Brian Olson, founder and president of Power Pin, Inc., has worked in OEM sales for 30 years. He offers this advice to industry newcomers.
Know your product better than anyone else. If they trip you up on a specification or feature, you can bet you will never get back in there again. You have lost their trust.
Stick to facts. If you do not know that something is absolutely true, do not be afraid to say the magic words: “I don’t know, but I will find out.”
Never promise things out of your control, such as deliveries. Instead, offer to get back to them, and ensure your people come through all of the time. Nothing is more demoralizing than working for a sale then being let down by your team. Make sure management backs you up all the time, as it is your reputation on the line when you take an order.
Always do a trip report for your company and share with management, production, and engineering. It is important for your company to know what is going on in the marketplace.
Never talk politics, religion or any world issue. If the customer insists on bringing these issues up, just listen.
Always follow up after an order to be sure the customer is happy. Don’t take up too much time. A quick e-mail or phone call goes a long way to establishing trust.
If there is a problem, address it immediately. If you cannot get there, take ownership and offer solutions, make sure your team handles the issue. Don’t argue. Don’t try to deflect blame. Take it on the chin. Most of the time these folks need to vent and it will make the difference in keeping a customer or losing a customer. Many times we have taken a problem and fixed it, and we have a more loyal customer because they know we are dependable.
This is your customer, your responsibility and your reputation. Reputation is what builds businesses. Conflicts and disagreements reveal peoples’ true character. Be professional, and take your defeats with the same dignity you take your wins.
Understand the corporate structure. Buyers don’t usually make decisions on adopting new products. Usually it is a team which is engineering, sales and management, and they all have to buy into it. The buyer you are seeing has to sell your product or idea up the ladder, and you need to ensure that buyer has the facts and the tools to promote your product. With hitches, I always tried to leave a sample; engineers and marketers want to look, touch and try out.
This is the final installment in a series offered by Olson.
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