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Just Say No? YES!

8 May, 2008 By: Rob Gilbert imageSource

Just Say No? YES!

Our industry is becoming more and more competitive.  Smaller dealerships are
being acquired by larger ones, and manufacturers are opening up branches all
over the country.  Metropolitan areas may have five or six companies that
provide the same copier or MFP to the same or potential customers.  How in the
world are we expected to be able to compete in this kind of environment?  When
did this happen?  And while we’re at it, where is the margin in my deal going? 
Changing times and conditions call for changing philosophies and strategies in
selling.  Sometimes you have to just say NO.

I’m sure we have all been sitting around the bullpen when a call came in
asking for a quote on a 35 page per minute copier with duplex, finisher, etc. 
Our first reaction is that a bluebird just fell out of the sky, and quota will
be a little easier to hit this month.  Once you ask a few questions, however,
you find that the company calling has to get three quotes before they make a
decision.  Oh no, you think – now I have to do a feature advantage benefit on my
machine and get skinny on the G.P. to get the sale.  I probably need to shop the
lease rate, too, to trim a few dollars off there.  Do you see how the dynamic of
this sale has turned in just a matter of minutes? 

I remember a scenario just like this one when I was a relatively new sales
manager.  A prospect called in, and the rep assigned to their area came to me
with the particulars.  I had spent some time with my new reps on consultative
selling and the value added proposition, and they were beginning to re-evaluate
situations as they came up.  The rep told me what the call-in was asking for,
what he thought he had to propose, the work involved, and the fact that he would
have to be really aggressive on price given our competition in the area.  He
said, “I don’t think I want to quote it.”  I said, “Ok, don’t.”  His eyes opened
wide and he said, “Really?”  “Sure,” I said.  “Let’s think it through.  If they
are calling you for a quote, odds are pretty good that they are calling everyone
else in town as well.  We already know how our competitors respond to these
calls.  When a call comes in, they put a quote together really quick and fax or
e-mail it right to the call-in.”  I continued with," Where's the salesmanship in
that?  If the prospect needs 3 quotes, what you really have is a 33% chance of
winning this sale.” 

Unfortunately, most office equipment dealers respond this way to call-in
requests.  The risk you run however, is that reps do an inordinate amount of
work relative to the percentage chance that exists for the sale to be won.  The
balance of power needs to be swung in favor of the sales rep. 

In the copier business, we've been made to feel like we’re one step above car
salesmen. Handing out quotes just because someone calls in, waiting long periods
for an appointment, and calling on purchasing department level contacts adds
fuel to this feeling.  Yet it’s perfectly appropriate to allow yourself to be a
professional and act like a consultant.  Here then, are suggestions for
maintaining a balance of power in the sales process:

When a prospect calls in for a phone or fax quote, just say “no.”

Just because they say they need a certain model doesn’t mean they do.  I’ve
won many prospects’ business by simply stating that while I appreciate the call,
I don’t give quotes over the phone. As a consultant, I help people evaluate what
their needs are & how best to help them.  I need to meet clients to ask about
their needs and goals as an organization.  I separate myself from other quoters,
often learning that the prospect’s been told by another company what they need
vs. what they should have.  Even though a segment 3 with all the bells &
whistles just might be exactly what they need, I'd hate to give them pricing
only to find that in meeting with them we determine they need something less

Require some action on the part of the prospect.

You lose power when you do all of the work and have to wait for an answer
from someone else.  The sales process is a dance.  You do something, then the
prospect does something, then repeat the process.  You always want to obligate
the prospect to engage in this “dance.”

Treat yourself as a professional, and others will too.

People push others around because they know they can.  When you present yourself
as a professional & know the value that you bring to a prospect, they sense it. 
Set a cutoff time waiting for appointments.  Your time is as valuable as whoever
you’re waiting for.  Every minute lost at an appointment is time you could be
calling on someone else. 

Differentiate yourself.

Declining to quote by phone or fax is certainly a way to do this.  Honestly
wanting to know if this is the right decision for a prospect is almost always
seen as helpful, and certainly different.  All companies say they are different,
but here’s your chance to prove it.

Keep your pipeline full.

This may be the most important thing you can do as a sales rep.  By having
enough activity in your pipeline, you maintain the ability to be objective
regarding the details of any sale.  If you know there is enough business that
will come in, you can assess any situation for what it is, not what you need it
to be. The lack of sales volume is why most companies jump so quickly to quote
over the phone, e-mail or fax.  We have conditioned our prospects to keep away
from them by virtue of our own activities & skill sets. Overcome it by a good
potential revenue stream.

Rob Gilbert, Sr. – DSM Fleet Management Services, came to Compass with 20
years experience in the office equipment industry, working as a sales rep,
senior rep and major account manager for an independent dealership in VA., Sales
Manager for Ikon for 5 years, and as Director of Sales for an independent dealer
acquired by Global Services.  Rob was Image Management Certified by the Ricoh
Corporation, and has a full understanding of CPP programs from consultation to

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