By Andrea Genevois (*)
Even the best product cannot convey it. You must know how to present the product and… yourself.
We have come to the next part of our journey through modern sales techniques and their application to the field of laundry.
This time we will examine the sales dynamics involved in establishing a relationship with a very specific partner: “THE NEW CUSTOMER”.
First of all we should recall the key concept conveyed at the end of the last part, regarding what identifies our company as a VAP, the English acronym for “value-added proposal”. We are therefore referring to that company identity all of us must keep in mind, and which arouses the interest of third parties. At this point, VAP takes on a fundamental role.
The VAP is the element that defines the company’s “business drive”. Let’s trace its main lines:
5) ”Ad Hoc”, which is the ability to customize (textiles, packaging materials)
7) Relational skills
8) Forms of payment.
At Totex, these characteristics are deemed to be a priority for every single company in our universe. To this effect, it is very important to highlight the key words that make us stand out, be remembered, and give us the opportunity to be an actual value-adding proposal, a true VAP.
In order to achieve this, we recommend undertaking the path of system specialization geared towards “Textile design and engineering”, which means creating ad hoc articles for every need within the scope of the following fields: laundry, washing, durability, ironing speed, restocking colors and materials, in-depth knowledge of materials, machinery and related issues.
This alone clearly shows that a company has to somehow “customize” itself in order to be remembered. To this effect, in this issue we will focus on studying the relationship that forms between the supplier and a New Customer.
The starting point is once more the inverted pyramid, shown below:
This drawing clearly shows all the phases that lead to closing a sale. This does not necessarily mean getting an order signed; it could end up being a request for samples, which is nonetheless a tangible sign that the customer is seriously interested.
Therefore, as we can see from the image, all phases point towards the effort necessary to achieve the desired result.
The first and most difficult phase is the approach. If the new customer agreed to meet with you, he already “bought into” your advice; since somehow you were able to convince him and arouse his curiosity, the conversation will be pleasant, and neither party will feel awkward giving or receiving information.
A rapport is established between the partners based on components in perpetual motion:
1) Attunement, meaning the ability to find what pleases us and makes us feel part of the environment.
2) Commonality and sharing, meaning finding things you have in common, which make you more compatible.
3) Connection, meaning the pivotal moment where the seller is present, prepared, focused, and with his cell phone off, because at that moment only the Customer exists.
Obviously we have an entire series of advice to give and will address it soon, after highlighting what I’d call a “Black List of Topics”. These, as inferred by the negative color black, are things we should avoid talking about.
3) Sexual orientation
4) Sports (if not ascertained to be a common interest).
Even if it goes well, (and you happen to agree), these topics nonetheless lead us off the track of our main goal: the negotiation. These truly “heartfelt” topics are in fact bound to generate a highly emotional state that completely distracts us from the negotiation in question.
Naturally, as stated before, we do have a series of advice that will help you perfect the difficult approach phase.
1) First of all, even before crossing the company’s threshold, try to visualize the objectives of a successful negotiation; focus on what you wish to obtain from the customer you are about to visit.
2) Arrive a few minutes early. This will allow you to take a good look at the company’s office and consequently find ways to improve your approach by using the photos, certifications, the receptionist’s behavior, and overall style of the company as clues.
3) Learn the history of the customer and the company in advance. This will make the customer feel proud and well disposed towards you, although you should always be careful and avoid dwelling on details pertaining to “skeletons in the closet” (everybody has one).
There are obviously certain actions to be undertaken during the negotiation, such as:
1) Be the first to start the conversation and try to maintain a tone that keeps it interesting.
2) Notice and comment on company data and nearby items that may allow you to start an actual conversation and find common ground with the customer. In this regard, choosing of overtly forced or improvised topics may put the newly acquired human perspective at risk, and wreck the negotiation itself.
3) Show you are highly interested in the customer at all times. Be interested and not interesting.
4) If the customer does have any typical expressions, remember them and put them to good use. This will establish a point of contact, affinity, accord. We should nonetheless remember that all these actions fall within the scope of the Pareto principle, later systemized by Gauss (Gauss’ curve), by which 80% of the results obtained derive from 20% of our actions.
5) Avoid making price your first topic of discussion; this will surely turn the entire conversation into a debate over the lowest market price instead of focusing on the business partnership that will help the customer grow.
6) Always show you are highly interested in the customer, without presenting yourself as a know-it-all.
7) Be reassuring, understand and use the customer’s communication mechanisms so he clearly perceives that you are listening.
8) Steer away from bashing the competition. You and the company are the only points of reference that truly matter for the purposes of negotiation; everything else is a distraction.
What did we learn from this? That 20% of our actions generate 80% of the reactions, the standard ratio of the so-called “Normal distribution law”.
20% of the effort
80% of the results
In reality, when applied to customers, we could say that 20% of our customers generate 80% of our invoiced sales. Further analysis would reveal that the same 20% of customers that generate 80% of our invoiced sales are only buying 20% of what they truly need. Consequently, we will need to act on rebalancing financial viability.
It seems obvious to me that the story differs with regard to the stock of industrial laundries, as it usually covers the customer’s needs “in full”.
I nonetheless firmly believe that the Gauss curve data cannot be too far off even in relation to the sales invoiced by those who deal with daily necessities, whether it be bread, meat, fish, or trash disposal companies, and does apply to any process, including those of our daily lives.
Now, as indicated earlier on, we will return to the actions to be undertaken, and in particular what we defined as being the “first glance”, which can generate syntony and facilitate communication.
Let’s approach it as a game. Look at these images for three or four seconds, then cover them and focus on the impression they made on us:
In the first figure, Context 2, we should have noticed the bonsai, the nice Katana (typical samurai sword) display on the table, and the Fujiyama photo. This leads us to think we may be facing someone who is passionate about Japan and its culture.
At this point we may find that we share the same passion, and if truly interested, ask pertinent questions. When done correctly, all of this will generate empathy, attunement, and a feeling of commonality.
In the next figure, Context 4, the elements are even more indicative of your client’s interests and personality.
We are facing someone who is fond of the Naples soccer team, cinema (and Massimo Troisi in particular), music (especially Prince), vintage car models, and rather minimalistic decor.
Therefore, now, if all the phases are abided by, we surely will have created a relationship of trust and agreement.
The perfect finish to the approach phase effectively occurs when “The customer stops being defensive”. Now we can move to the next phase, that of Inquiry.
As highlighted before, the inverted pyramid phases which require the most effort are those of approach and inquiry.
There is no ideal solution for a perfect approach, nor is it written in any manual. In fact it solely depends on our own level of attention to details, and therefore our ability to find “real points of contact”.
(*) Andrea Genevois, born in Rome in 1965, graduated from the Università degli Studi La Sapienza in Rome, with a degree in Business and Economics. He took a master’s course in management at the Luiss University in Rome. In 1984 he became a sales agent for Industria Tessile Gastaldi, where, between 2000 and 2008 he was made sales manager for Central- Southern Italy and head of professional training for new sales personnel. In March of 2009 he began working with Totex srl as sales manager, as well has head of research for optimum optimum products for laundry use.
(Part 4 – to be continued)
Detergo Magazine n. 1 January 2015