Distributor salespeople call on existing customers twice as much as new prospects. Our
recent value-added survey revealed
distributor salespeople spend 21
percent of their time selling to prospects and 56 percent of their time
selling to existing customer.
Relying on your existing customers
to grow your business is a defensive
selling strategy. Defensive selling
is protecting and growing existing
business. For many distributors, this
strategy makes sense. It’s easier and
more profitable to sell to existing
However, distributor salespeople
struggle with one key aspect of
defensive selling, value reinforcement. Value reinforcement is getting
credit for the value you deliver and the impact it has on
the buyer’s business. In our seminars, we ask salespeople,
“Are you getting credit for all the value you deliver?”
Very few participants raise their hands. The message is
clear. You’re not getting the credit you deserve.
As most people are unaware of the air they breathe,
most buyers are unaware of the value they receive. If
buyers are unaware of the value they receive, they focus
on price. Buyers review their annual or quarterly spending and focus on the number, not the value. If it’s a big
number, the buyer feels compelled to reduce it.
A buyer unaware of the value they receive is more
open to the competition. Buyers have more choices than
ever before. The buyer can go online or up the street and
have their pick of suppliers. A buyer unaware of your
value is less loyal. This buyer believes any supplier can
meet their needs.
Many salespeople feel this pain through discount
requests, competitive bids or customer attrition. To
overcome these challenges, salespeople need to bolster
their defensive selling effort by proactively reminding
the buyer of the value they receive. Documentation is the
best way to do that.
Documentation Is Key
When buyers are reviewing suppliers, they all ask the
same question, “What have you done for me lately?”
Many salespeople respond by saying, “A lot.” That might
be true, but unless you provide proof, it’s like it never
happened. Documentation is proof. Buyers value proof
more than opinion. Proof justifies the price of your value-added solution.
Beginning today, document all the times you come
through for the customer. Review this documentation on
a quarterly basis. Proactively reviewing your value-added
protects your business.
Documentation also protects your margin. Imagine
the buyer saying, “We can get the same product for 10
percent less online. Why should we pay more to buy from
your company?” Documented value-added provides your
buyer with a compelling answer.
There are many ways to document your value-added:
on-time delivery reports, warranty summary, after-hour
service requests, supplier report cards, cost savings reports
and thank-you notes recapping your value-added.
No one gets the credit they deserve. They only get the
credit they ask for. Buyers will give you credit for your
value-added when you ask for it. Documenting your
value-added helps the buyer understand why they are
buying your solution.
A great defense provides protection. Defensive
selling is protecting existing business. Right now, there
is a competing salesperson trying to win your customer’s
business. Who is working harder for your customer, you
or your competitor? Remember, your best customer is
your competition’s best prospect.
Paul Reilly is president of Reilly
Sales Training, a St. Louis-based, privately-owned company that specializes in training sales professionals,
sales managers and service professionals. Call Paul at 636-778-0175 or
email Paul@ReillySales Training.com.