2002 Fall

The Four “Be’s” of Personal Selling by David Wall

Most people in portable sanitation started off in another line of work. They may have been plumbers, septic installers, rental suppliers, contractors, waste haulers ... you name it. But few started as sales professionals. Once you are in this business though, the fastest way to prosper is to develop your sales skills.

I’ve been in sales for almost 20 years, and have read hundreds of books and articles about sales techniques. Yet, I believe that if you really want to improve your sales results, you have to focus on the basics.

I rely on four basics. I call these the four “Be’s” of personal selling. They are: Be Honest, Be There, Be Attentive, Be Reliable. If that sounds like a scouting pledge, you may be right ... but don’t those scouts sell a lot of cookies?

In most businesses today, you succeed or fail by how often your customers buy from you again and again. For that reason, and of course for all the other right reasons, “Be honest” is the single most important rule. Simply put, if you give customers any reason to doubt your word, your product, your value, or your promises, then they will buy from someone else.

The second rule, “Be There,” is important both in winning a new customer and keeping old ones. It takes time and multiple contacts to win a new customer. When someone needs a portable toilet supplier, they’re not going to hunt very long. Prospects will buy from you if you are easy to find. So do whatever you can to make yourself known in your service area. Send prospects an interesting postcard, make phone calls, give out refrigerator magnets, buy a bold yellow pages listing, write personal letters, make sales calls ... use any or all of these ideas for keeping your name in front of people. Persistence and patience are the keys to “Being There” for new customers.

“Be Attentive” is important whenever you communicate with a customer or prospect. It’s how you show them you care about their business. Ask current customers directly if they are satisfied with your service. Ask if there is anything more you can be doing. Ask if they need extra supplies. Ask if the units look and smell clean. Ask if they have any plans for growth or new locations that you might be able to help with. If you wait for customers to speak up, it will be too late. There’s an old saying that goes “God gave you two ears and one mouth, that means he wanted you to listen twice as much as you talk.”

“Being Attentive” is more than just asking good questions and being a good listener. You should also be tuned in to your customer’s behavior. Do they look interested or bored? Are they busy with higher priorities? Or, are they relaxed and in a mood to talk? Don’t sell when they are too busy to see you. Reschedule and you’ll have better success.

“Be Reliable” is perhaps the most difficult of the four “be’s” because this is where most of the work is done. It’s easy to forget about a customer once the sale is made and the money is coming in. Human nature being what it is, we tend to think more about future
customers than current ones. Yet, we know that people like to have their needs met. They like having promises kept. And they like it when you stick to a schedule and stay on time. Anything short of that and you are likely to lose customers, while anything that you do above and beyond what people expect is likely to improve sales. As the saying goes, “Under promise and over deliver.”

“Under promise and over deliver.”

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