Sell yourself, your company, and then your product
When it comes to big ticket capital items, the customer is not just buying a product, they are making a long-term commitment with you and your company. If the product doesn’t work, their career will be on the line. So successful selling entails far more than the features and benefits of the profits. The sales professional must build a long-term relationship that is based on trust. You can only do that by starting with proving your own trustworthiness before you ask the customer to trust your company. Practicing this maxim repeatedly will continue to pay dividends throughout your career.
This was certainly the case for Barry Rapozo, who is the source of this maxim. He was one of the great masters of sales in our industry before he retired and one of the earliest to receive SEMI’s Sales and Marking Excellence award for bringing professional sales techniques to the industry. Wherever Barry went, the order flow improved. When he taught his techniques to his people, orders flowed even faster. One of the reasons why customers trusted Barry was that while he tried very hard to never oversell his product’s capabilities, there were occasions when a product did not achieve its promised performance, and when this happened, they knew Barry would engage whatever resources were necessary within his company to rectify the product’s performance. Importantly, Barry aligned himself with companies who also shared in this philosophy, so that customer trust could always be maintained.
Now you might think that when you have a great product, customers will buy it simply because it’s great. But as Barry put it, “Your product has to be great because otherwise you won’t get in the door.” Having a great product is just the starting point because the more a customer spends with you, the greater the risk to their company and career. The semiconductor industry is riddled with equipment companies and products that initially looked great and then failed to perform.
Practicing this maxim repeatedly meant Barry always got in the door — even when he didn’t have the greatest product. On one critical order with a major customer, at a selection team meeting: ‘Barry, we brought you in because we respect you so much that we wanted to deliver the bad news personally. We are going to try the other brand this time.’
So would you have fought or begged for the order? Barry knew this would be futile, because they had already decided. Fighting is essentially telling the customer they’re stupid for going with the other company. It simply doesn’t work. Instead Barry relied on all the trust dividends he had built up with that customer. He said,
“That’s good! This will allow you to directly compare all of our products and company benefits, especially those you might be taking for granted."
He was called back a few weeks later. ‘Barry, we decided to reverse our decision. You’ve got the order. It was your last comment. The consequences of it terrified us.’
That is a great example of how the dividend from the equity that trust builds pays off over the long term. So, sell yourself first, then your company, and finally your product.
By G Dan Hutcheson
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