and/or service, your business and yourself. Below, I draw on my experience in managing a security products and service business in the high-rise residential sector, to briefly outline some of the qualities I believe make a great salesperson and a few lessons I have learned along the way.
- Great salespeople are entrepreneurial. Aside from being passionate about what they do and being all sorts of energetic, ambitious and persistent, good salespeople see opportunities where others don’t. In the very beginning when customers were few and far between, our sales manager at the time insisted on working with all clients, regardless of how big or small they were. I always thought that if you were going to take time to develop relationships with customers, it might as well be worth it from an orders value perspective. His argument however was that a customer today doing smaller jobs will one day develop into a customer doing larger projects. This is exactly what happened. Those customers doing 20-30 units at a time 10 years ago are today doing 150-300 units, two to three times a year. Not only are we working on many of these projects, the relationships fostered all those years ago are still going strong today.
- Great salespeople understand customer requirements and have perfected their pitch accordingly. What’s more is that their pitch not only centres around solving a problem for the customer but also provides them with benefits of solving the problem in that way. Our customers, often being developers, builders and electricians are in business to earn a profit and make a living. Understanding our customers’ needs led to a change in the direction of our company many years ago. We went from selling boxes in a wholesale capacity to becoming integrators out in the field. Customers did not need to worry about hiring additional electricians for this portion of works, any potential lost productivity due to rework, or having to train their electricians on products they only used in the last 10% of their project. We took on this responsibility, allowing our electrical customers to maximise their productivity and profitability while we delivered an integrated electronic solution at a fixed cost to them.
- Great salespeople are able to provide the customer with a credible reason why they should buy from them. Customers want to know that you are real and have the necessary skill-set and product capabilities to handle whatever might be required of you during and long after the sale is completed. Credibility is not attained by a job title. Don’t hide behind your title or the company you represent as a way to build credibility – the days of being able to do so passed long ago. Credibility is built through following through on promises made, genuinely enquiring about your customer’s requirements, being consistent, being honest and establishing yourself as a go-to person in the industry.
- Great salespeople hustle. Yes, as daunting as it may seem, they hustle. However, don’t confuse “hustle” with a high level of activity or being “busy”. A packed calendar is not an indicator of “hustle”. To hustle is to fight for results rather than accept average results. They make no excuses; always show up; are highly responsive; follow through in a timely manner; do the jobs that nobody else wants to do; have clear goals and are relentless when it comes to achieving these. Salespeople who hustle do not let themselves be distracted by obstacles, or difficulties, but figure out how to get past them.
- Great salespeople build partnerships. While this requires more than just well-developed relationships, it is the salesperson who will often bring such partnership opportunities to the table. This allows them and the organisation to work with others in mutually beneficial ways, generating a sales ‘multiplier effect’. As a part wholesale business, we have been able to develop partnerships with security contractors who not only buy Urmet products exclusively but now also use our contracting arm as support for both technical matters and manpower requirements, as and when required. The multiplier effect comes with supplying goods for all their projects and not just one or two of these a year. These partnerships however did not happen overnight. Our salespeople recognised that these partnerships were possible using our unique set of wholesale distribution and on-site commissioning skills. They realised that what we once perceived to be a conflict in the market is actually, a strength.
- Great salespeople follow up. It’s not rocket science but it does take a certain discipline. And it’s a rare discipline. It is easier to move onto other things in the sales function than it is to follow up customers. A very wise man once told me that there is no point in preparing an offer if you are not going to follow up. And nothing could be more true. In today’s modern world, following up the customer can be done either by phone, email, text or face to face. About 25% of our time if not more, is spent on the phone following up customers or providing some form of customer service; another 25% is spent with customers following up face to face. If you don’t follow up, how will you know where you sit against your competitors on your offer? How will you know what questions to ask? How will you answer any of their questions? How will you take the offer to the next phase? You won’t. The only question then is, what method is the most effective? People are busy these days and we should respect their time so an email or phone call is fine. But is this effective? In our industry, the most effective method is face to face. Use the phone or text or email to set up a meeting, but in my opinion, nothing compares to the power of face to face because people do not just buy your products or services, they buy into you and your business.
- Great salespeople ask for the order. They are always looking to close the deal. This is probably the easiest thing a salesperson is able to do but they often don’t, won’t or are embarrassed to. Don’t be afraid to ask for the order. It makes no difference what industry you are in – if you don’t ask for the order how can you hope to get the sale?
- Great salespeople always stay involved during the project delivery process. Handing over to the delivery side of the business is one thing, but great salespeople never let go. They want to know the business is delivering on its promise. They want to be the first to know that things are going as planned or if the project has hit a roadblock or if the customer is not satisfied. They do so for a number of reasons. If the project is going well, the salesperson will use this as leverage when calling to ask for the next order. If the delivery has its problems, the salesperson will want to control the communication between the organisation and the customer as well as drive the problem fix to ensure the relationship is maintained.
Great salespeople are ultimately and above else, people, and selling techniques and processes such as these can be learned and can be tailored and applied to suit any industry. Being able to sell effectively comes with patience, practice and above all passion. It is easier to sell and be great at selling your product or services when you are working in an industry of which you have an inherent interest, and you are selling something you believe in. That’s the first step. The rest will follow.
Ari Koutsougeras | Managing Director
Urmet Group in Australia
T: +61 2 8585 0700