What’s Your Selling Style? Print E-mail
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Written by Susan Mucha   
Monday, 30 June 2008 19:00

Opt for a positive approach and customers will vote with their feet.

Focus on Business Every election shows us the best and worst selling styles. Since we are likely to see this continue until November, this is a good time to discuss pros and cons of various selling styles used in EMS.

Politicians and EMS service providers have one thing in common: They are expected to deliver on their long-term promises. (Most EMS providers do a better job delivering on promises than politicians, but fully addressing that issue would go far beyond our scope here.) In setting expectations that follow those promises, what selling styles work and don’t work?

Styles to Avoid

Promise anything. This style is often the result of salesperson inexperience or underperformance. The salesperson is reluctant to jeopardize the sale, thus agreeing to whatever the customer asks for. If the deal is closed, the result is a commitment- and risk-avoidant customer and a frustrated program team that is likely shipping dollars with boards.

We’ll beat any price. A variation of promising anything, this approach focuses the sale on lowest unit price. Some companies adjust this price after the first engineering change order (ECO), but others simply accept losing money on the project and assume they’ll make it back as the business grows. Unfortunately, when this type of expectation is set early in the relationship, the customer continues to focus on the lowest price.

Criticize the competition. In many ways, this is the worst of the three styles. Negative selling is bad for two reasons: First, it not only criticizes the competition, it also criticizes the customer’s selection process; second, if the criticism proves exaggerated or completely false, the customer will actually have a higher opinion of the criticized company than they would have before. To see this phenomenon quantitatively, watch the effects in polls after attack politics are used in the election campaign. The other, softer issue is that a reputation for negative selling tends to erode the reputation of companies that do it; they become known more for whisper campaigns than any points of differentiation.

Styles to Cultivate

What keeps your customer up at night? Most OEM decision teams have very focused goals. When an outsourcing effort has failed, they are typically motivated to avoid repeating that mistake. Listening and providing the customer with solutions that address needs and minimize the potential for repeating mistakes is always an effective sales tactic. When one EMS provider offers a targeted solution, and the rest sell a bullet list of capabilities, the OEM will usually choose the solution provider. When all EMS companies appear equal, the OEM focus stays on price as the differentiating factor.

A demonstrated track record with projects of similar size and complexity. A poor outsourcing decision can impact an OEM decision team’s job security. The better job an EMS provider does of illustrating required skills and results, the less risk associated with selecting that company. This selling style is best facilitated with case studies, customer references and the introduction of a strong project team on the plant tour.

Know your business – and the customer’s. Unlike the negative selling example, this style focuses on using industry expertise to discuss alignment between the salesperson’s company capabilities and the customer’s requirements, without criticizing the competition or the customer’s selection process. It also sets positive expectations on both sides early in the process. This can facilitate smooth contract negotiations and project transition.

The reality is salespeople will win accounts with all these selling styles. However, when the expectation of a satisfactory long-term relationship is added, the latter three are the far more effective options.

Susan Mucha is president of Powell-Mucha Consulting Inc. ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), a consulting firm providing strategic planning, training and market positioning support to EMS companies. Her new book, Find It, Book It, Grow It. A Robust Process for Electronics Manufacturing Services Account Acquisition, is available through Amazon and other online retailers.

 

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