SMU Data and Models

Steel Buyers Basics: The Truth About Selling Steel

Written by John Packard

Question: How can you tell when a salesperson is lying? Answer: Their lips move.

Of course from a salesperson perspective, the same question can be asked of buyers with the same response given as the punch line.

The issue that you as a steel salesperson (or steel buyer for that matter) have to address is how do you remove yourself from the characterization represented by the joke so that you can enjoy the daily challenges and opportunities you find each and every day of your sales career?

The answer is in the joke – tell the truth and believe in your company and products. If you have to “bend” the truth in order to make a sale (or a buy) then there is a flaw in either your company’s product or in your personal make-up.

It is possible to represent a less than perfect company successfully by going the extra mile and developing an honest relationship with your customers (or suppliers), explaining both the faults and advantages of doing business with you and your company and then servicing the heck out of the business once it comes.

One of the keys to being a good salesperson is knowing how to find and deal with the objections which exist within the company you are attempting to sell (I would do business with you if not for this…). The objections are the roadblocks to doing business.

A great example that I have from my own sales background goes back to the early days after I graduated from college. I took a 100 percent commission job as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. It was through that experience I learned the technique of truths behind selling as well as the pitfalls.

The first lesson I learned was how to qualify a potential buyer. The last thing you wanted to do was to knock on someone’s door, talk to them for an hour and then discover they never had any interest in buying in the first place. So finding and qualifying potential customers was key to success.

Since I was selling encyclopedias, the first “hint” of a prospective customer was seeing children’s toys or playground equipment in the yard. If there were no signs of children then we skipped the house and moved on.

Next, once we found a house we actually had a script which we had to memorize. The script basically confirmed that the residents within the house had an interest in providing their children with a better education. If the people in the home did not answer the scripted questions in the proper way then you thanked them for their time and left. They were not qualified to buy the product.

Once in the house the script was centered on the product and our potential target’s interaction with the product. At certain points during the sales pitch the potential customer was asked questions which required a positive response. If they did not answer properly you went back through the section you just did and then asked them again. If you did not receive the positive response – then you folded up your gear and excused yourself. They were not qualified and, therefore, they were not going to do business with you.

It was a step-by-step process from qualifying a potential customer, confirming they had the desire to buy, answering any objections through positive reinforcement, to closing the sale.

I was an awful encyclopedia salesman.

Why? Because the one thing I was lacking was a strong belief in the product and that I was working in the best interest of my customers.

So, my advice today is:

1) Be honest with yourself and your customers (or suppliers).
2) Understand and believe in the product you are selling.
3) Learn how to qualify an account (which means you must know what to ask and then you must listen to both what they say as well as how they say it).
4) Don’t waste time with non-qualified accounts.
5) Answer any objections or obstacles which may prevent a sale.
6) Build a support team within your company.
7) Service the heck out of your customers.
8) Learn how to turn negatives into positives.

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