My Greatest Sale: ‘I didn’t do what the buyer asked’
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My Greatest Sale: ‘I didn’t do what the buyer asked’

Editor’s note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople closed the deal despite sales objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. Verl Brown, of McCandless International Trucks Inc., in Aurora, CO, tells how he won a sale by ignoring what the buyer said (to a point).

Usually, I try to listen to my customers and do what they ask. But I won my greatest sale by not doing what the buyer asked.

It was an important customer and he knew exactly what he wanted. He gave me a strict set of specifications. “I have four other salespeople bidding and I don’t have time to talk about this. Just quote me a price,” he said.

Polite but firm
“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that,” I said.

I could tell the buyer wasn’t used to hearing no. It looked like he was trying to decide whether to toss me out of his office. Before he could make up his mind, I pressed ahead.

I insisted as politely as I knew how that he take take a few minutes to help me really understand his needs.

“It’s all in the specs,” he said.

I stood my ground. “I’ve seen the specs, but I still have some questions,” I said.

Another long look. But finally he relented.

I plunged in. And I soon found that the specs didn’t even begin to address the real problems. The buyer wanted a flatbed truck to ship huge electric motors to run ski lifts. I knew from experience that with such heavy loads, stability is a problem. “Are you worried about tipping?” I asked.

“You bet,” he said. “That’s our number-one concern.”

“And how do your drivers feel about carrying such big loads?”

“They’re miserable,” he admitted. When running empty – which is half the time – the super stiff suspension on the old trucks was beating these guys to death.

I knew immediately that the solution to both problems wasn’t in the specs. My customer needed an adjustable air suspension with something called a “dump valve” to make loading safer.

The buyer hadn’t known that when he wrote the spec. How could he? I was the trucking expert, not him.

But I didn’t tell him about my idea just yet. I told him I wanted to research the issue thoroughly. More important, I didn’t want him to bid out my solution to the competition.

Rewrote the rules
So I went back to my office and designed two trucks, one to spec and the other to meet the true needs I had uncovered.

The spec truck was just fine, the buyer said when we met later. But as we reviewed my new design, I could see him light up. He saw the value immediately.

My competitors, meanwhile, had done what they’d been told. They just bid on his original specs.

Now the buyer’s need for speed aided me. He didn’t want to take time to rebid everything. I won the bid, though my product cost 10% to 15% more than the spec trucks.

But there’s more. The buyer’s company, with 11 locations nationally, later adopted the specs I’d written for its whole fleet of trucks because of how well my design worked out. Our company supplied them with dozens of vehicles worth hundreds of thousands in sales.

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