I recently got a call from friend who is in the HVAC, plumbing and electrical supply business. He asked what my thoughts were on what a supplier’s most marketable skill was to the contractors they serve. I really thought that was an interesting question. Contractors today have never had more choices when purchasing materials and goods. Many have turned to purchasing from very nontraditional sources such online networks, big box stores and home improvement centers as a source of low price (and low quality) goods.
Why are contractors resistant to high value supply partners? For years suppliers have conditioned contractors with conversations that have centered on themselves and how good there service is and have not focused on creating value for the contractor. So contractors are expecting to be deluged by self-centered mediocre territory managers. They are not expecting someone from their supply chain who is looking to unconditionally help them. What things can you provide to add value in a way that helps the average contractor? Thanks goodness for suppliers the list is long and it is not hard to stand out from the pack. Things such as…
- Elite levels of customer service
- In-house or group technical training
- Team building exercises
- Communication skills training for office and field staff
- Project management techniques
- Inventory re-stock & consignment services
- Opening new profit centers with solutions they currently don’t offer
Offer these services unconditionally with nothing expected in return. Not tied to the purchases they make. Doing great service without expectation of reciprocation will always create obligation. An interesting report from the Disabled American Veterans Organization revealed that their usual 18 percent donation response rate nearly doubled when their mailing included a small, free gift. Defaulting to performing an act of great service first, BEFORE you get the account or ask for an increase in purchasing materials or equipment is real service, not just lip service.
Creating Value First
The question that your sales staff should ask themselves is: “This looks like an interesting opportunity. How can I bring value to a business like that?” Once you have done your research on the company you are seeking to help, simply find the biggest frustration that the company has and apply your skills to find a solution to it that YOU could take care of or implement with them or even for them.
Your Most Marketable Skill
Q: So then what is the most marketable skill you have?
A: Your ability to either to make or save companies’ money.
Let me illustrate the difference in the two approaches:
Things you would hear from someone looking to GET something from a potential client…
- “How can we get you to switch to (NAME BRAND)?”
- “Would you be interested in looking at my line card?”
- “We need to get your company to increase your purchases to maintain your current pricing.”
- “How can we earn your business?”
- “How much do you currently purchase in (NAME OF EQUIPMENT)?”
- “Would you give me a chance to match their pricing?”
- “We are closed at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.”
Things you would hear from someone looking to provide VALUE for a potential employer…
- “If I held a class at your shop on customer service would that help your team?”
- “I think I can really make you money by showing you how to retain current customers.”
- “If I could WOW your clients with our 60 minute delivery service, what would happen then?”
- “You’d save money on callbacks if I educated your team on applications to use our products.”
- “Could I offer you some common sense solutions for re-stocking your consumable parts?”
- “I see an untapped profit center so your clients would get better service from you.”
- “I have a passion for customer service. Do you and your company have the same passion I do?”
“I’m too busy to consider another supplier.”
This is the standard response that all contractor owners tell all would be suppliers. If your response is “Okay call me when you slow down,” you’re in trouble.
Imagine if your response to this direction instead…
“Yep I’m busy too but I was wondering if you could help me with something in 30 seconds. (Sure.) I am not really looking to gain more business. I here because I have a passion to help great service companies like yours increase their level of service and make more money. I want you to give me the ball and let me help you do all the groundwork to open a new profit center that you’re currently are missing out on. Do you have the same passion that I do for great service?” (Uh yeah.) “Okay then let’s have lunch today to explore this new opportunity.”
Confidence The Great Intangible
Confidence is a great intangible that one can create inside of each of us. To me, confidence is the result of being able to provide value. When you are asking FOR something from someone, it robs you of the natural energy you need. When you can provide value, you KNOW you are good enough to help someone. You just need to be selective in who you choose to help. Yes providing value is your most marketable skill. Emphasize that and you will find the mission to fulfill your life’s work.