Abraham Maslow, one of America’s foremost industrial psychologists of the 20th-Century once quipped, “If you want to become an Olympic swimmer, one of the best things you can do is carefully study an Olympic swimmer.” Without question, his observation has applicability to a wide range of human endeavors including one’s chosen professional career.
For many, a successful and satisfying career in industrial equipment sales will come not by simply selling customers the newest (or cheapest) widget; it will instead come by being able to offer customers real and meaningful solutions to their unique needs. The ability to focus on selling solutions rather than “high-margin” widgets is perhaps the primary factor distinguishing the value-added sales representative from all others.
Value-added selling demands a unique set of skills and knowledge, a skillset I might add, that is typically developed and refined over an extended time period. Successful value-added selling demands that one clearly understands the markets one serves as well as the personalities and decision makers involved in those selected markets.
So, what are some of the characteristics that uniquely define the value-added sales professional? Let’s take a closer look at a few.
Products knowledge is exceptionally well defined
If there is one thing, perhaps above all others, that distinguishes the value-added sales professional from the standard “order-taker” type, it’s this: the value-added sales professional understands the products that they represent exceptionally well. They know what their products can and cannot do for their customers, know precisely how those products fit into their customer’s environment and are able to almost effortlessly expedite the incorporation of those products into the customer’s workplace after they are sold.
Intel gathering with a near religious fervor
Exceptional value-added sales professionals use every opportunity to gather as much intel as they possibly can about the company developments and personalities of the players involved in their chosen market(s). They constantly strive to broaden their professional contacts by maintaining clear and easily accessible information for those that they wish to communicate. Cell phone numbers, email addresses, physical plant and company addresses, specific areas of the client’s interests, for example, are invaluable assets to the value-added sales professional. More frequently than not, they maintain duplicate and backup copies of these records to avoid catastrophic loss.
Networking with peers and competitors
Success for those pursuing a value-added sales career hinges upon the contacts that one establishes during the course of one’s career.
Trade shows, product training and educational seminars, industry blogs and industry trade journals are excellent venues for making connections and acquiring the specialized knowledge that reap enormous rewards for the serious, value-added, sales professional. Successful value-added sales professionals take full advantage of every opportunity presented to them in this respect to remain at the forefront of their field(s) of expertise.
Trade show attendance provides one with valuable insights into technological developments headed in the direction of their market and enables one to walk on the leading edge of solutions that have meaningful applicability to the real-time needs of one’s client base. These events enable one to evaluate new products and new technologies in a manner not possible through most other channels. Additionally, these events are invaluable for their ability to help one better assess the limits of one’s product line as well as that of one’s competitors.
Always sells value over price alone
Value-added sales professionals understand the meaning of the word, “value,” exceptionally well and are able to communicate this understanding to their customers. While many sales professionals easily give into the temptation to sell products that simply yield them the highest margin, value-added professionals focus on selling real value to their customers. Value-added selling recognizes, for example, that it does a great disservice to their customer base selling an inkjet box printer at a rock bottom basement price that costs the customer thousands of dollars more in ink cartridge replacements over the lifetime of the printer when a competitive model costs only 25% more at the outset but uses a fraction of the replaceable supplies during the course of its life.
Product support is another keen interest to the value-added sales professional. How quickly and at what expense can replacement parts be obtained? What is the anticipated life-cycle of the product? How easy (or difficult) is it for a customer to get support for the products that are purchased? These are all questions that the seasoned value-added sales professional takes into consideration before offer a product to his customer base.
Communication, communication, communication
Value-added professionals make a concerted effort to communicate with their chosen market(s) on a regular and sustained basis. Social media strategies and email lists like those offered by Constant Contact and personal sales-lead software are viewed by these professionals as excellent tools for this purpose. These sorts of tools enable the value-added sales professional to inform customers of new products, upgrades to existing products as well as strategies and products that are designed to increase production and save on maintenance repairs.
Many value-added sales professionals use an email marketing strategy on a monthly and even a bi-monthly basis to keep their names and product offerings clearly visible to their potential customer base. They are well aware that a regular and consistent marketing outreach strategy will, over the long haul, yield the sales results for which they aim.
Al Blazo is an independent consultant with twenty years of experience in the weighing, measurement and process control industry. Al specializes in applications development for the GSE® line of process control instrumentation. He can be reached at email@example.com and welcomes readers’ comments and suggestions.