MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: The Tough Customer
As the sales manager of IMF Lumber, an established and growing pro-oriented dealer, 2016 finds you in a good place. Business has grown steadily the past couple of years, and based on conversations with your builder customers, you’re expecting another solid building season. Despite tough competition, you’ve settled on the right balance of quality brands and service levels that deliver what your customers want and enable you to earn respectable margins. Plus, you’ve got a great team of seasoned, experienced pros who you can trust and who’ve forged great relationships with most builders in your market. (Key word: most).
While you’re in a good place today, you’d like to see your company in an awesome place. Specifically, as the supplier of choice for John Awesome, owner of Awesome Custom Homes—who is, by far, the dominant builder in your market. John Awesome is also, for reasons you’ve never been able to figure out, the one sizable builder in your market who has never bought as much as a 2×4 from your company. In fact, your salespeople have been rebuffed so consistently that they describe winning Awesome’s business as Mission Impossible.
Knowing the difference that his business would mean to your business, you’ve decided to do whatever it takes to make 2016 the year that Awesome Custom Homes gives you a shot. Considering that none of your salespeople have gotten as much as a meeting with John Awesome, you know that it won’t be easy. That’s why you’ve decided to work hand-in-hand with your top salesperson, Ethan, to devise a plan to make this happen.
Leveraging relationships with mutual friends at the local Home Builders Association and the chamber of commerce, you’ve secured a meeting. John Awesome has earned a reputation as a tough, no-nonsense customer—so you know that you need to make this meeting count. Charged with researching the business, Ethan assured you that IMF Lumber’s service capabilities and product mix are an ideal fit for Awesome Homes. You’re confident that, once John Awesome experiences how you operate, he’ll have himself a new primary supplier.
Working together, you and Ethan have identified four possible approaches:
|1. “BUY” THE BUSINESS – Offer to beat his existing supplier’s quote by 5% on his next project. Then use that opportunity to earn his business.
2. “WHAT WILL IT TAKE…?” – Cut to the chase, and use the meeting to ask what it would take for him to give you a shot at his business. Then, if it’s reasonable, just do it.
3. SOLVE A PROBLEM – Talk with your mutual friends to learn what issues or challenges he’s facing. Then come to the meeting armed with several possible solutions.
4. STATE THE FACTS – Learn all you can about his current suppliers and how they operate, and detail clearly how you’re different and better. Then ask to prove it.