My Greatest Sale: Beginner’s luck?
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My Greatest Sale: Beginner’s luck?

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. Dan Waldschmidt, of Waldschmdt/Arp in Greenville, SC, tells how he made his very first sale in a completely unfamiliar market.

I had been a successful rep selling business-to-business services. I’d been looking for a new challenge, and had found one: Sales manager for a small residential heating and air-conditioning contractor.

It was my first day on the job. I didn’t know a heating duct from a hole in the wall. And I was about to make my first sales call. Our technician was already at the customer’s house. He’d determined that the existing equipment wasn’t worth fixing.

No hard sell
I corralled one of the seasoned reps and we hopped in the car. Along the way, he explained how they handled calls like these.

“We have a reputation as a fair dealer,” he told me. “So we never push customers into something they don’t want. We look at their system and present the facts. No hard sell. That’s why they trust us.”

In other words, the rep saw his role as expert. His job was to help the buyer sort through technical issues, get the specs right and make a rational decision.

But when we got to the house, I could see that technical issues and rational decisions were the last thing on the customers’ minds. The husband had come home from work, but had to get back for an important meeting. They were facing a big unexpected cost. And their house was freezing. These customers weren’t ready to sit down and make decisions about tonnage and SEER ratings.

“Don’t worry,” I reassured them. “We’ll take care of you.”

The emotional side
As the husband hurried back to work, I left the salesman and technician to figure out the technical stuff. Meanwhile, I focused on the emotional side of the sale.

I said to the wife, “You’ll need a new system, so now’s the time to get it right. What do you like and not like about your current system?”

She spoke; I listened. I asked questions. I made a list. Then I took my salesman aside and showed him the list. “Can we do all this?”

He hesitated. “Well, yes. But it would cost a lot. We don’t want to push her…”

“Who’s pushing?” I asked. “This is what she told me.”

We still offered her the standard option, of course. Then we showed her what else she could get.

“I had no idea that was possible,” the buyer said. “The house will be so much more comfortable.”

Yes, it cost more. But I’d taken the time to find out what she wanted, and gave her the power to choose how to spend her money. It was biggest sale the company had ever made. But here’s what made it my Greatest Sale: It opened my reps’ eyes. They thought they were doing buyers a favor by not “pushing.” In reality they were pushing buyers anyway -– into what the reps thought was best. Once my reps understood that, sales took off. In just a few years, we grew sales from $2 million to $20 million. And customer satisfaction was higher than ever.

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