I used to sell calibration equipment and was involved with a sale to Boeing. Argubly, the company I represented had the technologically better solution, at least in my opinion. My competition, with older yet tried and proven equipment, was represented by a local manufacturer’s rep. I was working from my company’s headquarters several States away.
Just starting out in the sales profession I was certain I had the edge with my up-to-date, modern and better packaged equipment. I mean, who wouldn’t want to buy the best and, knowing that my equipment was really good…better than the competition i reckoned, it was simply a matter of getting pricing right.
So did I get the sale? No.
Because the technical aspects of the issue is rarely enough, especially when both systems will do the job. As long as the technical specifications of your product are sufficient having additional marginal advantages are rarely enough. And pricing isn’t always an issue. There is some truth to the old saying, “You get what you pay for.” because there are quality differences that you might have to pay for. You can’t always be the lowest cost provider and an intelligent purchasing agent is well aware of this.
So I didn’t lose the sale because there euipment was superior or on price, although I’m sure each of these factors paid a part. Why did I lose the sale?
A few weeks before the contract was awarded I was having a drink with the competitor rep. As an aside it’s a good idea to be on good terms with the other players in your industry, even your competition. Most industry’s are small and and today’s competitor could be tomorrows partner. Anyway, whilw we were having that drink he mentioned something that has stuck with me to this day.
“You know you’re not going to get this sale right?”, he asked. “I think I have a pretty good chance,” I responded. His answer, “Well what you need to know is that I go fishing and camping with these guys. I’ve known some of them for years and the purchasing agent’s kid and my kid are in the same scout troop. You’re just a salesman from out of State and people buy from who they know.”
And he was right. People buy from people whenever possible, especially when the price and performance of what they’re buying is in the same ballpark. This doesn’t mean you can only sell to your friends but it does mean you need to work on building at least a familiarity with the decision makers. you can do this by working on building rapport with others (there are techniques for this) and by being genuinely interested in the people in your industry.
Sure, there are other methods for overcoming this about which I’ll write more about in the future, but the easiest way to accomplish this is work with people you can easily get along with, that way you simply need to be yourself to fit in and establish a relationship.