October 2001
If at first you get rejected
Some buyers erect barriers to keep you at bay. Here's how to get around them
I continue to stress the necessity and importance of maintaining an ongoing plan to acquire new accounts. Regardless of the uniqueness of your products or services, and no matter how strong the relationship is between you and your clients, various factors can change the printing requirements of an organization. For instance, an amalgamation, a takeover, or staff changes can have a huge impact on a company’s long-term buying requirements. It is, therefore, necessary to constantly develop new customers to replace the inevitable loss of existing business.

One of the greatest challenges for sales reps is getting through the voice-mail barrier. Voice mail was invented to help communication between employees and between organizations and suppliers, and to help stop unproductive phone tag. However, a technology that was intended to enhance business must now surely be redefined as one of the greatest impediments sales reps have ever encountered.
But voice mail is just one barrier that buyers use to avoid new suppliers. Some of the other standard excuses vary from “He is in a meeting,” to “He is tied up doing budgets so he is not taking any calls,” to “You can call back in several weeks when things have calmed down a little.” The hope here is that the sales rep won’t keep a record of this conversation and won’t make a follow-up call.
With this in mind, let’s discuss some of the typical brush-offs you’re likely to hear after contacting a buyer, and the potential rebuttals you can use.

1. We are very satisfied with our current suppliers
This response should not come as a surprise to anyone. It would be a sad state of affairs if an organization did not have suppliers that it felt were competent. But remember, one of the buyer’s responsibilities is to keep abreast of new and better products and processes so that the company can produce work more effectively, get more sales from each employee, and keep up with what others in the industry are doing.
As a matter of fact, it is wise, politically, for you to recognize the skills and expertise of your competitors. If you ever make derogatory comments about a client’s suppliers, you are, in effect, calling the client stupid.

The essential message that must be conveyed is that your organization has some distinct characteristics. You must now have at your fingertips at least five unique facts about your firm and the resulting benefit for the customer. Please remember that facts, such as the length of time your firm has been in business, the number of employees in your organization and the amount of equipment in your plant, are meaningless to the buyer because none of it gives any indication of how it will help him or his company work more effectively. When you state a fact about your company, make certain that it is followed immediately by the customer benefit and that the benefit can be easily identified. If a customer benefit does not meet one of these criteria, my guess it that it will be of little interest to a new client.

2. We have nothing to quote on but will send you the specifications when something comes up.
Never fall for this brush-off. How could a potential customer ever consider taking such action if she has not taken the time to meet with you, learn about your unique features and discuss how the work you do can meet her needs? There are many kinds of printing and if you represent a forms printer and you’re asked to quote on a six-colour brochure, you will look silly informing the buyer that it is outside your area of expertise. As a sales rep, you must find a way to meet with the buyer and show how and why he or she will benefit by having you as a supplier.

3. I am aware of your company and know that you are too expensive for us.
I have a feeling that many sales reps have heard this statement from potential new accounts. At Arthurs-Jones, it was almost a daily occurrence. Each sales rep should create several responses to this statement. One of the following will give you some ideas.

a. Mr. Customer, I hear this statement almost daily as I contact new customers. However, the truth is that our firm is growing at three times the national average and, to our knowledge, not one of the organizations we deal with wants to pay more for its printing than it has to.

b. Mr. Customer, I can fully understand your concern and need to have competitive suppliers and I can assure you that our firm’s commitment to technology translates to greater productivity per employee. This, of course, means highly competitive pricing for our customers.

c. Mr. Customer, while I appreciate the need for your firm to have competitive suppliers, it is also important for you to know that our organization is totally committed to taking costs out of our business so that we can bring better value to our customers. Within our company, we continually analyze our purchasing requirements, our production processes and our distribution and shipping procedures to determine if we are being as efficient and effective as we can be. We fully understand that for a partnership to flourish we have a responsibility to not only lead but to innovate on controlling costs on behalf of our clients.

Very few buyers ever seem to be looking for the new suppliers and it is highly unlikely that, even if they were, this information would ever be given out during a telephone conversation. The reality is that, in most instances, the buyer will try to discourage you from pursuing any further contact with his company.

However, it is essential to understand the necessity of sourcing and developing new accounts and committing to a plan. It is not an easy process and certainly the buyers will test your determination before they will give you an appointment, let alone give you some work
Duncan McGregor was president of the former Arthurs-Jones Inc., a Toronto-based, award-winning commercial printer. He led the $5 million-a-year firm to a five-fold increase in sales. He is now a consultant to the printing industry and can be reached at (416) 487-7666.
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