The great Phil Copp, perhaps the very best engineering salesman I ever worked with, demonstrated to me how you can exploit your strengths in a situation which may, at first sight, seem lost.
One of Phil’s major customers recruited a new buyer and the inevitable happened. The young upstart called Phil in and told him that unless he negotiated a significant discount, then he would lose the business.
Because Phil worked for a company that had the nerve never to negotiate its prices, he told the buyer and waited for the reaction. It came pretty quickly; Phil’s company would get no more business and it would go to the competition.
Phil’s reaction was immediate. He went in to the former customer and specifically into the drawing office (do they still have drawing offices these days?).
Going to each of the draughtsmen in turn, he asked them to give him his company’s catalogues. This they did until Phil was burdened down with a great pile of them and he turned to leave.
I should, at this point, explain that the catalogue was much more than merely a listing of the products available. It was used by virtually every engineer worth his salt to calculate the optimum product for the application as it had an invaluable technical section which applied to any make of product.
At this stage, the bemused draughtsmen began to realise that something was not quite right. The cry went up:
“What are you doing Phil?”
“I’m taking our catalogues back” was the reply
“You can’t do that; we use them all the time”
“Too bad” said Phil “I’m taking them back because you aren’t dealing with us any more so you won’t need them”
“Oh yes, we do” they said “we can’t work without them”
“You’re going to have to try” said Phil adamantly, “your buyer has dumped us for the competition” and he marched out triumphantly with his pile of catalogues.
It took about six weeks for the drawing office to register their fury at the buyer’s high handed decision and make him rethink. While he would have saved perhaps a few percentage points on the price, his company would have lost out badly in terms of service and more particularly, in the vital technical backup which Phil and his company gave.
The moral is? Where you have a strength, make sure that you know what it is and how it impacts on your customers. Ask the question – why do they buy from us if we are more expensive than the competition? In the end, it will answer the WIIFM question set by the customer – what’s in it for me? Then exploit it mercilessly!
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