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August 07, 2019 | Coach’s Corner | Greg Martinelli

Take Away the Excuses

How to eliminate your customer's reasons for not doing business with you

I’m sure you have heard them all before:

  • “Your price is too high.”
  • “Your manufacturing facility is too far away and freight would kill us.”
  • “I don’t have room for your products in my store, warehouse, farm.”
  • “What if I buy from you and it doesn’t work?”

            Then there are what I like to call the lame excuses.  These usually start out with the preface, “I heard” or “I thought”:

  • “I heard you guys only deliver this area on Tuesday’s”
  • “I heard you guys go right around your dealers and sell direct to farmers.”
  • “I thought you guys wanted to sell the big guys.  Why are you calling on a little guy like me?”
  • “I thought you only sold to row crop farmers, not specialty like me.”

            Here’s an interesting twist on excuses, which I have discovered from countless discussions with my fellow salespeople and those that I coach.  In the mind of the salesperson, if the excuse is good enough, it becomes a reason.  You hear it in their words, literally.  “The reason we aren’t selling more to them is …….” 

            We are in the business of removing the excuses.  That is your role.  We set out on our great selling adventure armed with both company and product information:  brochures, flyers, PowerPoint presentations, graphs, data, free samples and the ultimate promotional item- a free hat.  Thinking we have the greatest thing since air conditioning in a tractor cab, we run smack dab into the excuses.

            Here’s a good way to look at this.  A motivational speaker once said, “When the job seems really difficult, remember, That’s the job.”  It took me a little time to figure out what he was saying, but it’s definitely true in sales.  Anyone can go farm to farm and hand out hats, brochures and click through the corporate PowerPoint presentation.  However, your job doesn’t really start until you hit the excuses.  The difficult parts of selling for many salespeople are those core areas of prospecting, asking good questions and overcoming objections.  When coaching a salesperson, these areas come up often.  That’s when the excuses start flying.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I know there are tough selling environments out there.  Your manufacturing facility is too far away, your competitor is not as ethical as they should be, or your prices literally might be too high.  As the speaker mentioned above, “That’s the job!”.  Removing the excuses and meshing your business with your customers into a mutually beneficial relationship.

            The following are some classic excuses and the way they were handled.

            Excuse #1:  Lack of Space “Even if I did want to bring in your products, where would I put them?  I have no room in my store.”  If you sell into the retail market, one of the first problems you run into is a space issue.  Walk through any major retail store or any of the large Ag retail chain stores.  You will see that every inch of available space is being used.  To sell into one of these stores, you have to either displace another product line or replace their current supplier of your products.  Not an easy task.  They have loyal customers buying those products.  That’s why they are on the floor and taking up valuable space.  So, retailers are not going to risk a one for one switch unless their current supplier is causing problems. 

            Solution:  Create Space Networking with some of my peers, I found they were actually building a small retail shed in the front parking lot of the reluctant retailers that complained of space issues.  Finding a local builder, we penciled out the ROI needed to finance one of the sheds.  While it was a great way to solve the space issue, there was a giant learning curve on how to get product moving through them.  That’s a story for another day maybe.

            Excuse #2:  MoneyI can’t afford the inventory.”  “What f I buy all this inventory and it sits in my store?”  Good excuses for sure and becoming more and more common as the Ag economy tightens.  Financing your products should be on the forefront of your mind at all times and especially high right now.  For two reasons.  First, it’s weighing heavy on your customer’s mind.  Row crops near or below breakeven means paying their bills is a big concern.  Secondly, knowing how and why customers finance your products is a great way to know if you are going to get paid for them.  Don’t let the past due accounts receivables report be your guide to whether or not your customers can finance your products.

            Solution:  Get Creative and take a reasonable risk based on the reward.  This is a time when you really want to know your business, your customer’s business and have a good relationship with your credit manager.  Once, I ran across a great prospect, with multiple locations.  Her excuse for not signing on as my customer was a lack of money to finance the inventory.  First, I listened as she explained the problem with increasing her operating loan to buy more inventory from me.  Then I asked her if this was truly the only reason for not buying from me.  She assured me it was.  We shipped the first three orders, one to each store on consignment for 60 days.  That meant, nothing due for 60 days.  After two months, we would only bill her for whatever sold.  She could decide to either keep what didn’t sell or we would pick it up at no charge.  So began a 15-year business relationship that proved to be one of my best customers and somebody I consider a friend.

            Excuse #3: Freight Here’s the thing with freight.  There’s always a thing.  Quit talking about it, arguing about it, and negotiating it.  It’s a cost of doing business.  Ever get beat by a competitor that offers free freight?  I have.  I always wondered how they get those drivers to volunteer their time and gas money to drive farm to farm and hand unload bags or back into unimaginable bin locations for bulk deliveries.  Obviously, they don’t.  The cost of the driver, the fuel and maintenance are all rolled up into the margin of their products.  And if your customer can’t understand that, then I say, “Quit arguing about it and quote a delivered price”

            Solution:  Remove the discussion by quoting a delivered price.  Please understand this might not be the easiest thing to do in your accounting system.  However, it’s worth asking about.  I was able to eliminate a lot of questions over freight charges due to the fact some of my customers couldn’t believe how much it cost.  Good drivers are critical to your success in Ag sales.  They have a cost, no different than pelleting feed, mixing fertilizer or manufacturing inventory.  We still accounted correctly for the freight but I didn’t have to argue/negotiate as much over the issue.  One customer in particular really wanted to know.  He was going to be a tough negotiator with me.  So, I let him know how much his freight charge was.  He was convinced I was ripping him off and found a trucking company that gave him a cheaper quote.  I gladly removed the freight charge and allowed him to pick up his next order.  One small problem.  His cheaper quote was for a van body delivery instead of a truck that will go on farm and hand unload bags into a barn 30 feet from the truck.  Oh, and most of the time the driver needed to rotate the old bags on top of the new bags.  On the next order, we just went back to the old way of doing things and never discussed freight again.

            Dealing with excuses or objections isn’t easy and most of the time not much fun.  Customers have many reasons for coming up with these excuses.  Sometimes they just don’t want to change.  Sometimes they just don’t want to tell us the real excuse.  Sometimes they think it will help them be better negotiators.  And sometimes, the excuse is real enough to be a reason.  That’s the job we signed up for when they gave us that set of truck keys, a price list and wished us good selling in our new territory.

 

For more information on Ag sales training, coaching or business development, contact Greg Martinelli at Greg@GregMartinelli.net  

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