Kevin Price, Host of the Price of Business on Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK (on Bloomberg’s home in Houston) recently interviewed Margaret Bonura.
About the interviewee
Margaret Bonura (Marge) Director of Sales & Marketing
Marge started at New England Machinery in January 2000 as the company’s Marketing Manager and was soon after promoted to the position of Dir. of Sales and Marketing. She has a BA in Business Management and an MBA with a concentration on Marketing. Marge is responsible for all US and International marketing related activities.
Tell me about your firm (number of employees, location, type of companies you work with, etc.).
New England Machinery, Inc. is a privately owned, forty year old company with thousands of machines world-wide. Over 50% of our sales are to existing customers, and 25% are exports. We have one of the broadest packaging machinery product lines in the industry and serve midsize to Fortune 100 companies in the food/beverage, pharma and personal care industries. Company has continued to experience significant growth over the past several years, in-spite of the great recession.
Tell us about why it is important for you to establish a relationship with your potential clients.
Without a relationship, there can be no trust. When making a decision to spend thousands to millions of dollars, the buyer must believe that you know what you’re selling, have his best interest at heart, and understand his needs. Buyers know what to expect from someone ‘familiar’ who has a proven track record. Even sophisticated consumers are ‘risk’ averse, and will most often opt for the “known and proven” outcome.
Capital equipment is a large expenditure and making the wrong decision, can cost many thousands of dollars in lost production.
The decision makers for capital equipment depend on their network of contacts with whom they have forged relationships to assist in making the right choice. The sale will go to the individual who has earned their trust by delivering on their promises. The time and effort spent in educating the customer and fostering a strong relationship is worthwhile and critical.
What do you do to establish relationship with the key players?
First and foremost is responsiveness. A busy individual does not have time to keep following up on a request. The salesperson must be responsive in a timely manner. Second is listening. The salesperson must be able to earnestly listen to the buyer and respond to their specific concerns.
Third is knowledge. The salesperson must possess and effectively communicate the knowledge required to educate the buyer.
The fourth is honesty and integrity. These form the foundation of the relationship. The more faith the buyer has in their ability to trust the salesperson, the stronger the relationship.
Trust must be earned. It is acquired over time as it reveals itself in various situations. For example, if the salesperson does not know an answer, admit it, offer to find the answer and get back. If a lesser expensive model will meets the customer’s needs, do not oversell them with the more expensive model.
What sales techniques have you found as ineffective in developing relationships, which ones work, and why?
Treating every potential customer in an identical manner is ineffective in building a relationship. Different personalities require the salesperson to adapt their communication skills to match the recipients processing mode (i.e verbal vs. audio vs. visual). Overtalking (interrupting) and/or being condescending to a potential customer are totally ineffective.
Referrals are a great method of establishing a new relationship. Individuals are more open to trusting someone who has been recommended to them by someone they know. Going above and beyond to help a customer with something not directly related to the potential sale is another effective technique (i.e. helping them to find a source for a product your company does not sell). This shows the customer that you are investing time and effort in their success even if it brings you no direct financial gain. In short, the best sales technique is to do right by your customer.