Olsen on Sales: Master Sellers Bring Value

MANY SELLERS are confused by the sales process. They are caught up in their desperate struggle to get business, but don’t understand where they fit into the buy/sell relationship and how to bring value to their customers. Master Sellers, on the other hand, have a multi-pronged approach to bring value to their customers, to stand out from the crowd, and most importantly to get more business.

Multiples of Multiples

A simple yet rarely used approach with customers is to offer them multiples of multiple items. I listen to a lot of sales calls where the salesperson offers a single of one item. These are often short calls. “No thanks, call me next week.”

The Master Seller offers “multiples of multiples.”

Master Seller: “Good morning, Cynthia. We spoke last week, and you told me you would be looking for some 2×4 16’s. I have four trucks of 16’s out of ABC Sawmill, which is a mill you love, the market is firming on 16’s, and I can work with you on the shipment. How many would you like to pick up?”

Cynthia: “I picked up a killer deal on three trucks of 16’s yesterday afternoon.  I won’t be needing any 16’s for a month and a half.”

(This is the end of the call for 90% of the salespeople you compete against every day. Not so for the Master Seller.)

Master Seller: “OK. I also have three trucks of 2×4 9’ premium studs out of XYZ. I’ve got a smokin’ price, the market is firming on 9’s also, so how many of these can you use?”

Cynthia: “My partner bought five trucks of 9’s last week, plus our contract is coming in this week, so we’re fine on 9’s also.”

Master Seller: “Alright. Finally, we picked up a block of 7/16” OSB out of LMNOP Sawmill. We bought 20 an hour ago. I have 12 left and 7/16” is definitely moving. How many of these do you want to pick up?”

Cynthia: “What’s the price?”

Master Seller: “That’s the best part. We can get these into you at $550/MBF, which is $25/MBF less than we paid a month ago, so I recommend we pick up five.”

Cynthia: “I’ll take four.”

This “multiples of multiples” approach brings more value to the customer and gives the Master Seller more shots on goal.

Market Calls

Most salespeople are so afraid of being wrong, they give terrible market information. Ninety percent of the salespeople you compete against every day, give a mushy, mealy-mouth response to market queries that bring absolutely no value.

John: “Hey, Pete, what do you think the market is going to do?”

Quotron: “Well, it’s hard to say. It seems to be firming up on some items, but we can’t tell if it’s a head fake or a dead cat bounce. Really hard to say at this point, but it could firm up some with some mills curtailing production.”

The Master Seller has an opinion. Are they wrong sometimes? Yes. But being correct in their market calls most of the time, brings value to their customers.

John: “What do you think the market is going to do?”

Master Seller: “It’s coming off and will be for the next month. That said, I’ve got 10 cars of 2×10 8’-16’ 2/Btr. Hem-Fir that someone is going to get a good deal on today. I know 2×10’s are your biggest mover. We spoke last week, and you said you have enough to last another two weeks. I would normally tell you to hold off and buy out of distribution, but they are charging $850/MBF for 2×10 right now. I can sell you two cars for $695/MBF, which is $100/MBF under the market. You want to put these on?”

John: “I appreciate your honesty.  I’ll take one off your hands to help you out.”

Note: To have our customer believe and trust our market calls, we must tell the truth. If the market is coming off and we own 10 cars of an item, we must still be honest with our customers. This is a real morality test for us as salespeople. But being honest—even (especially?) when we are losing money—is one of the best ways to build a long-lasting, trust-filled relationship with our customers.


James Olsen is principal of Reality Sales Training, Portland, Or. Call him at (503) 544-3572 or email james@realitysalestraining.com.

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