In a classic bit of movie dialog, Lauren Bacall’s character in To Have and Have Not says to one played by Bogart, “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” What could be simpler?
Which brings to mind something that Kim Korth, president of consultancy IRN (www.think-irn.com) and AD&P columnist, recommends to suppliers (named Steve or not). When it comes to dealing with unreasonable customers, customers who are making demands that are exceedingly unprofitable, the suppliers need to, in effect, “Just put their lips together and say ‘No.’” That’s right: Tell the buyer that what he or she is asking for is unreasonable, unwise, and otherwise un-doable.
Which is scary. As simple as whistling, but nevertheless absolutely knee-shaking. After all, this is not what supplier salespeople are wont to do: Turn down an order. It’s ostensibly unnatural.
Recommendations as to how to deal with buyers can be found in a book that many people in the auto industry—unless, perhaps, they work at a dealership—would probably be unlikely to look into: Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (Wiley; $24.95) by Jeff Thull. Thull points out a number of aspects that should be taken into account, with an overarching recommendation that the process be one that is collaborative so that there is a better understanding of what’s involved in providing/acquiring a solution. Without it: “In the absence of a quality decision process, the decision will degenerate to the lowest common denominator: price.” And how many companies are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy as a result of that denominator being applied?
Yes, Thull, too, recommends walking away from some business: “If there is not value relevancy, chances are there is not going to be a sale, certainly not now and quite possibly never. This idea makes salespeople uncomfortable; it goes against their training to walk away, or even step back temporarily, from a customer. Do yourself a big favor and purchase the Eagles CD “Hell Freezes Over” and listen to their great song: Get Over It.” If the customer doesn’t understand the value of your offering, then you’re not going to get the order—and probably don’t want it. As he explains, “If a customer refuses to work within a sensible and high-quality approach, you probably will not be able to differentiate your solutions from the rest of the competition and you are likely entering a no-win situation.” Or it may be a “win” that is the kind that Korth warns against.—GSV