Attention Bogleheads! You know if you’re a follower of the founder of Vanguard Group, John C. Bogle, that he and his followers believe (and have shown) that investing can be simple and cheap. Bogle founded Vanguard in 1974 and introduced the first index mutual fund in 1975. Vanguard says that index funds have saved U.S. investors approximately $150 billion in fees since the early 1990s. If you’re not a Boglehead, you probably don’t know what Bogle thinks. Bogle said, “I built a career out of knowing what I don’t know.” What Bogle has done also applies to sales. What don’t you know about sales?
What don’t you know about your competitors?
You often miss something happening in the background at a customer when you don’t hear any customer complaints. You might think everything is going well because your customers aren’t saying anything negative. What if something were going on that could cause you to lose your business? Would you even know? Some salespeople don’t have a clue.
The salespeople who don’t know who is calling on your customers while you are selling to your customers and doing business with them are the salespeople who should worry. They don’t know how their competition is perceived by their current customers. They don’t know how vulnerable they are.
Of course, this means that you need to have multiple contacts throughout your customers’ organizations so you can discuss this. Often, the end users of your products know who is trying to take your business away from you. There might have to be a product evaluation before a customer can switch suppliers. You should always know about any trials and what the results are so you can assess your situation and address it.
What don’t you know about what’s changed at your customer?
The one consistent in business today is that it’s always changing. You can assume that from your last sales call to your present sales call, especially if there’s some time in between, that your customer has experienced some change. You need to know what change he’s experiencing to understand and address how the change might impact your business.
What could change? There might be new personnel. Some might bring with them allegiances to other suppliers who might be your competitors. New personnel might have personal goals and objectives that cross with your goals and objectives for your customer as you work together. There could be new company policies that impact your business. Other new programs could have a significant impact on your business. You need to know all the changes so you can do something about them. Ask about change at every sales call.
What you want to do is show that you are the superior supplier and that you are the best company to meet your customers’ needs.
What don’t you know about what makes your customer successful?
Every employee has an annual review. This includes your customers. They must achieve certain milestones to be successful and get rewarded. Do you know what they must accomplish in order for them to get a great review and get rewarded? Why is this important? When you know how your customer gets rewarded, you can help him to be successful by the work you do with him. Salespeople who demonstrate value and document the work they do are often the ones who get to keep their business despite competitive pressures.
One of the most important things to know about your customer is why he even selected you over competition in the first place. That competitive edge needs to be maintained. Of course, if there’s change at your customer, that competitive edge may not be enough and you might have more work to do.
What you don’t know can hurt you, but only if you let it in sales.