Innovation is The Key to Success in Distribution
Pare down your questions, and give yourself time to think
Are you still selling the same way you were just a few years ago? How long has it been since you really changed the way you sell? If you think being innovative is just for the tech companies or manufacturing, you are dead wrong. If you’re not changing, you are being left behind.
I don’t just mean tweaking your sales presentation. I mean changing how you see sales.
Feeling The Benefit
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth more, yet I rarely use videos in presentations. The reason is that you only have a customer’s attention for so long, and with a video, you can lose them rather quickly. Videos are powerful if presented at the right time — and if they are more custom-tailored to your customers. A general video does not have the same impact.
The use of iPad, videos, or even live demonstrations (all of which are great) are not what I mean when I am talking about being a sales innovator. You only achieve this when you truly understand your customers’ needs and have specifically designed a sales process for that customer that allows them to feel that value in the solutions you are bringing to them.
If my solutions will save my customer an extra 12 minutes per day because we have found a better, quicker way for our client to conduct business, that means we are saving them one hour per week, four more hours per month, and 52 more hours per year.
If I can give my customer one extra week every year if they choose my solution, how do you suppose they will feel about that? Who doesn’t want an extra week per year — think of what you can do with that week! The key is to feel the benefit.
If my product can prevent breakdowns, then it is important for a plant manager to feel what it will be like to be worry-free because this product will take away that nagging tension of ‘what if?’
I do have a maintenance-free product that is virtually fail proof, but it is expensive. The key will be whether it is worth the perceived value in this situation. How much pressure is there on the plant manager to keep the plant running at all times, and how seriously does he take his job?
Knowing Your Customers’ Needs
Thoroughly understand what drives your customers’ decision-making. You might have to take an innovative approach to get your customers to open up and trust you with what it is they need. Sometimes our customers think they need one thing, but the reality is what they really need is something else entirely. I’ve heard customers say they really need better marketing to sell their products or services. One customer believed that they needed to generate more leads, but the fact was that the company’s closing rate was extremely poor. What they really needed was to improve their closing percentage. If they capitalized on what they had, then they would have achieved the revenue goal they had budgeted. The company in question needed to spend money on learning a proven sales process, not to spend more money on a marketing campaign. If you know your customer’s needs better than they do, then you will have figured out a path to become that company’s trusted advisor. Find creative ways to ask questions that clarify what is really needed.
Preparation Pays Off in Sales
You need to be prepared now more than ever when it comes to running a sales call. A lot of information is out there, so don’t waste valuable time asking questions you should already know the answer to or that you can later find out for yourself. The key is to spend some quiet time just thinking on how you want to approach this sales call. I find it impossible to be creative or innovative in a chaotic environment. I need to find a quiet place where I can relax. It is amazing the ideas about my customer that will flood into my head if I can slow down, giving myself time to really think through a process. I cannot just go robotically from sales call to sales call. If I fall into that trap, I will find that I am unable to penetrate deep into my top accounts the way I need to if I am to have success.
You cannot be an innovator if you do not take the time to first do your homework, learn everything you can about your client, and then take the time to formulate the proper path to understanding what your customer truly needs (regardless of what they might say they need). If you’re willing to change your approach, look at things through your customer’s eyes, and find creative solutions, you will sell more and be a successful sales innovator, not just your standard run-of-the-mill salesperson.