“I’m not worried about the Smitherington account going anywhere else,” proudly stated Jim at the monthly account review. “I’m the only one who talks Smitherington’s language.”
“You sure about that?” asked Ed, the sales manager.
“Sure. Where else is he going to turn for what we’ve got at the price he’s paying,” responded Jim and then added, “Besides, he and I are like this.” Jim twisted two fingers together.
“Well,” went on Ed, “some of the other salespeople have mentioned that new firm trying to move in on their accounts.”
“Hey, I’m not worried about them. That company doesn’t have the history we do with Smitherington. Besides, their salespeople aren’t that good.”
“How do you know that?”
“Two weeks ago Smitherington called me up and told me just how helpless they were when they called on him. They couldn’t even answer his questions. No problem. We had a good chuckle over it.”
About twenty minutes after the meeting was over, Jim found a message on his desk. It was from Smitherington cancelling future product shipment because he had found another supplier. Jim immediately placed a call and found that Smitherington had left for a two-week vacation.
No problem, thought Jim, he’s just trying to beat me up on price. Really, no problem. About a week after he gets back I’ll call him. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.
Jim did not keep his customer “off the street” and as a result lost the business, probably forever.
Some salespeople feel that specific customers owe total allegiance to them. Unfortunately, the salesperson’s ego sometimes gets in the way of reality.
Consider the customer who is subjected to such a salesperson. No one likes, nor tolerates for long, a relationship where he’s totally dependent on someone else. Once a person perceives this to be the case, resentment builds. Once the resentment starts building, it is just a matter of time before something happens.
In a sales situation, the customer goes into the street and flags down the first warm body that can sell what the other guy was selling. Even if the warm body is more expensive, the sale will be made. Even if the warm body can’t deliver in the same timely fashion, the sale will be made.
The salespeople who are always at the top of the monthly sales chart have many common characteristics. One of the most important is knowing that they are not the only people in the world who can effectively sell the customer. There are many others who will call on their customer and who can do just as good a job. Having this understanding is the first step in keeping the customer off the street.
The second step is very difficult for many salespeople to take. In so many words, they will say the following to their customers in every meeting:
“I know you can buy from many others, and yet you buy from me. Why is that?”
This simple step allows the customer to feel in control, yet actually puts the salesperson in control. Consider for the moment that if the customer is wavering, asking this question allows the salesperson to uncover the concerns and deal with them.
If your customer is on the street, you or someone else will sell him. If your customer is off the street, only you will sell him. Take your pick.