I stopped being the prospect’s go-to guy
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I stopped being the prospect’s go-to guy

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. A manufacturing sales rep in California, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells how he stood up for himself and won his buyer’s respect.

Sometimes not filling a customer’s needs is the best way to make a sale.

Sounds crazy, right? Let me explain by telling you about a huge sale I made using exactly this logic.

A couple years ago the CEO of a company called with a desperate plea. “We’re in the middle of a huge production run,” he said, “and one of our old machines broke down. We need a couple parts pronto. Can you get them for us?”

Now, I’d been pursuing this guy for some time, and I was delighted to help out in a crisis, hoping to build a relationship that could lead to a big sale. So I broke down walls to get him the parts the next day.

The CEO was grateful. Even more so when I bailed him out a couple more times during the following year.

Going nowhere fast
But these were piddling sales. We sell equipment that costs several hundred thousands of dollars. That’s how we make money, not by selling parts.

A couple times I’d asked the CEO about purchasing new machinery, but he brushed me off. My strategy – positioning myself as the go-to guy – just wasn’t working. I needed a new approach. I found it one day when the CEO called again with an emergency request for parts. I said, “I’ll get you the parts, but in exchange I’d like something from you.”

He seemed a little taken aback by my new attitude. But he didn’t hang up. “Um, what’s that?” he asked cautiously.

“A meeting. I’d like you, your CFO and your Production Manager to spend a morning with me. I’d like to help you find a solution that will save you money and avoid these constant crises. Fair enough?”

He actually seemed relieved. “That’s all you want? A meeting?” He gave me a date and time on the spot.

‘Show ’em the numbers’
The morning of the meeting, I was well prepared. I’d created an estimate of how much it was costing them to keep applying Band-Aids to their aging machines – how much they’d been spending on parts, the production costs, the lost sales.

I asked the Production Manager to give his own estimate. Turns out it was even worse than I’d thought.

I hadn’t told them anything they didn’t already know, of course. But they’d been so busy putting out fires that they hadn’t taken the time to deal with it.

No hard feelings
So were they resentful that I’d refused to help until they agreed to a meeting? Not at all.

In fact, the production guy, who suffered the consequences of failing machines on a daily basis, was ecstatic. The CFO verified the numbers right there in the room and told his boss, “He’s right. In just 18 months, new machines will start earning us a substantial profit.”

I got the sale because I saw an opening and forced the prospect to step back and see the big picture. When I got him – and his key people – thinking about long-term goals, that made the difference.

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