My greatest sale: Purchasing wouldn’t let us talk to anyone
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My greatest sale: Purchasing wouldn’t let us talk to anyone

Editor’s note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople made a challenging sale despite price objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. Here, Bruce Novak of Motion Control in Cleveland, OH, tells how he managed to connect with the people who valued performance as well as price.

Every so often I called on a large prospect in our area, a printing plant with rows of huge printing presses.

I knew this company could be a good account for us. We sell bearings. Printing presses have lots of them. They wear out and need to be replaced. And since our high-quality bearings last longer than most. I suspected we could save this buyer a lot of money on maintenance.

The problem was, every time I called on the prospect, I got sent straight to the Purchasing Department. And they couldn’t care less about my high-quality bearings.

Happy with status-quo
The story was always the same: “We’re happy with the way things are. You’re more expensive. We don’t need you.”

In other words, “Don’t mess up our happy little world.”

From their perspective, I guess it made sense. The bearings they were using seemed good enough. Why should they take a chance on something new and in their minds unproven — especially when it was more expensive on the front end?

I knew I’d never get anywhere just talking to Purchasing. I had to make my case directly to the operations people. But Purchasing had no reason to let me poke around their plant and rock the boat.

To keep the sale moving, I was left with the only thing that really mattered to them: price. “Well, I can’t make any promises, but let me see what kind of quote I can work up for you,” I said. “Would that be okay?”

Well, sure it would. What did they have to lose?

Then I added casually, “Of course, to prepare an accurate bid I’ll have to take a plant tour and talk to your operators.”

Of course, they said.

I showed Purchasing the pain
During the tour I asked the press operators how often the bearings wore out and how much time they spent replacing and maintaining them.

“It’s murder,” they said. “It takes hours and hours. It costs us a ton of overtime, and we lose production while the presses are off line.”

“What if those bearings lasted four times as long?” I asked.

“Are you kidding?” they said. “That would be fantastic. Could you do that?”

“Maybe,” I said, glancing over at the Purchasing guy. He was looking uncomfortable. His world wasn’t as happy as he’d thought. But it turned out he wasn’t such a bad person after all. Once he understood the pain that Production was feeling, he got on board quickly.

I got my price
After talking to the press operator and other production people, I prepared an accurate estimate of the savings they’d see. Now all their presses are retrofitted with our products. And I didn’t have to cut my price.

This was my greatest sale because I was able to get my buyer past his price fixation and actually see the bigger picture.

photo credit: hoyasmeg

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