Confessions of an Old Salesman - Part 2

July 09, 2019 / By David Love
Ok, so I am back, as promised. Last post I talked about the importance of trust between you and your prospect. For those of you who I may have met in our mutual travels you know I love a good story. I like using stories to make a point that needs remembering.

So, if your memory is better than mine, you will remember that I talked about the beginning of my sales career in my last post. I started in the US South, selling into the Textile business in the late 80’s. This story is one of my first big wins as a new, fresh Salesman.

So, let me paint the picture. My mentor, an old school salesman named Tom, helped me get an appointment at one of my biggest target accounts in Hickory, North Carolina, the hotbed of sock manufacturing in the US at the time, yes socks!

Tom was selling our main product to this customer and I was the new guy selling a new (for us) add-on product/company into the Sock industry. Tom was a very respected and trusted resource in the Sock Industry, so his support was key, but only to get in the door. And I could not let him down, let alone the prospect.

This new product/company was the highest quality, backed by all the big Machine OEM’s. But their service record was, let’s say, less than stellar.

Oh, one more thing: This was the Sock Industry in the early 90s. Think of machines 60 years old, powered by line shafts and leather belts. And factories run by women and men who served in WWII. However, these people made the best socks in the world, socks that in 1992 you would pay $9 for a pair.

Ok, enough background.

The sales process went as you would expect. Regular visits, product testing, price negotiations, delivery concerns. My prospect was finally ready to make the commitment to my product. I was ready to close the deal and get that big purchase order. But, for my prospect to become a customer, he would need to spend more than $100,000 to start and then another $10,000 a month, a big commitment, especially in 1992. He looked me in the eye and asked a simple question, “Will you be there for me when things go sideways?”

How could I respond other than say “Absolutely!” So, of course, he asked me another question completely from nowhere - “Do you like Hot Peppers, I mean really hot?” Well, I like hot food, so all I could say was “Absolutely!”

The Prospect simply said, “Follow me.”

Remember, we are in an old factory in North Carolina. Walking off the Knitting floor, down the stairs, into a basement that had not seen the light of day for more than 50 years. Across the floor of the basement we walked through the dark, towards the distinctive glow of grow lights. There in the corner were several very healthy plants boasting the distinctive Carolina Cayenne Pepper.

My prospect had a choice of several green and red peppers, and peppers in between green and red. He picked a bright red pepper, took his knife off of his belt, and cut several small slices off of the bottom end of the pepper.

“Taste this” as he handed me a few slices.

Needless to say, together we sampled the pepper and a few more, of varying shades of green to red, and discussed the different tastes.

I got the order.

The point of this story is your prospects want to trust you before they give you their business. And the tests of trust come in many flavors.

Always be honest, Always tell the truth, and Always be there for your prospect. Only then you will be able to call them a Customer.

Next time, the importance of understanding your prospect and respecting their culture and preferences. And remember, I love telling a good story.
Manufacturing Marketing Group Louisville, CO US 303-953-4361