Keeping Your Customer King

Salespeople can use these basic sales tips to build and maintain their business relationships with customers.

Despite all of the changes in technology, modes of communication and product sophistication, basic selling skills really haven't changed much in the electrical wholesaling industry. It's all about providing the right product at the right time and right place — at a reasonable price. Make sure your salespeople keep the following sales tips in mind in 2011. They work just as well today as they did decades ago.

Let the customer do as much talking as possible

Listening can be even more important than talking during a sales call. Encourage your customers to talk about their company and its unique product or services needs that apply to the material you sell. Whenever possible, let the customer lead the conversation. Be a good listener and don't interrupt a customer's flow of conversation. Insert your comments as the situation presents itself. Some otherwise top-level salespeople unfortunately don't listen as well as they should. Their egos are such that they want to impress people with their intelligence. The more customers talks about their companies and themselves, the better informed you will become about their needs.

Customers like to talk to well-informed salespeople with an open mind on a variety of subjects who are good listeners as well as good talkers. They want salespeople to respect their ideas and opinions, even if they don't agree with all points of the discussion. Don't get upset if your customer interrupts you while you are making what you consider to be an important point in your presentation. Customers may want clarification of acronyms or technical terms that to you are perfectly clear, but they need to understand them before they can follow your sales presentation.

Put yourself in your customer's position.

Try to have an open mind on how and why your customer reacts to buying your product. Your customers are trying to buy the best-quality products for their companies at competitive prices. But we all think somewhat differently. Two people evaluating a situation might come away with different conclusions. If your customers don't originally agree with you on the price of your products, if you do a professional job explaining the products' benefits, they may change their minds and buy your products.

Situations change. President Ronald Reagan at an early age was a Democrat and even gave a campaign speech for Harry Truman. Reagan later changed his politics to become a two-term Republican. If everyone thought the same way, we would all be driving black Ford automobiles, just like Henry Ford told us to do.

Respect your customer's time

Your call time is usually limited, but if you handle it correctly, customers will see you as an informed resource who can teach them about and provide products that can help them and their companies improve their profit and reputation.

Be confident but don't be overbearing on a sales call

Control your ego. Some salespeople become so confident in selling their products that they become insufferable bores to customers. No one knows every answer to every question on every subject. Even the best salespeople occasionally need to check in with the office to double-check their answers. Top salespeople cannot afford to lose their credibility with customers by giving out incorrect information regarding a technical question. It's better to double-check and retain your reputation.

When customers are unfamiliar with particularly complex products, do your best to explain them in laymen's terms without talking down to them. Walk them through the applications for these products step-by-step, and build your customers' confidence in their knowledge of those products and how they can help their companies. At the end of the sales call you want customers to feel just as knowledgeable as you are on whichever products you are discussing.

Be careful about playing hardball

Some salespeople seem to be personally insulted if the customer doesn't evaluate every situation the way they do. Try not to force the sale. If a customer thinks you are trying to intimidate them you may lose the business.

Earn the reputation as a straight-shooter who always tells the truth

Even if the truth occasionally makes your company look bad for a bit, it's better to weather a temporary storm than it is to cover up a problem with a bunch of half-truths. Correct the situation quickly, apologize for any mistake and move on.

Remember that all things being equal, customers like to do business with people they like

Most customers will do business with a salesperson they personally like and respect when that salesperson is selling a quality product at a reasonable price, and that product will help improve their companies' operations and budget.

Close a sales call with style and purpose

Never fail to ask for new business on a call and never fail to thank a customer for their time, courtesy and business.

A life-long salesperson who loves discussing the art and science of professional salesmanship, the author was president of St. Louis' Glasco Electric Co. for many years and now writes for Electrical Wholesaling on sales topics.

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