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. This salesperson, who sells electrical equipment in a western state, was facing a problem many salespeople encounter: a distracted buyer.

My boss was constantly reminding me that I needed to prospect efficiently. “Don’t waste your time on prospects that have no potential,” he’d say. “Think of them as stone cold.”

There was one account in particular that I’d been pursuing for months with no success, and my boss insisted I stop calling on them altogether.

But things change. One day I learned that the prospect had announced plans to begin a major expansion.

Hold your horses
We sell electrical components used in the company’s products, and if they were expanding their plant, they’d be needing more components. So I called and asked to set up an appointment.

“Your timing is really bad,” the prospect told me. “Things are crazy around here,” the buyer told me. “I don’t have time to even think about your components, much less meet with you.”

That was good news for me.

Why? Because this prospect was operating in crisis mode. Sooner or later, there was a good chance that someone would drop the ball.

And I was determined to be right there to pick it up.

To do that, however, I’d have to do the sort of the planning that the buyer should have been doing. Fortunately, I had other customers who’d gone through similar expansions, so I knew the pitfalls.
For example, I thought about an existing client who’d very quickly doubled his capacity a couple years ago. It was chaos. We got called almost weekly with urgent demands: “Can you get us a shipment yesterday?” So I checked with my wholesalers to be sure we had enough inventory and could deliver overnight if needed.

Stayed on his radar screen
Two weeks later I called the buyer back again. He was still too busy to meet. “No problem,” I said, “I just want you to know that if you get in a bind, we have a full inventory and can rush an order if you need it.”

Just three days later, he called.

His current supplier was out of stock on critical parts. If he couldn’t get them immediately, the whole project would be delayed. Could I help?

Of course I could.

I got the product delivered on time and, sure enough, they ordered more a few weeks later. And then more. And more.

All’s well that ends well
That was 18 months ago and today I’m their main supplier of electrical components on their core product line. And they’re one of my largest accounts.

Eventually, I told my boss why I’d decided to pursue this “stone cold” prospect despite his orders to the contrary. He laughed. “Ignore me all you want,” he said, “as long as you bring in sales like these.”

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