As I work with sales organizations across the world, I am frequently asked if the inbound sales philosophy works in an industry defined by a transactional sales process. Many salespeople find it difficult to overcome price objections, especially when their sales process is short and their product isn’t highly differentiated. However, an increasing number of salespeople are using the inbound sales philosophy in transactional industries with good results.
Explaining value when your prospect is focused on price is a choice every modern salesperson faces with each new customer. While guaranteeing the lowest cost over an extended period of time is definitely a competitive advantage, it is not always the best way for a customer to buy and not necessarily a good way to build a relationship unless you can be sure of superior pricing and availability in perpetuity.
“My customers don’t care about relationships -- all they care about is the lowest price,” is a standard response I hear in sales coaching. But with a bit of digging, I find that many salespeople take this at face value without doing their requisite homework. If done properly, leaning into the inbound sales philosophy can lead to good results.
Here are three ways to leverage the inbound sales philosophy in a transactional environment.
Consultative Selling in a Transactional Industry: 3 Strategies
1) Build trust by understanding the end goal.
The inbound sales process is built on trust. One of the ways you can differentiate yourself is by running a comprehensive discovery call that helps you understand the company, the key contacts, the goals, plans, challenges, timeline, purchasing process of your prospect.
Good questions include:
- How often do you purchase?
- Do you leverage single or multiple suppliers?
- Do you have a standard for a great vendor relationship?
- Are there factors other than price that would be valuable to you?
- How are you measured on performance?
- What is the one thing that I can do today that would make your life easier?
- How often do you do source new vendors?
- How long does that take? Is the process easy or hard?
- Are there any services that go along with that?
- How much time does it take for you to source the lowest price?
Regardless of how the prospect is trained to buy, explain that your best customers value their vendor relationship. Sometimes, new clients like to speak to a current client to get industry insight. Using testimonials or connecting your prospect with a reference to explain a specific experience can be highly effective. Creating a networking group where several of your clients can combine to meet periodically can also help.
2) Act like a consultant to point out areas of cost savings.
During the discovery call, identify ways the prospect can save time, effort, and money (outside of the purchase price) to make the conversation about total cost of ownership rather than just a spot transaction price. Availability, access to inventory, payment terms, purchasing method (invoice or credit card), contract length, and legal terms can all help determine the price.
A good discovery meeting includes questions not just about the current transaction but also the longer-term relationship, and can uncover areas your prospect hasn’t thought about that demonstrate your experience, expertise, and goal of working toward a valuable relationship for everyone.
When a prospect jumps to price right away, it behooves the inbound salesperson to dig in and figure out what that means. Is the purchase price the critical issue or does the cost include installation, training, ongoing support, account management, maintenance or other aspects of the ongoing use of the product? Even if the product is a commodity, there are value-added aspects from having just-in-time availability to delivery you can differentiate yourself on.
Some good questions to ask here include:
- Is a 15% reduction in cost meaningful?
- If I could help you save 10% off the purchase would that have an impact?
- Is there anything other than price that could influence your decision?
- How do you pay for your goods?
- Do you get a guarantee of lowest price?
3) Schedule a quarterly onsite review with your customers.
If you have a current relationship with a client who is mainly focused on price, it may make sense to schedule a time to review the overall relationship and make sure you are providing the most value based on a total cost of ownership. Quarterly reviews are a good way to cycle in and make sure that you are meeting current needs and looking for new one.
Priorities or directions often change in an organization, but salespeople don’t uncover this information because they don’t ask. As an inbound sales rep, you should identify a good-fit account, then connect multiple times to build that relationship. Check in frequently to determine if there are changes to the business, new needs, extension of a product line, new territories, or new opportunities to help.
A good agenda includes the following elements:
- Welcome & Introduction
- Overview of major updates in prospect’s industry
- Prospect’s purchasing history for the quarter/year
- Delivery schedule
- Forecast for the rest of the year
How do you prove value in a transactional sale? Let us know in the comments below.