In recent times I’ve twice gone into the market to buy some business equipment for the office.  Probably the most striking thing from each experience was the lack of sales skills out there.  Winning a sale is more than having a marketing strategy.  Very few people seem to know how to make a sales pitch or even follow up from a sales enquiry.

It is as if they assume that a sale will follow from a sales enquiry or it won’t, and there is nothing they can do to influence the result.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

Sales skills are an essential part of bidding and tendering.

So what are sales skills?  They are the mixture of personal selling skills, sales writing skills and sales systems that lead to successful business.  Personal skills such as a genuine interest in customers, the ability to ascertain the real needs of the customer, to know how to follow up a sales call or offer, to present your proposal or tender so as to make the right impression.

And the right impression is enhanced if it is supported by a good sales system.  A system which ensure the right people get the enquiry, that enquiries are followed up, that sales called are planned, and backed with the current information on that particular customer.  

Of the four calls I made one did not call back.  Is it wrong to expect that asking someone to telephone back in response to your interest in purchasing office equipment should lead to a returned phone call seeking further details of my intended purchase?  

Now I can only assume that the sales person didn’t receive the message, in which case the supplier’s system and training aren’t very good, or that he forgot, (no recording system), he was too busy (a courtesy call wouldn’t hurt) or that they had plenty of business.  Of course, without calling back how would he (or she of course) know how much business I was offering?

If this is their level of interest in winning a sale, what would their level of support be like?  A supplier definitely not worth pursuing.

Now for the second of the four.  My telephone call and outline of our requirements resulted in a few questions about the specification, and within one hour I had an emailed quotation.  Not bad you might say, but it would be nice if he showed some interest in me as a customer, or even wanted to come and inspect our operation, but there was no suggestion about that.  It makes you also wonder about their level of interest in providing maintenance and support.  There has been no follow-up since.  Strike two.

If you are submitting a bid, have you met with the client to discuss their requirements, or inspect the area in which you offer might operate?  

Now the final two suppliers were an entirely different story.  Both questioned me in detail about our requirements and insisted in coming to look at our facility and current equipment.  Both returned to hand deliver a quotation, and came back again with variations.  Both sought options to offer me.  Both want the sale.  Interestingly both are older people, a man and a woman.

Whether it is a factor of being trained in the old school, or just having a real interest in the customer, the change is refreshing.  One of them will get the sale.

Can you assume you will get the sale without some sale skills?  Tell me what you think?

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