The Tao of Sales
An Easier Way to Sell in Tough Times
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Sales Success Stories: We learn to stretch our own capabilities by observing others. Find what’s true for you and what challenges you in each of these stories. Ask yourself:

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"Can You Deliver It in an Hour?"

© 2007 E. Thomas Behr, Ph.D.

I worked some years ago with a home medical supply company that was rapidly expanding into new territories - and meeting stiff competition on price from the established service provider. I went on a sales call with their best rep, whose revenues easily doubled those of the next best salesperson.

We called on a hospital who already had a long, largely positive relationship with the competition. Instead of arguing over who was better, his company or the competition, he affirmed that what really mattered to the hospital was having the right medical equipment at the patient's home when the patient arrived back from the hospital, and with a trained medical technician to ensure the required care could be provided easily and properly. Then the rep asked, "How would you feel about a company that would have the equipment and service there within an hour of your placing the order?"

"Great," said the buyer, "but nobody can make good on that promise. Reality is getting it the same day." "Then why not give me a chance to improve on reality?" asked the rep. "Let me have your next order." The buyer, by now curious, if also skeptical, agreed. Sure enough, at the end of an hour, the van with the equipment was at the patient's house, with a trained medical technician to explain its use, waiting for the patient, ambulance and family to arrive. The rep got the business. When I returned to the office, I noticed that this rep, unlike all the others, walked in through the back, not the front door. Before going to his desk, he chatted with the drivers and planners, and asked how he could make their jobs easier, strengthening the network that allowed him to transform "reality" by creating breakthrough service.

Lessons to learn: No promise you make customers is any better than the commitment of the people in your organization responsible for carrying that promise out. Share the responsibility for success with them. They are part of your team. (Ps. I later found out that when he received his substantial yearly bonus, he "took care of the boys in the back" the way a championship quarterback rewards the linemen who block for him.)