It’s the holy grail of sales, getting specified into a long-term contract. Today, as compliance and regulations set in, being part of an approved group is even more imperative.
How do you get in bed or embedded with a new client? How to you hold the high ground and keep your product the first choice in a long-term contract?
Back when I was selling directory ad space for Thomas Register of American Manufactures (now Thomas Net) we media reps all knew the drill – do whatever you can to make sure your account gets the first call. The first call had the longest chance to sell the business. The first call is when companies are looking for a solution and they think that you are the best answer.
Of course they’ll also have to call a second and third company during their due diligence period, but that’s just to check pricing and to see if #2 and #3 know more than company #1 knows. Both have to work twice as hard to win client away from the first call choice who spent quality time answering all their questions and creating a friend. Pity the poor company who didn’t make the top three cut. The first three have to really mess up before the company will start the process over again.
So what did it take to get the first call? Credibility and one more thing…
It wasn’t selling bigger ads, as much as it was a combo of bigger 800#s, better pictures, more content, listing every standard they could meet. As the Internet competed for print mindshare, the new threshold for content was having a website, an online catalog, specifications and drawings ready to drop into AutoCAD or an e-commerce site… whatever it would take to establish credibility plus make it super easy to buy.
Fast forward a decade of Internet years.
Today’s competitive market includes all of the above as well with two new additions:
1. Proving how green or sustainable your product is. (If asked to comply, can it?) Companies need to know every transparent detail about your operations and supply chain.
2. If you had to load up your catalog into a client’s database, could you? Do you have a datamaster just like you have a webmaster?
If you’re lucky enough to win a long term bid, the next thing you’ll be asked to do is load up the products specifications into your client’s e-catalog. That’s scary turf for companies who want to be in control of their information. It’s also yet one-more-hoop that must be jumped through when you’re already stretched to the max. Is this new hoop worth it? Absolutely.
Besides gaining a sure thing in future business, you’ve successfully become “the first call” for anyone in the company. Your product has been vetted and blessed.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Once you’ve been through the approval process, you can now demonstrate to other companies how safe you are to buy from.
Let’s say you won a Master Agreement with the Los Angeles Community College District and now your product(s) are in their E-Catalog. Not only do General Contractors, architects, designers and buyers from 10 campuses have access to you as the first choice, but all the other schools and municipalities who want to use the same e-catalog.
That’s not a bad trade off for loading up a few products and yet with a sure thing on the plate, why do some companies hesitate? For the same reason some hesitated at putting up a website, drawings or product pricing. They aren’t prepared for the new way of doing business. It’s scary loading up your database on another’s site. It’s expensive paying for the person who has to do the loading. It’s time consuming in a time-crunched world.
Getting embedded does take time, but unlike trade magazine marketing that requires new offerings and pitches month after month, this just requires that you show up when searched for.
If you’re in sales, add ease of database management to your product’s deliverables. Show up and ship it on time.