One of my take-a-ways from spending over 40 years in the business-to-business sales and marketing world is how long-term relationships benefit the seller more so than the buyer. This article is a follow up to my recent blog “68% of customers leave as a result of perceived indifference”.
Real world problems require real world solutions. Having made thousands of sales calls from coast to coast in my career and have been involved in just about every situation. Nothing surprises me more than hearing from a prospect of how they rarely hear from their vendor sales reps. Below is a prime example of a real-world sales call in a meeting with the owner of the business. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.
After going through the discovery and probing process, the prospect then volunteered this information:
Prospect owner: “I have been dealing with Vendor A (no names here) to purchase my siding products (insert any product or service) for 7 years now and I have not heard from my sales rep for over 8 months. …let me see – I purchased $540K from them last year……and I have been dealing with Vendor B as my roofing supplier for 5 years and have not heard from my sales rep…really, I don’t remember his name…for about 11 months…and I purchased over $600K from them this past year”.
I wish I could say that this rarely happens. My only surprise was how nonchalant he provided this information. As if that is typical behavior for Vendor sales reps. Kind of “that is the normal way that vendors treat customers”. And why wouldn’t he think otherwise? Both of his major product vendors – not one but two – nationally known and recognized distributors – their sales reps showed indifference, neglect, abandonment, negligence, disregard (pick your adjective) to a significant customer. I can site multiple examples of sales reps exhibiting this behavior. But you get the idea.
The longer the relationship, the more the buyer becomes dependent on the seller. As the buyer becomes more dependent, the seller gets more complacent, inattentive and less appreciative of the business that they are enjoying. Describing them as “…they are a loyal customer”. (That loves to be ignored??)
So, there is both a problem to solve and an opportunity to take advantage of.
Problem to solve:
- If you are Vendor A or B sales rep, my advice is to immediately contact by phone or in person (now that COVID restrictions have eased) your top 20 customers that you have not contacted within the past 4 weeks. Very simple – pay attention to them.
- If you are Vendor A or B sales manager – sorry, but much of the information in the CRM may be fiction (shocking I know) …so, contact each of your sales reps top 10-15 customers and find out what degree of happy they are with your company and representation. Dig in.
- Every night is opening night – thank the customer for putting food on your table. Be passionate about their issues and challenges.
- BE PROACTIVE AND LEAD THE RELATIONSHIP.
Opportunity to take advantage of:
- Just because your Big Customer Prospect is unhappy and directly told you so, you still have a steep hill to climb to earn their business.
- The easier you make it to convert for the buyer, the better chance you will earn the business.
- You are fighting inertia of the incumbent vendor. Even though the relationship with the current vendor is poor, the fear and potential cost of change still may not have reached the “take action” stage.
- Change is not easy – you have brought the problem to the surface, now your job begins. You need to demonstrate your differences and also demonstrate your similarities. Yes similarities.
- The more similarities that you can show between their current indifferent vendor and your solution proposition, the better chance of conversion.
- Change is a negative. As a rule of thumb, the benefits of change need to outweigh the cost of change by a factor of three before the prospect will consider changing. The message of pounding the point about the benefits of your solution will not be the most effective way to get to the prospect’s “take action” stage.
- A contrarian approach is the action that the seller needs to take. Believe it or not, emphasize your similarities not differences with the prospect’s current vendor. Provide your benefits with no pain attached. Your goal is to emphasize that your solution is similar to the way they have been doing business – but vastly improved.
- Demonstrate that their negative present will be changing to a positive future. Get your entire team involved at every level of your organization.
- Show proof that relationships are extremely important to you and your organization and are a key to a successful buy-sell relationship.
- Get this out of your mindset: Don’t assume that because Big Customer has a long-term relationship with Vendor A or B that the relationship is on solid ground. Just the opposite – assume that Big Customer is being shown indifference by their current supplier – chances are you will be right. (It would really upset me when a sales rep would say something like this: “Big Account is a Vendor A customer and have been for a long time….” The sales rep makes this proclamation as if it is written on a Dead Sea Scroll somewhere….) That drives me crazy.
Please share your thoughts and insights!
Copyright 2021 by Anthony A. Picciano All rights reserved
Tony Picciano is the founder of Top Sales Success Group. TSS is the result of the unique experience and lifelong ambition of Tony. For over forty years, Tony has worked in sales and sales management with a wide range of businesses from startups to Fortune 100 companies. Tony is not only a sales expert, but also a marketing practitioner with expertise in strategic planning, new product development, new business launches, and collateral material development.