My Greatest Sale: Selling against the ‘household name’
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My Greatest Sale: Selling against the ‘household name’

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. Michael Dillon, president of Seepex Inc. in Enon, OH, tells how his small firm took on the industry giant and won.

How can you sell a prospect when your competitor is so well-known that its brand is nearly synonymous with the industry’s name? It’s like selling tissue up against Kleenex. On one sale, our competitor had a 65-year track record, whereas we’d been around only 15 years.

And did I mention we were more expensive?

We tried emphasizing our superior quality. But our competitor’s market dominance made that a hard sell. And their long-standing relationship with our prospect made this sale an uphill climb.

To make headway against that relationship, I knew we’d have to build up trust in our name. Then we would have to offer something that the competition couldn’t match.

To build our reputation, we arranged for our prospect to hear good things about us through others he trusted or respected.

Who do you know?
We focused on people and companies that we had in common with the prospect.

For example, some of our customers also bought from our prospect. So we asked some of those mutual customers to provide testimonials. The fact that the prospect knew the people giving the testimonials was a tremendous trust-builder.

It turned out the prospect used the same distributor we did, so we asked the distributor to put in a good word for us, too. And we managed to let the prospect know that several of his competitors were already using our equipment.

These efforts helped establish our credibility, and the prospect warmed up to us a little. They weren’t ready to buy from us yet, but now they at least trusted us enough to tell us about their business.

Buyer opens up
The buyer revealed a critical weakness in our competitor: Sometimes the prospect had very short lead times, and the other supplier couldn’t deliver quickly enough. It was a long-standing, frustrating problem, the buyer admitted.

We sell specialty industrial pumps at $5,000-$8,000 each. We told this prospect, “If you will give us an indication of how many pumps you buy in a year, we’ll put them in inventory at no obligation to you.” The first time they needed a quick delivery, we slashed their usual waiting time of eight weeks down to two.

That got them out of a bind. They could see we responded faster and offered better documentation and backup. Over time they also saw that we had better quality.

The harder they fall…
Within six months we had toppled the industry Goliath.

Today we sell this customer additional products too – contracts now run about $100,000 annually. And best of all, we’re able to command a good price because of the value we provide.

Now they’re the ones providing testimonials about us to others!

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