What Sales People Can Learn From Supply Chains


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Professional buyers can teach sales people a lot about selling. In fact sales people can learn a lot about selling, when they’re buying for themselves. But there’s one aspect of buying sales people will not learn on their own – the supply chains professional buyers build.

Supply chains are interesting, because they seem to contradict the standard business practice. They’re built on co-operation, as opposed to competition. Every partner in the chain is dependent on all the others. Nobody succeeds unless everybody succeeds. They’re also exclusive clubs. Each member is the very best at its individual role.

Buyers achieve their ultimate goal – the most value at the lowest cost, with the risk managed by somebody else – when they put together consortia of suppliers, each of whom is the best in his business, prepared to collaborate in satisfying the end customer.

Sellers are keen to take any opportunity going, especially in times like these we face in 2012. Markets are short on buyers and long on sellers. Nobody want’s to walk away from business they might win. It’s natural, when a buyer says “I’m looking for” the sales rep responds with “we can do that” regardless of how good they are at doing it. In any sales opportunity most of the competing suppliers will be selling “we can do that”.

Sales people can up their game when they understand buyers. Knowing why their company is the very best at “that” and presenting it credibly, they’ll shine through the fog of competitors claims.

There’s an opportunity here for the sales guy who puts in some extra effort. Understanding all the dimensions of the buyers requirement, and positioning the proposal as “the very best at some part of it”, helps the offer stand out from the crowd.

Competitors will readily understand the maximum value at lowest cost element. The part they’ll be less likely to translate into their own thinking is the “best of breed” concept. The fact they “can” do something isn’t a qualifier for winning the business. The fact they can do it better than anybody else is.

Finding that “something we’re the very best at” isn’t necessarily as difficult as it sounds. Just asking the right questions will usually uncover several hidden influences. Asking those questions in the three agendas will reveal hot buttons the competition might not discover. Selling as the only vendor to understand a particular want, and being the very best at satisfying it, is usually the secret sauce.

So which are those three agendas hiding the hot buttons others won’t discover?

The Business Imperative

There’s something driving the change in the business. What is it – a defence against competitive pressure, or an offensive initiative. What will reduce the risk of failure

The Business Case

There’s always a business case. Return on Investment and or cost justification – no matter how notional – will be part of the final decision. So will cash flow, and risk. Amateurs assume the business case is about cost. Professionals understand the other sides of the coin.

The Personal Agenda

There’s always a personal agenda. It might be the buyer’s. It might be the CEO’s. It might be any number of other influencers’, but there is always a personal agenda.

Sales professionals who’s offer is as good as the others in two dimensions and the very best in the other have a competitive advantage. When they’re as good in the others in two dimensions and the very best in the personal agenda, they’re dealing from a stacked deck.

On the other hand the “we can do that” rep is simply there making up the numbers.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Reeves
Consultant, author, software entrepreneur, business development professional, aspiring saxophonist, busy publishing insight and ideas. Boomer turned Zoomer - thirty year sales professional with experience selling everything from debt collection to outsourcing and milking machines to mainframes. Blogger at Successful Sales Management. Head cook and bottle washer at Front Office Box.


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