Every summer, snow contractors are presented with new and innovative products to help them increase efficiency, protect the environment or streamline operations. Many of these tools will require not only a significant investment by the contractor, but also approval by the clients to use them on their sites. And while the client’s best interest may be in mind, very rarely does it occur to the salesperson that presenting a new idea can be a dangerous proposition.
How can something new, innovative, cost-effective and better make a contractor lose a sale? The simple answer is that if the client doesn’t want it, he won’t buy it. “But this is good for the client!” a salesperson can argue. He may be completely right, but the challenge lies in the client agreeing to the benefit.
Tread carefully in your presentation
In the majority of sales presentations, the snow contractor will be more of an expert on the service than the customer. It’s easy for education to become lecturing, with the client being told what they need. Salespeople need to be wary of this pitfall and avoid the assumption that all clients have the same needs or desires.
If a feature, benefit or solution is presented in such a way that is contradicts how the client chooses to utilize the service, the chances of losing the sale increase dramatically. To be as successful as possible, it is vital that presentations avoid assuming how clients will want to use a service.
When salespeople paint a picture of the service they are selling for a client, it will either match or deviate from the client’s vision. The greater the difference, the more likely it is that the sale will be lost because the client feels it isn’t a good fit. So, how can a sales expert ensure that his picture matches the client’s as closely as possible?
Ask, don’t assume
Great salespeople will present ideas in hypothetical terms and ask plenty of questions. For example, telling a story about how a solution worked for another client and then asking, “Do you suppose that would be beneficial for your situation?” allows the salesperson to learn if the feature or benefit will help close the sale or lose the deal before they present their pitch. In this way it’s possible to know exactly what the client wants in their service provider, and what they don’t.
But what if there is such a fantastic product that it will save the client money, time, work or aggravation? Shouldn’t they be educated on the benefits? Of course, but there is a time and place for that to occur, and it is after the sale has been made. Salespeople need to be mindful of how much educating they do compared to how much they listen to the client’s desires.
Instead of showing a client that great new product, ask them if they would like it first; if so, the door is open to make the sale, if not, avoid the conversation altogether. The client will be happier with their ideal solution, and sales will be higher.
Following is a true example of how a client can hate a great idea that is presented.
During a sales presentation, a prospect asked: “How can communication occur during snow events?” The contractor explained that it operated a 24/7 call center during the storms so that no matter what needed to be communicated, a live person would always be available to handle the situation. Then, in an effort to seal the deal, the contractor said with a smile, “In fact, you can give this number to every one of your tenants and they can call directly to make your life easier!”
Obviously, the salesperson saw this as a valuable service that would help any property manager cut down on the time they spend making and receiving calls during a snowstorm. But despite the fact that many of the contractor’s clients love to take advantage of distributing the call center number, this prospect had the opposite response. The prospect instantly changed from very interested to angry that such a solution would even be suggested and lectured the contractor about how their job was to manage the property, take all the calls, and know exactly what was happening at every moment. In short, the solution presented was the exact opposite of the customer’s vision of an ideal solution.
Neal Glatt, CSP, is an account executive with Case Snow Management in North Attleboro, MA.