February 17, 2014

“Do you have a supplier who will take your business, but only on his terms? It seems to me that when a supplier is not aligned with your long-term interest, then you should stop buying from him — or at the very least, limit your buying.” (4 THINGS YOU MUST CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A SUPPLIER by Jay Steinfeld, Moneywatch, 11/17/2010)

With that thought in mind, how should you prepare for an initial meeting with any sales representative? What should you expect?

First of all, keep in mind that the salesperson has been trained by her company to extol the virtues of the product (or service) she is going to demonstrate and discuss. That salesperson has memorized every feature and benefit associated with his offerings. He’s been taught to ask you questions in order to “ease the atmosphere” at the beginning of the meeting. She has done her research — knows many financial and business facts relating to your organization. In short, he has been armed with many professional skill sets.

In most cases, the meeting should be quite enjoyable and informative —- when you are in the presence of skilled sales professionals.

But, your task is to purchase a solution that best fits your company’s needs and business goals. And, that is a different story!

The “bells and whistles” in many sales demonstrations can easily detour you from reaching your goal. The personality of many salespeople is so engaging that it becomes easy for you to be distracted from your purpose.

But always remember — that salesperson has been taught to “sell what I’ve got!”

Here are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with a truly professional sales representative (an individual who is really customer-focused, as opposed to focused solely on “making the sale”):

• Is he listening to your needs or simply “selling” his solution?

• Is she targeting only those benefits that specifically address your stated requirements — or, rather, does she continue reciting her entire “benefits list?”

• Every time you bring up some issue that you are having does he immediately relate the solution exclusively to his own product or service (that should tell you he’s not listening — and, he doesn’t have any real answers — since no vendor’s offerings can possibly address all of your needs).

• Does she bad-mouth her competitors (the surest sign that you should run away because it telegraphs her own lack of faith in what she’s representing)?

• Does he bring up any after-the-sale service, which will prove necessary to you in the future?

A salesperson is a representative of his company. He’s been trained by them and is a product of that company’s attitudes toward customers. If you will pay close attention to “the pitch,” “the answers to your specific questions,” and “the role of customer service” it will help guide you to the best decision.

After all, the most appropriate solutions for your own challenges are far more important than are the features and benefits of any vendor’s offerings — no matter how beautifully the sales presentation goes! Rather, you should be looking for the beginnings of a long term partnership in which your organization’s needs are always at the forefront.

More on Wednesday – – – – –

Bill Walton: Founder, ITC Learning