Business Operations

Olsen on Sales: Comparative Selling

Buyers want to feel that they have done their job. Their job is to shop for the best deal. Most sellers only promote one item at a time.

Buyers want to feel that they have done their job. Their job is to shop for the best deal. Most sellers only promote one item at a time. This forces the buyer to talk to more than one salesperson to get an idea of what market values there are. The Master Seller gives the buyer a wider range of information and comparable options helping the them see more of the market and more importantly, feel more comfortable making a buying decision.

So why don’t more sellers do it? Because it takes more work to present a wide range of comparable options. The attitude of many sellers is “You mean I have to prepare multiple options for each of the 40 to 50 calls I am going to make? I’m only going to get 10 to 15 buyers on the phone anyway. That’s a lot of extra work. I’ll just wing it on most calls and prepare (just enough) for the customers that I’m pretty sure I will get on the phone.”

This attitude and execution plays right into the hand of the Master Seller. The Master stands out from the crowd. Differentiation is a big part of competition. Most sellers don’t stand out. They are a commodity that is easy to say no to because they don’t bring much value. The Master Seller on the other hand stands out and is difficult to say no to because the buyer KNOWS they are doing more work for them. In essence, the Master Seller “shops” the item (with options) for the buyer, making the buyer’s job easier.

Comparative Offerings

Quotron: “Hi, John. I’ve got a car of ABC studs I can get into you at $350/MBF. Wadya think?

Master Seller: “Good morning, John. The market is firming up on studs. I know your favorite is ABC, so I’ve got a couple of those at a great price. Their shipment is a ways out and they are at $365/MBF which is a fair price for their stud. I’ve also picked up some studs out of XYZ which is your second choice. Their shipment is better at one to two weeks and they get into you at $360, which is also a great price in our current market. Finally, we can pick up a couple of studs out of LMNOP sawmill, which although not our favorite is a stud we can live with. They get into you at $355/MBF, which is a smoking deal. Any other mill that you can live with is either off the market or higher priced than your favorite, so which option do you want to take?”

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Quotron: “Good morning, Samantha. I’ve got a truck of 2×8 #2 SYP with a tally of 1-2-3-4-5 that gets into you at $450/MBF. What do you think?

Master Seller: “Good morning, Samantha. Wides are moving is #2 SYP. Let’s talk about 2×8. We talked last week, and you were running low on 16’s. We’ve got several options. I’ve got two trucks of 2×8 16’s, shipping two weeks that get into you at $495/MBF. They are out of ABC, which is a mill you like. I know you will have to pay $565/MBF to pick those up out of distribution, so they are a good deal. We also have three trucks with tallies of 1-2-2-2-8 which are heavy 16’s that get into you at $475/MBF, which, depending on your need of the other lengths are a good deal that gives us a lot of 16’s without having to pay a premium. Finally, we picked up some ‘fighting wood’ quality 2×8 #2 out of a mill you can live with. The tallies are 2-2-3-3-4, but the price is fantastic at $460. My suggestion is that we pick up a truck of straight 16’s and average that with two trucks with the flat random tallies. Do you have three PO’s for me?”

Options = Orders

Customers want and deserve options. They want to know that we have worked for them. They like to see us sweat, so they don’t have to. Master Sellers do a lot more work than the average seller to earn their customer’s business. Customer’s know there is no free lunch, so they will pay for this extra work.

Master Sellers do stand-out preparation and presentation and earn more because of it.

James Olsen

Publisher of two monthly magazines for LBM dealers and distributors—The Merchant Magazine, founded in 1922 to serve the western U.S., and Building Products Digest, formed in 1982 to serve east of the Rockies.

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