In it to win it

Nov. 28, 2023
You’ve got to get in the game to win — make yourself known to all the decision-makers at your stops, so it's you they call first when they need to make a capital equipment purchase.

When I began selling, my first regional sales manager was Mike DeCoursey. Although I didn’t really interact with Mike very often I have always remembered something he told me about career advancement.

Always be sure your company knows if you are interested in advancement or getting some specific position in the company. Remind them often and prepare yourself so you are their most logical choice for the position you want.

So, what does this have to do with you, an independent businessperson whose main objective is to sell more of your tools and equipment?

I know that on all of your stops, you call on and speak to as many of the technicians as you possibly can. And hopefully, you are prepared to discuss not only what your latest promos are but also the specific individual needs of each and every technician. These are certainly some of the correct steps to sales success.

Are you additionally prepared to get yourself in front of the decision maker at each location for the large asset or capital equipment sales such as lifts, compressors, hose reel systems, and large tech equipment?

At a small shop, the owner or decision maker is likely to also be one of the technicians you’re calling on each week but at your major dealerships and multi-brand dealerships, the decision maker is more than likely in some office totally removed from the day-to-day shop floor hubbub. In a midsized operation, the owner or general manager could easily be your target. These corporate corridor individuals make their major decisions at a much different level than a technician deciding between an impact wrench from you or the other guy.

Don’t get me wrong, you will use many of the same selling skills presenting to a corporate decision-maker as you do every day on the shop floor but there are also important differences.

1. First you need to get in the game

Shop Foreman: “Boss, the primary shop compressor just went out again. We patched it up for now, but we really need to get a new one.”

The boss relents and now has to decide what to do. Chances are they will go to PTEN magazine and look through some issues at the automotive compressor advertisements, call a major industrial supplier like Grainger, go on Amazon (ugh!), or MAYBE THEY WILL CALL YOU!

Just like making sure my boss knew I was ready, willing, and able to step up, you need to be the person in the front of their minds when a disaster or capital equipment selling opportunity presents itself.

I realize you don’t have the time to track down a senior manager during every stop and they may not even be in the same building but if you get your face in front of theirs at least every other month or so, you improve your chances of getting the call when this company needs something big.

Making these “stop in” calls should include giving them a business card on each call, looking sharp, and especially having an objective. Simply dropping off a promotional brochure is probably not the ticket.

On each call have at least one capital equipment brochure with your card stapled to it. Compressors one-month, fixed storage systems the next, and any other major investment product you can sell them.

If you actually get in to speak with this corporate decision maker be ready to let them know you are their source when they need to make a major equipment purchase. Remind them every single time you’re there. I know this constant reminding may sound lame but remember that this person has a lot more than you on their minds. Just keep reminding them you’re there for their needs.

The objective is to get your name and your face in front of the decision-makers so when the shop foreman comes with the next major need the boss says, “Let’s give YOU a call”. You’ve got to get in the game before you can score a touchdown.

2. Access the situation 

So, the call comes in, XYZ dealer needs a new major compressor. Now what? Ascertain if this is an emergency or just a near-term need. If it is an emergency set an appointment immediately. If it is a longer-term need set the appointment during your next scheduled stop at that location.

Ask as many questions as you can about the need. The more you know the better you can prepare. Assemble the appropriate literature and begin to develop your pricing too. Your regular company catalog page will probably not have enough detailed information for a major purchase so contact your company product manager or the manufacturer for what you need. If it’s a really quick deal get the information emailed to you and use your laptop for your show, tell, and sell.

If you are not 100 percent sure you have everything you need for the sales call try to get the manufacturer’s salesperson on a Zoom call and have them as part of your presentation. This is a great way to look good to your prospect and get all the answers they need quickly. You want to be the first presenter so any supplier who presents after you is in a weaker defensive comparative position.

3. Making the deal

A big challenge in this scenario is going to be pricing. If you are competing against a major industrial supplier the pricing will be very competitive. Your normal hand tool gross margins will probably be too high. Your manufacturer partner should be able to advise you on the pricing. Additionally, if this is a very large corporation, they will most likely not use your company financing program.

Before the product presentation, you need to be sure you have the decision maker in the room. A simple question to your contact will answer this, “Is there anyone else in the company who should see the presentation and will be part of the decision-making process?” This gives your contact a gracious way to say that yes his supervisor will actually make this decision.

For the presentation, use your usual professional selling skills  — feature, advantage, benefit, and trial close. Asking lots of questions and trial closing will get the prospect to tell you more about their needs and will provide you with their buying signals.

You will absolutely need to provide your purchase pricing, terms, and conditions in writing. This proposal must include all the purchase specifics  — product, delivery, freight, installation, etc.

Do not, I repeat do not start the presentation by handing the prospect your proposal for them to review. If you do, they will immediately look at the pricing and for the remainder of your presentation, they will be mulling over the price and not paying close attention to you.

And finally, just because this is a major purchase for the company you still need to ask for the order. If you have been trial closing in order to get a feel for their interest and the time is right, go for the sale.

Remember you have to get in the game to even get the chance to score.

Now…..go sell something.

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