Stop, look, and listen. Hearing those three words brings me back to when I was 11 years old, hanging with my buddies on the railroad tracks near my house. Those were the days of looking for loose railroad spikes or catching polliwogs that had set up shop in giant puddles in the gullies next to the tracks. Yup, we always had to keep those three words in the front of our minds. Otherwise, we’d end up on the front end of the 1130 southbound commuter train to Boston.
Those three words not only apply to kid safety but are also extremely important as a sales representative in the material handling industry; come to think of it, all sales industries for that matter. Too many times salespeople are so eager to SELL, SELL, SELL that when they have their first meeting with the manager at a facility, they spew out information about what their products can do, like Old Faithful. This is the point when they should hear the whistle on that 1130 southbound train and take a moment to regroup, using these three little words:
The key here is to take a step back and STOP information selling and start information gathering. Ask as many questions as possible to understand more about your customer’s business such as: What are your primary concerns? What are you looking to accomplish with the solution? How are you operating now? What keeps you up at night? Questions like these help gather valuable information and insight into their business and may uncover additional concerns even they may not have realized.
For material handling solutions representatives, this is where the ‘Mr. Ed’ horse blinders need to come off. Far too often, reps are focused so much on their product that they forget to LOOK at all aspects of the facility to uncover information. You may spot things like floor cleanliness that could lead to a cleaning machine; corrugated boxes laying around might lead to additional storage, workers manually wrapping pallets may lead to a stretch wrap machine, or rolling ladders may lead to a mobile stock picker. Look for potential stumbling blocks that you can help your client with.
The last and most important skill of all is one in which every sales rep can excel. Listening to a customer’s concerns is vital in establishing not only familiarity with their business needs but also in building your relationship with the customer. Customers want solutions, not sales pitches. To LISTEN and understand their operation and concerns should be the primary focus. Think of yourself as a material handling therapist that listens intently and, only then, provide solutions.
Use these three words as your golden rules: STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN, no matter if you are learning more about your customers’ needs or he is sharing his ideas and thoughts. Because, when it comes right down to it, the sales process is all about building the customer-client relationship and creating trust. Take these words to heart, and you’ll be well on your way to being successful, rather than on the front end of that southbound train to Boston.