Electrical Wholesaling's editors were delighted with the quality and quantity of responses we received to our invitation to submit the 100th sales tip (See “99 Can't-Miss Sales Tips from the Pros,” EW — Oct. 2006, page 22). The dozens of tips we received gave us the idea for a new column in Electrical Wholesaling called “SalesTalk.”

SalesTalk will explore various challenges that salespeople working for electrical distributors, electrical manufacturers and independent manufacturers' reps face everyday. Each article will highlight practical and proven selling strategies used by industry veterans. As a professional in the electrical industry, your ability to sell is strengthened naturally, day-in and day-out, by trial and error and accumulated experience. These articles will offer you an opportunity to weigh in with your experience and exchange a technique or two with other sales professionals in the industry.

Perhaps one of your core philosophies has worked effectively for years. Maybe a new piece of high-tech support gear helped you overcome a selling challenge. You can give your ideas the light of day in EW's SalesTalk.

To encourage your brainstorming, Electrical Wholesaling is launching a monthly challenge. As before, the reader who submits the best sales tip on the topic will receive a $100 American Express gift certificate and have his or her sales tip published. E-mail your tips to Jim Lucy, Electrical Wholesaling's chief editor at jim.lucy@penton.com.

This month's challenge, “How do you sell more to current customers?,” is taken from one of the topics in Pro Talk, a series of roundtable discussions published by William Bradford Associates, Inc., Cleveland.

How do you Sell More to Current Customers?

There are several ways to get larger orders from current customers, including selling more different products to the same person, selling to additional departments or locations of the same customer and taking business away from the competition. Here are several sales strategies submitted by participants in Pro Talk's roundtable discussions, which over the years have included many sales veterans from the electrical market. As this series of articles gets rolling and we receive entries from readers for the monthly SalesTalk contest, we will be supplementing the Pro Talk participants' sales tips with comments from readers.

Find out what share you're already getting. That's the tough part of increasing your share of the business. Some customers will tell you, “You're my primary supplier,” or, “You're my backup.” But very few will talk in terms of percentages. Many, if not most, customers try to keep you in the dark about your share of their total purchases in your field.

Know what additional products to go after. To learn this, you've got to develop contacts beyond the purchasing department — people like the plant engineer, foremen and salespeople. They can tell you what's coming down the road. Purchasing people usually won't give you the news until it's too late.

Build a reputation as a problem solver. Always watch for problems and complaints, because that's when customers find out who their friends are. Maybe they need someone to locate a scarce item, or perhaps a competitor has missed a delivery and he needs some material right away. When a situation like these comes up, drop everything and fix it.

The best way to increase business is to deserve it. You have to do a good job on the business you have and establish a winning record. Prove that you can make the deliveries, make sure the price is right, and then show interest in the customer's situation by bringing ideas and people to help. Then you can remind the customer of how deserving you are of some additional business.

Stumped?

Perhaps you want to offer an idea for selling more to current customers, but you're having trouble putting your thoughts down on paper. Here's an idea to spark your thinking. Check out the sales tips from “99 Can't-Miss Sales Tips” in EW's October issue and “The Quest for the 100th Sales Tip” in the magazine's December issue. These articles are available online at www.ewweb.com. You may also get your creative juices flowing by writing down your answers to the following questions and comparing notes with your company's seasoned veterans:

  • Are current customers your best prospects, or are you better off prospecting for new customers?

  • How do you find out what share of the business you're getting from a customer?

  • Why should an account give you a larger share of business? What would the advantage be to the customer?

  • What are the signs that a competitor is slipping? What can you do about it?

  • What one thing makes you stand out above the crowd of suppliers?

  • How do you select accounts that deserve special efforts for increasing business?

  • How can you jolt the customer who buys from habit?

  • How can you turn a complaint into a selling opportunity for more business?

  • Do customers resent your efforts to increase your business with them? Why?

You also may want to use these questions to prompt discussions among your salespeople in a roundtable format in a sales meeting. The roundtable format is the basis for Pro Talk, a brainstorming tool to focus a group of salespeople for an hour on one aspect of the job. By using open questions to tap the know-how gathered at the table, a company can harness a valuable asset to improve performance. For more information about Pro Talk, contact Dave Bradford at (440) 543-7602 or by e-mail at BradfordPROTALK@aol.com.

To be eligible for this month's contest, e-mail your sales tips by Feb. 15 to Jim Lucy, Electrical Wholesaling's chief editor, at jim.lucy@penton.com.

Put on your Thinking Caps

Upcoming articles in Electrical Wholesaling's new SalesTalk series will cover the following topics.

  • Objections? The more the better
  • How to add value in selling
  • Keeping the customer sold