Persuasion Article No17

Big Sales, part 1

(This is persuasion article No17 from the YourSalesSuccess eZine)


I was thinking today about the first major sale I made and what lessons there could be to learn from that scenario.

Let me run you through the early stages of that sale.

I had an appointment to see the purchasing director for a major multinational manufacturing company. 
We had some business with them, albeit small. 
The visit was to check on their future requirements of the products we sold them and to run through some of our other products to see if there was anything else we could offer.

When I came into the office of the buyer I noticed he was upset. 
Normally he was a laid back character but this day he seemed nervous, preoccupied and on edge.

I asked what the problem was but he declined to answer.

The buyer then received a couple of calls.
He apologized for the interruptions but said he needed to take the calls.

Now some sales people would be getting quite annoyed at having their time wasted. 
For some reason I just sat quietly and listened in on the calls.

There was talk of airfreight and quality problems.
When the buyer got off the phone I basically said something like,
"Hey, you've obviously got a big problem, can I help ?" He didn't think I could to which I replied,
"We'll, maybe not but you never know, it's a small world at times and maybe I know someone who could help"

He opened up and told me that the plant was about to stop because the raw material they bought from Thailand had impurities, the next shipment was "who knows where (it was trans-shipped and very difficult to trace)" and he was having a lot of trouble organising an airfreight.

I couldn't believe a company of their size was in such a position given that suppliers must be falling all over themselves to get their business.

He told me that there were only four suppliers in the world. Two were sold out and they recently had to switch from the other supplier because they were too expensive. 
Even considering this airfreight the old supplier was not competitive.

I think it was around this time that I noticed myself talking in terms of what are WE going to do about this problem or how can WE solve this problem.
I believe this was a major influence on the final outcome.

I dug deeper and found out the company that recently lost the business did not have a representative in Australia and the buyer had been dealing with them directly. 
I also found out how big the business was and how far out the old supplier was on price. (in percentage terms)

I suggested I'd like to try and work with the previous supplier to get the buyer a better deal. He thought I was wasting my time because, after all, he had been quoted direct and we would need to make a commission that would make the price even higher.

I stressed that he had nothing to lose.
So, he gave me the contact details of the European supplier. 
I then said,
"If I make some headway on this I may need your support to clinch the distributorship with the OS supplier, can I count on your backing?"
The buyer agreed.

As I walked out the door the buyer said something like, 
"Good luck, Houdini"

OK. Where was I as I walked out that door ?

  • We'll, I had some large potential business in my sights,
  • A customer that was unhappy with their current supply arrangement
  • (Although the OS head office was on his back about keeping costs down),
  • A buyer that was prepared to humour me,
  • An overseas supplier who had no local representation and a quality product that the customer had used in the past.

I had a number of obstacles:

  • I had to convince my management to let me go after this business and
  • I also had to convince a supplier to put me in the middle of a business where they were already being beaten on price.
  • Then I had to resolve a price issue and get the order.

What had I done right so far ?

Well, you be the judge.

In my opinion, the salient points are:

  • I went to see the customer
  • (I may not have learned of his problem over the phone),
  • I noticed he was upset rather than focusing on my own needs and feelings,
  • I was nosey,
  • I could have been annoyed at the interruptions but instead I chose to focus on the buyer's pain,
  • I was persistent even though the cause looked hopeless,
  • Somehow I managed to get on the same side as the buyer like it was he and I against the problem,
  • I got a lot of information that I needed which I would use as ammunition later on,
  • I got a commitment from the buyer to support me in getting the distributorship.

This last step was a biggie too. 
Given the buyers commitment it would be hard for him to shaft me and try and go direct again if I managed to negotiate a good deal.
His support would also affect his evaluation of the final offer I put to him, if and when I did.

You'll have to read the next edition to find out how it finished, in the meantime,

Here's to YourSalesSuccess.