The Experts

John Lees
+ About John Lees

Marketing & sales specialist and author of 12 business books.

Repose, oppose, impose or propose

Friday, December 07, 2018

The stance of ‘proposing’ is the only way to win business, but before explaining how this is is a brief reminder of the three careless choices made by 90% of suppliers when ‘approaching’ the market.

What’s reposing?

This is a “Me-Too” supplier stance, not “Me-Best”; they also have service that is OK providing they don’t get too busy…and trading terms start off reasonable but get downgraded by customers. The reposing stance involves suppliers ‘waiting’ for business to come their way, and sending their sales people to market to ask ‘can we help you today?’ This adds up to a form of begging but as with street beggars…the pickings are small to say the least. The musical chairs principle sees to it that reposing suppliers will get very little business…so profits run low and internal tensions run high, and turnover of people is higher than the sales rate. This is the equivalent of a country declaring war on another nation, but then staying at home!

Please explain opposing…

Here we find almost identical circumstances, in terms of similar products, average service, etc., but more of a preparedness to go out and do some hunting...even though they have no weapons of worth to fight for market share.

This means that their sales force (farce?) is better organized and have territories and budgets, but they operate without a valuable proposition, selling standards, training or supervision...and little or no contact with management.

The ‘opposing’ stance, or ‘prance’ as it is seen by the market, involves ‘trying’ to get customers to ‘change’ their current buying practices...which doesn’t work because the market responds only to progress, not to change!

And what about imposing?

This approach usually involves PowerPoint presentations, much rhetoric but very little substance. Such competitors need to abide by this saying...

Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie, who cares for all the crinkling of the pie!”

The ‘imposing’ style of supplier goes to great lengths to impress the market but ‘unless some sweetness at the bottom lie’...the market will ultimately be depressed by this approach, because it wastes time and offers few if any benefits. I once had a rep call on me and his opening was this: “So, what do I have to do to get your business?” I then said, “So let me get this right, you have no idea then on how to get my business…so you want me to tell you how you can get my business. Tell me, will I get a commission on this sale to myself?”

The beauty of proposing…

The ‘proposing’ stance begins with a respectful assumption that current buying processes and incumbent suppliers are quite satisfactory, which leads to the point that your company sells improvement, not interference. If you don’t do this the person you wish to present to will imagine that ‘the usual’, indulgent sales pitch is going to happen.

The customer or prospect is then informed that the result you believe is achievable is as follows…at which time you state the proposed result, and write it down (with the result facing the buyer). At that point the person listening will at least be interested, and then explain that the result is based on experience with many customers that have a similar profile to theirs. You should also be able to produce evidence (at some point) of improved results achieved with other companies…other than his or her direct rivals of course.

The next step involves showing the key stages of the action plan…designed to ensure achievement of the proposed result. The action plan must involve some strategies that are interesting and different to what the buyer is accustomed to hearing about. And the last two stages of the ‘proposal’ concern staying in touch to ensure that the plan is working, followed by an assessment and new plan at a date to be agreed. The ‘proposing’ stance is based on a simple truth:

“To get a result you must sell a result!”

As with a proposal of marriage, there should be both excitement and good news in the air, or there was for my wife when she proposed to least on the third attempt. I eventually accepted though because I was out of stock!