SMU Data and Models

The Truth About Selling Steel: Baby Steps Before You Walk

Written by John Packard

The following article was written by John Packard, founder and publisher of Steel Market Update and an active steel salesperson for 31 years within the flat rolled steel industry. Packard’s experiences include 20 years of service center sales and management experience, 10 years of domestic steel mill sales experience (as an agent) and 6 years of trading company sales experience (as an agent). Packard frequently writes and teaches workshops about the buying and selling process. If you would like to read more you can do so on the Steel Market Update website under the Resources tab: The Truth About Selling Steel or Steel Buyers Basics.

Steel Market Update (SMU) has suggested in past writings that it is the development of a process of engagement that is needed in order to be successful in selling steel (or any product) to new prospective customers.

In the past, we have used the encyclopedia sales script as a way of providing color to the concept. When I sold encyclopedias I was trained to follow a very structured script which allowed me to engage a homeowner who I had never met and over a relatively short period of time if I followed the script my chances of concluding the sale were quite high. The script insured that the prospect was engaged and following the path they were being led down.

During the presentation there were specific responses required out of the prospects which would be used to positively reinforce what was being shown or the concepts which were being laid out. If the prospects did not respond in an affirmative fashion (out loud) to any question asked during the presentation then we were trained to go back and start from the point of their last positive response and go through the material again once again asking for an affirmative response covering that material.

If you could not get a positive response to a question then we were taught to pack up our materials and head to another house as we were not going to be able to conclude the sale to that particular customer.

We were also taught that prior to entering a home we needed to qualify the couple to insure that they met our criteria as prospective customers (that they understood the value of education and wanted their children to be well educated).

Bringing all of this into the steel sales arena. The first steps in the sales process is to qualify the company and then the buyer to make sure that they are using the materials your company is selling and that the person with whom you are speaking is indeed the decision maker. There is nothing worse than working your individual script only to find out that the person with whom you are speaking does not have the authority to make decisions.

Once qualified the next step is to engage the prospective client which is done through questions which need an answers. These questions may vary from account to account and person to person based on the research the sales person has done in advance of the first contact.

For that matter, the first sales call does not get made without the sales person having done the following:

Learned about the product he/she is selling. How is it made, what are its properties, is it a commodity or specialty product, what is it used for, what other products can be used in substitute, how can it be altered to accommodate the customer needs, etc.

Understands the company he/she is representing. What are the company strengths and weaknesses? What processing capabilities does the company have? What kind of customers does the company focus on?

Knows something about your company’s major competitors (what do they do well, where are their weaknesses, processing capabilities, etc.).

What does the company do that you are targeting as a prospect? Have you reviewed their website, product catalogues, etc.

Do you know the person’s name and position with whom you are trying to engage? If yes, have you looked them up on the company website, LinkedIn and facebook? What do you know about their background that might assist in getting them engaged and then keeping them engaged?

Be prepared is the motto of the Boy Scouts of America but it could easily be substituted for the salesperson motto as well.

Steel Market Update has consulting services where we conduct private training workshops on subjects such as sales. If your company has an interest in learning more please contact us at:

Latest in SMU Data and Models