What if you could distill the overall success/failure of your entire sales approach into one simple metaphor?
Would it help you understand how crucial it is to make sure you are THE BEST offering in the marketplace?
This concept was born from an off handed comment I made during one of my company’s sales training classes about a year ago. I said something about being so good at your job that you always find yourself “winning” on the “scales of justice.”
The term has been wandering the halls of our company for a while now and frankly, was long overdue for a blog post. So let’s get to it.
You’re familiar with the old fashioned apothecary scale right? Nowadays we like to use it as a symbol to denote the concept of “justice,” but it is ALSO still a phenomenally practical tool to explore the relative weights of 2 different things.
So let’s talk about a new kind of justice. Sales Justice!
Think of a scale as the visual representation of a client and the base is “the business.”
The position of the trays tells you which salesperson the client currently works with and/or weighs as the most valuable.
At the beginning of a sales cycle, the scale ALWAYS looks like this:
So what’s weighing down the right side? I’m glad you asked.
The right tray is filled with every ounce of value ever created for that client by the incumbent salesperson. Every personal relationship building conversation, every on time delivery made, every commitment made and kept, every feeling created by the salesperson in the mind of the buyer. In short…it is absolutely everything.
Sounds like a ton of stuff. Sounds like its a damn near unmatchable amount of weight right?
If that’s true though, then why is it possible to open new accounts and methodically penetrate them until the incumbent is completely forced out and all the business belongs to the newcomer? Could it be there’s actually not that much incumbent weight in some clients’ scales?
If you do everything right, you’ll find yourself in a lot of accounts where even though you were unknown to the client a year ago, you now have all the business and your position now looks like this:
So now you’re thinking the following 3 questions:
How does this happen? How do you know it will last? How can you replicate it?
How does this happen?
Here’s what allows you to take over business and tip the scales in your favor, LOTS* of the time.
The amount of value in the incumbent tray is impossible for you to know at the beginning of the sales journey. The scale always shows an identical starting position, but you have no idea what it’s going to take to tip that scale in your favor.
Even though the incumbent tray is on the base, it may be there due to a simple lack of options. Client loyalty can vary from “he’s the only provider I know” to “I’ve been working with this guy for 15 years and we’re personal friends.”
So lets take a look at your position at the beginning of a sales relationship, and talk about what you can do to get the scale moving.
Do you have a sales process that WORKS, or do you let the client dictate the process?
What are you wearing? Do you look like the best?
What are you saying? Do you sound like the best? Or do you sound like EVERYONE ELSE they see?
What commitments are you gaining? Nothing moves forward without commitments.
Are you sending a handwritten note after the first meeting thanking them for their time? It shows class and attention to detail…and increases the odds of a second meeting.
How often do you revisit them? Relationships can’t form in your absence.
What are you doing to make deposits to your tray on the scale?
Every single one of the things mentioned above is being placed on the scale. It’s being measured and evaluated against what the incumbent has brought before you.
So if you desire to make the scale move quickly, make sure the quality of each component above equates to the weight of very large rocks, not insignificant pebbles.
At this point I have to confess, you don’t actually get to see the scale moving. Through circumstances and events that occur in the account, the scale will just show itself in a different position with no warning.
One day, after making enough repeated deposits into your tray, you will get an order! You now realize…the incumbent’s tray is no longer on the floor. His tray is rising and yours is falling.
You must be approaching parity. Pour it on!
This is why its very possible to protect yourself from an incumbent’s retaliation when they finally notice you’re there…you’ve already begun to build a solid history with the client.
How do you know it will last?
Newton’s Law of Inertia states that an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. This also applies to objects at rest. Think about that second sentence for a minute.
So based on this Law, we can assume that a sales rep that opens an account, and begins to take it over, will continue to do so if she doesn’t alter what got her moving down this path. Now of course you may see the incumbent vendor retaliate and that is most definitely an outside force…but my point from earlier is that by the point the incumbent notices she is in there, she has poured so much weight into her tray that it’s very difficult to try to displace her.
Now, just to keep you from accusing me of making this sound like this is easy, I can promise you that you will have a never ending onslaught of “outside force” in every scale of justice situation. Competitors will attack you, market prices will fluctuate, a competitor’s best friend or brother may even move into a key decision making role in an account.
But for all of the outside forces, I can tell you this: in a global sense, NONE OF IT MATTERS.
None of it matters, because no one (except you) can ever stop you from continually adding more and more weight to your tray, perpetually strengthening your position with each individual client.
Sure you might experience a rare moment where you lose an account, (hopefully for circumstances completely outside of your control) but if you play this game the right way, your overall offense (deposits on dozens of scales) creates so many new opportunities that you barely notice the losses…and you rarely if ever see loss from an annual income perspective.
How can you replicate it?
Here’s a crazy idea. Do the same thing every day. One of my mentors loves to say, “be boring.”
In the business of distribution sales, boring is good.
Boring means you don’t have time for drama. Boring means you follow a routine.
Following a routine creates an aura of consistency.
Obtaining trust and rapport develops strong relationships.
Strong relationships ensure that you rarely lose business.
Also Newton said it would happen. 🙂
From this day forward, if you ever find yourself struggling in pursuit of something, I’d like you to ask yourself if you’re actually doing everything in your power to tip the scale…or if you simply think that’s too much work.
Do yourself some justice and get to work.
PS: *There is one scenario where its nearly impossible to tip the scale to your side:
The client has been working with the type of salesperson that’s been employing this very principle for the last X number of years.
They’ve built a lifelong partnership and the incumbent has a “tray deposit history” thats akin to an anvil now sitting in the tray.
In these situations, you’d be better served by figuring this out as soon as you can and moving on rather than wasting your time adding rocks and pebbles to the other side of the scale. Do your due diligence though!! Lots of buyers will tell you off the bat they love “their guy,” but that’s frequently just a smokescreen to get rid of a pesky salesperson.
I would strongly encourage you to use these rare scenarios as learning experiences.
Have the following conversation with the buyer:
“Hey I really appreciate the amazing partnership you seem to have built with your sales rep. I want that type of relationship with my clients. Would you mind sharing with me what they do that is so valuable to you? I’d like to get better at my job and I’d be so grateful for any advice you can share.”
9 times out of 10 they will share the gold with you. Pay attention and work to be that kind of salesperson.