SMU Data and Models

The Truth About Selling Steel: Communication & Engagement

Written by John Packard

The following is part of a series of articles Steel Market Update has been producing on the subject of steel sales. The series is  called: The Truth About Selling Steel and today, with the help of John Temples, we are going to introduce communication and engagement. In the coming weeks we will expand upon our early comments in more detail.

We’ve all seen these headlines before.  We’ve perused the “how to” books on the subject, and even read a few.  But much like an effective gym workout routine, it takes more than just rote “know how” to get results, you have to work through a disciplined practice of consistent implementation.  Selling steel, like selling most other B2B sales, is extremely competitive.  Here are a few tips on the old standard talking points:

•    Understand the Customer’s Need:  Duh…That’s a no brainer, but you should always show your customer that you understand their needs.  Taking the time to relate your understanding of the customer’s need or situation, and bridging it to your product, solution, or service will pay dividends in the long run.  This habit should be practiced in both email and verbal communications.  

Additionally, these understandings should be fully communicated amongst your internal team.  Too often deals are compromised, or worse lost, due to lack of communication within an organization’s internal departments.  

•    Providing Value:  Much has been written about value added sales and consultative selling.  Many organizations even have full business strategies built around a value added approach, but in this day and age, buyers are savvy and often come to the table fully aware of both their needs and the best solutions to move them forward.  The question is, what value can you personally add or provide to your customer during the sales process?  The answers are many and really center on basic customer service.  

Going back to the first point, you can provide value to your customer by actively demonstrating your understanding for the customer’s need and situation throughout the sales process.  Providing expertise, knowledge, and guidance throughout the sales process can in and of itself prove to be of tremendous value.  This again all hinges on your ability to effectively and often proactively communicate with all parties.

•    Ask Questions:  This seems so obvious, but after the initial stages of the sales process, it can often be overlooked.  If you are really trying to keep the customer engaged, then you have to ask a lot of questions.  I’m sure that you know your customers specs for the order, but do you know what they are producing with your steel?  Do you know all of the end applications for their product?  You may uncover many more opportunities for you to provide value.  And of course the big question that you should be ready to ask is “Are you ready to buy”?  

•    Listen: It is surprising how often buyers will tell you what their needs are and what they are not getting from their existing supply sources if you display patience and intently listen to what the buyer has to say. Everything else will be lost to those  who fail to understand and practice their listening skills.

These are just four basic points to remember and reflect on from time to time.   While we have likely all heard them before, we would love hear your own personal take on them and engage you in this dialogue.  Feel free to shoot us an email with your thoughts, stories or opinions on the subject.

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