A powerful sales strategy, synchronized sales process, and pervasive company reputation will make the competitors' salespeople feel completely helpless against going after your customers. But to achieve this level requires an entire sales team to be creative, aggressive, and responsive. Most importantly, the team members must work together. Imagine a pod of Orca whales in a coordinated hunting assault; that is how your team can simultaneously dismantle, attack and defend a market base.
Here are a few action items that will cause your competition concern while establishing a positive reputation with customers.
Bring something of value every day. Customers are tired of salespeople asking for things. Can I get a list? Can I bid your next project? Now more than ever, salespeople need to be innovative and proactive. They need to bring new solutions to their customers' challenges. Surprise a customer by offering something of value.
Be visible and available to your customer. The fastest and easiest way to change your reputation is to improve your visibility and your availability. Challenge your team to be available before 6:00 a.m. and after 6:00 p.m. Make it a priority to answer every call. A common complaint among builders is that salespeople can't be reached on the phone. If your customer is not talking to you, he or she is probably talking to your competitor. Jobsite visits and phone calls must be top priorities.
Communicate your appreciation for the customer. Your customers put their net worth on the line every day. They want a partner that adds profit to their companies, respects their time, understands their risks, and sincerely appreciates their business. Go out of your way to show your appreciation.
Respond fast. In the customers mind, the time spent waiting for a quote or delivery is holding up the process and costing money. This means working longer hours and managing your time more efficiently. Resources are limited, but exhibiting a sense of urgency will create loyalty.
Follow up. Little things can make a difference. Do your salespeople call the customer just to make sure the delivery went well, that it was dropped in the right location, and that the material was correct? Following up shows the customer that you care, and it gives him or her the opportunity to acknowledge the value of your service.
Exceed expectations. Simply doing what is asked for is not enough. If a customer asks for a quote, provide the quote and alternatives. If a customer asks for a delivery, offer to cover the load and drop it on stickers. Taking the initiative and offering helpful suggestions or products will enhance your customers' businesses, save time and money, and establish your organization as a resource and partner.
Hold market share. Margin erosion is almost inevitable in this market, but it is more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to maintain an existing one. Holding market share is important because it creates the sense of futility in competitors. If a competitor gets one of your accounts, you can bet that the competitor will be back for more.
Prospect relentlessly. The best defense is a good offense. Aggressively pursue new business and your competitors' top accounts (with several salespeople if necessary) and the competition will be too busy maintaining their position to challenge yours.
Retain the best salespeople in the market. People buy from people. Customers recognize the best salespeople in the market and want to do business with them. Acquiring and retaining the most talented salespeople will improve your ability to hold margin and market share during difficult periods.
Developing an invincible sales organization takes a strong sales strategy, coordinated sales process, aggressive reputation, and commitment to uniform execution. If done correctly, you will create a company that has the ability to control its own destiny regardless of market conditions.
Scott Ericson is a co-founder of Wheelhouse 20/20, a business development company that focuses on serving companies within the LBM and building industries. He founded the company with Jen Swick after having worked with her as an executive at Parr Lumber.