Successful selling doesn’t have to mean killer PowerPoints, direct mail pieces created by top design firms, or even citywide door-knocking campaigns with a crew of slick uniformed dozens.
According to Rick Kier, CSP, CNP, CLP, one of the founders of SIMA and president of Pro Scapes Inc. in Syracuse, New York, it’s not just about polished presentations and piles of leads. It’s about listening, qualifying and targeting.
Since 1978, Kier has been a successful contractor in his region, where winters with more than 150 inches of snow are commonplace. He is now providing consulting services to snow-removal contractors across North America.
Kier and other experienced sales consultants claim that the sales operation encompasses everything in the business process. Most importantly, it sets up the customer relationship, which is the key to everything in your business.
For Neal Glatt, business manager of CASE Snow Management Services, North Attleborough, Massachusetts, snow- and ice-removal sales start in April and continue through August. “For a company to be truly prepared to execute a snow response plan, it takes months of planning, hiring and training,” he says. “Waiting any later is a disservice to customers and the industry.”
Every person in your company has a role in the sales process. Kier ensures that everyone in his company gets involved, from crew members to admins. “Make it part of your crew’s job to identify potential customers when out on the job sites,” he says. “Then, be sure to reward them for bringing back any leads that can be turned over to your sales team.”
One of the most important factors — so often overlooked in the sales process — is actually turning down sales, believe it or not. That means you can’t chase customers who are too far from your targeted territory. Know when to walk away.
“You need to target density with customers,” Kier explains. “The best cold calls are those that target customers within a small geographic range to eliminate driving long distances between jobs, wasting your time and fuel.”
There’s another kind of customer to shake: those who want to trap you into unrealistic expectations for your service delivery. “You need to negotiate. Meet them halfway on any unrealistic demands or be willing to walk away,” Kier says.
When it comes down to it, most sales experts say, the absolute best sales tactic is to provide a great job for your existing customers. That allows your customer to do all the work for you because they’re your best sales reps. You can tout their testimonials in countless ways and ask their permission to be a reference.
Once he generates the leads, Kier contacts potential customers to arrange one-on-one meetings at their properties to discuss their needs. “I try to understand what they liked and what they disliked in the past with their previous service,” he says. “The meeting is about identifying hot-button issues.”
At this meeting, Glatt’s goal is to discover the customer’s needs by asking pertinent questions and simply telling them about himself and his company. He also sells his potential customers on overall value rather than price.
“First, listen to your prospective customer,” Kier explains. “Let them do all the talking. They may only be concerned about a few minute details that have nothing to do with your dog-and-pony show, which could only be a distraction if presented.”
The sales meeting also provides an opportunity to keep providing feedback, reinforcing that you are listening to their concerns. “There is not a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach to the sales process,” Kier says. “One prospect might be concerned about the appearance of your crew and fleet; the other wants to be sure that you have the proper insurance.”
Kier takes detailed notes at all his meetings and incorporates his prospects’ needs and desires into an individual, customized contract. Examples include such detailed information as, “First, shovel steps that go up to the receiving dock,” or “Keep snow out of the drain next to the loading area.”
Just remember: Forget about the slick, polished sales pitch and glad-handing strategies of yesteryear. Don’t chase customers that are too far away to be profitable and let the ones you target tell you how to keep them happy.