SMU Data and Models

The Truth About Selling Steel: The Lobby Call

Written by John Packard

We have all been through them – the dreaded “Lobby Call” – that impersonal sales call in the office of a potential steel buyer in the hope of being able to spend a few moments of quality time and, instead, the interaction between salesman and buyer is relegated to the lobby of the company. The Lobby Call is the business equivalent of the wet, limp handshake when you were expecting a hug…

Your chances of doing meaningful business with the buyer who meets you, greets you and leaves you in the lobby are usually slim to none.

So, how do you make sure that you are not going to get stuck in the lobby and will have a much more personal and business stimulating conversation with the buyer?

Doing Your Homework

Lobby Calls are the result of you spending too little time introducing yourself, your company and why you need to visit (as opposed to want to visit). Taking the time to set up the mutually beneficial reasons why you should meet with this person will go a long way toward eliminating the chance that the meeting will be held in their lobby.

The first thing you have to do is more homework up front.  A lobby call may be nothing more than a lack of understanding as to whom you are speaking with and what their function is within the company. When you were in your initial qualification process did you remember to ask who handles the purchasing for “X” product for the company as opposed to just asking for someone in purchasing?

The old way of doing things called for numerous phone calls asking pesky questions until you were confident that the person to whom you were speaking was indeed the decision maker.

Now we have social media and it may behoove you to go to the company website to see if their purchasing organization is listed and to learn more about the company in general. Once you have the proper contact’s name then use LinkedIn, Facebook or other social media to see what you can find out about that person (hobbies, title, job responsibilities, past work experience, etc.) before attempting to sit down with them face-to-face.

Which reminds me, don’t forget LinkedIn and Facebook and other forms of social media are two-way streets. There is a good chance the buyer will be checking your LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+ pages  before you land in their lobby as well. Think about that the next time you are about to post a note to your friends about the drinking binge you were on or how you just broke up with your significant other. What you post online follows you wherever you go.

The Bottom Line:

Make sure you understand what the company produces and where your company may fit as a potential source of supply.

Spend time learning more about the individual you will be meeting with. Look for the items of interest that you both might share (sports, family, college, degree, etc.).

Be proactive and provide information about yourself and your company including links to websites and social media pages. This can also include sending articles or blog posts which you feel might assist in generating a dialogue between you and the buyer.

There needs to be a reason for your visit. Everyone is busy so it is important that you communicate with the buyer that you appreciate their time and see if you can come to an understanding that through this personal contact there will be mutual benefit.

Spend the time when on the phone and in your written correspondence to develop the reasons why you will be visiting and what you hope to accomplish which during the first visit might be nothing more than a better understanding of their business, processes and sourcing strategy.

Be honest and “real” in your contacts with prospective buyers and most will take the time to help you learn more about their business and in the process provide you a better understanding as to how to better use your personality and drive to reach your sales and personal goals.

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