Proving Your Value & Gaining Trust: Six Tips for Landing Vendors
by Linda P. Kester May/June 2016
While the road map for generating volume has changed significantly thanks to technology, some sales techniques remain the same. Linda Kester shares six strategies for acquiring new vendors.
When I got into leasing, my goal was to be the top sales rep. I had little experience, but my passion for sales and desire to succeed gave me the drive to generate volume. At the age of 24, I attained President’s Club status, the top 1% of the sales force. I loved being a leasing sales rep so much that I wanted to help my co-workers attain their goals. This inspired my first workshop, “Goal Setting … Think Big, Start Small.”
At the end of the workshop, a sales rep said, “That was great for goal setting, but what is the best way to get new business?” My next step became clear: I had to make a road map for generating volume.
After much thought, I realized what worked best for me was calling on vendors, which provided a steady stream of solid applications. Once the vendor trusted me, I became an extension of his or her sales force.
The road map for generating volume has changed. Today it’s computerized navigation instead of a big piece of paper that’s difficult to fold. Here are six tips to help you land vendors:
1. Help the Vendor Feel Less Stress
Vendors feel overwhelmed. Get in their world and help solve their problems. Instead of asking if they have any deals for you, sit down, ask about their business and discover their pressing needs. Slow down. Do more discovery work. If you are only rushing after deals, you
increase the vendor’s stress level, and they go dark.
Lower your own stress level first. The top leasing reps are cool and calm. They know which deals will close and when. That doesn’t mean the best reps never stress, but they usually work well under pressure.
Results that lower a vendor’s stress include convenience, improved cash flow, more sales, more money and more knowledge. When you meet with a vendor, you’re not selling financing; you are providing convenience. You are not selling low rates; you are improving their cash flow.
2. Employ the Social Selling Tool
People are spending more time on the internet and not answering calls like they used to. Social selling is not the same as social media. Social selling is using the internet to connect with decision makers. This includes traditional outbound vendor prospecting activities like networking and getting introductions through LinkedIn.
LinkedIn makes it possible to search for ideal vendors. Social selling is primarily a lead-generating activity. As you grow your LinkedIn network, your chances of having a common connection with a decision maker increase. LinkedIn offers a Social Selling Index tool to members. Updated daily, it measures your effectiveness at establishing your professional brand, finding good vendor prospects, engaging with insights and building relationships. This tool helps boost prospecting activities.
3. Make the Vendor’s Goals Your Goals
Tell the vendors you want to be part of their team, sharing their goals and objectives and seamlessly integrating a creative finance solution into their sales offers. Understand the vendor’s sales process. Ask the right questions to gain better knowledge of every prospect’s decision-making process. Think about the sale from the vendor’s perspective. Some vendors need time to establish trust. Others will try you quickly, but might view you as a commodity. Focusing on a vendor’s needs will get more applications in the door.
Understanding your vendors is far more important than anything else about your business. I got an email from a leasing company that said, “We are looking for deals.” So what? Who cares? I had to stop myself from replying with, “Your marketing sucks. It’s not about you! What is the benefit to your customer?” I didn’t want to be rude, so I just deleted the email and removed myself from their list.
4. Use a Tiered Approach
My friend Bill Beard, who works for Marlin Leasing, introduced me to this strategy. At Advanta we used Quick Trak for all our site inspections, but a rival site inspection company wanted our business. As the sales manager, I would brush off the sales rep every time he called because I had no reason to change companies. I was busy with 12 direct reports and an extremely large number to hit.
The sales rep used a tiered approach and talked directly to my highest-producing sales rep, Bill Beard. They became friends, and the next time Bill got an approval that required a site inspection he asked if we could use this new person. Wanting to keep Bill happy, I said, “Absolutely.”
For me, changing companies seemed like a hassle. We would have a meeting, give out new forms and retrain the reps, without being sure of the service we would receive. However, when my top rep wanted to try a new company, I was willing.
I remember this experience with clarity because it really hit me: This is exactly like leasing! Vendor sales managers don’t see a reason to change leasing companies, and they brush off the leasing reps.
Evade their brush off by prospecting at every level of the vendor organization. Call both the sales managers and the sales reps with the objective of convincing them to use you on a trial basis for their next five transactions.
5. Get Feedback While Prospecting
Set up a computerized system that will trigger a feedback opportunity during the sales process. This way, a vendor can share how they feel about your company online — not face to face. You’ll be able to differentiate your company by gathering feedback and acting on it.
Leasing companies rarely ask vendors for feedback on the sales experience. Let your vendor know that your sales reps will not only listen to and take care of them during this sales process but also well into the future. Positive feedback means all is well — keep going and maybe accelerate the process. Negative feedback provides a chance to fix a problem right away.
6. Have Great Follow-up
Vendors get many “one and done” calls from leasing companies. Follow up is vital! This business is simple but not easy. Where do sales reps get the idea that they can call three times and land all of the vendor’s business? This can only be accomplished through discipline (lots of strategically timed phone calls), using a process (soft-touch marketing) and with the support of technology. Trust develops over time and through substantial follow up.
When following up via email, don’t use subject lines like “Following Up,” “Touching Base” or “Checking In.” That’s just another way of saying, “Got Any Deals For Me?”
Since your potential vendors will never have the industry knowledge you do, follow-up by offering guidance first. The more training you can provide, the more they will trust you. Educate your prospects by sending your company’s existing resources like articles, recorded webinars or training videos. They will see you as a value-added resource.
Use follow-up calls and emails to share success stories with potential vendors. Instead of sharing what’s important to you, share the problems you’ve solved for your vendors. What issues did you help them solve?
Every vendor manages his or her business differently. Some allow reps to decide which leasing company to use, while some mandate using a particular company. When I called the owner or VP of Sales, I’d talk about the big picture. When I called on salespeople, I’d talk about closing more deals.
When calling on a vendor, the most important element is proving that you are the best person and the best leasing company to work with. By sharing examples of past success stories, offering access to current vendors and providing your prospect with a detailed plan that illustrates the value of your services, you will create more vendor relationships.
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