This is part two of a three-part article.

Ditch The Automatic Discount Mentality.

It has become somewhat common in the jan/san industry that distributors will offer discounts, often for no reason and without being asked for one.

“This is one of the worst traditions that have evolved with distributors,” says Miller. “Everyone knows when you have a discount mentality, you just mark the product up on the other side.”

Offering too many discounts can also be a slippery slope for distributor sales reps. Too often, the customer will come to expect pricing negotiations or freebies. It will become difficult to legitimately adjust costs to reflect changes in the market, which will impact profit margins.

“If you are going to offer a discount, you have to make sure you have a very specific reason for the offer,” adds Miller. “It might be something like quantity or purchasing from different categories — offerings that tie it to something other than tradition.”

Don't sell product.

Develop a customer-centric sales approach that focuses on finding solutions rather than selling product, say consultants.

“Too much sales training is push training; pushing products on the customer,” notes Pancero. “A pull solution determines the customer’s needs and presents them with a complete solution.”

Peduto echoes this sentiment and stresses the importance of identifying customer needs and offering solutions that meet those needs.

“The salespeople’s ability to sell more product is tied to their ability to focus on what the customer needs,” he explains. “If you solve customer problems, you’ll sell the bundle. If you try to sell the bundle, it won’t work. The call needs to begin and end with the customer, not with us.”

Toward this end, sales experts encourage reps to keep quiet and let the customers talk. Ask more questions, then stop and listen to what the customer needs.

“The average rep talks more than 80 percent of the time on a sales call, but modern buyers are turned off by talky sales people that don’t listen,” says Pancero. “Make it a point to spend more time letting the customer talk and ask more questions. It’s the easiest way to uncover needs and opportunities.”

Of late, reps who listen to their customers are hearing about staffing and struggles to maintain cleaning demands. Labor issues are one example of a common customer concern that can help sales reps not only get a foot in the door but showcase their problem-solving skills.

“If I have an in-depth discussion about how labor shortages or the inability to get labor is impacting the business, often I can find ways to sell equipment that automates [cleaning] and saves time,” says Peduto. “That’s more effective than beginning a conversation with ‘we do this’ and ‘we do that.’ Typically the customer has heard all that before.”

Once sales reps have identified and solved customers’ pain points, consultants recommend finding creative ways to add value to the customers’ business. Oftentimes, these solutions have nothing to do with selling a product. They fall under that “value-added” category that can quickly differentiate one distributor from the next.

“Let’s say you talk to your building service contracting customers and they want to know how to sell in a price-sensitive environment,” says Miller. “You could put together a training program that helps teach these customers how to sell more effectively. Wouldn’t that be worth more to that customer than a 10 percent discount on a bottle of neutral cleaner?”

Progressive distributors will be focusing on promoting these value-added offerings. Once they do, experts agree that the sale of commodity products should quickly fall into place.

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Selling Strategies And Tips To Closing Deals
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Tips To Create Sales Opportunities And Being Flexible