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  • Dominic Testo

SELLING IN A SHORTAGE AND THE SILVER LINING


TALE OF THE SALE: At this point just about everyone has heard the rumblings about shortages across many industries. In recent news you heard about how Christmas gifts and toys may not be available like they usually are this time of year. The root causes of these issues include shipping delays, backed up ports, raw material shortages, geopolitical strategy, labor shortages, politics, and yeah you guessed it……freaking Covid.


Many salespeople in manufacturing, food services, transportation, recruiting, distribution, medical device, among many other industries are feeling the pain. Customers want to buy and there is nothing to sell! It couldn’t be more frustrating for a salesperson.


Car and truck dealers are feeling the pain especially hard as it takes thousands of parts to manufacture cars these days. One small computer chip can bring manufacturing to a halt in the day of connected and electronic filled vehicles. This may be the first shortage spread this wide across so many industries however its not the first shortage situation and won’t be the last. This brings us right into the latest Tale of The Sale …..


Our old pal Sammy Sales who spent several years in the plastics industry was accustomed to record years selling his products into a wide variety of industries. His customer base was diverse, and his rolodex was heavy. He had built a name for himself and the company and life was good. He did this with a good positive attitude and a constant reputation both internally and externally. Sammy didn’t think there was too may companies left in North America that he didn’t already know.


Fast forward a few months into a new year and a major plant had some big technical issues so they shut down. Later that month there was a massive ice storm that shut down almost every major supplier to Sammy’s company. Just when he didn’t think things could get any worse the government created a new regulation banning one of his main suppliers for environmental reasons.


Sammy’s company started to receive angry emails, phone calls, and voicemails. At first Sammy’s customers were angry at him and his company directly. You see Sammy’s product was just one small part of what these customers produced. For example, one of the customers made buttons and switches for automotive applications like the radio volume control and the air-conditioning dials. Their biggest customer was Ford and in what seemed like overnight they could not produce orders used for F-150 production. Just think about how upset the buyers and procurement people at ford became. This anger and confusion was pushed back up the supply chain to Sammy and life started to get stressful.


Sammy is a pro so he took a breath, gathered himself and began to organize information and documentation that helped him clearly communicate the root causes of the shortage. Doing this in a professional and simple way helped his customers calm down and educate their own customers. Between this information and the fact that his customers couldn’t find this material anywhere else they finally understood the situation was out of Sammy’s control, and they all settled down and worked slowly through the issues. Sammy set up weekly calls to go through the status of supply and even helped them qualify alterative products if that was a possibility.


After things settled the next phase of Sammy’s shortage experience started to unfold. The phone started ringing and cold emails started flying in through the company website. The shortage was driving buyers, engineers, supply chain managers, and even other salespeople to find Sammy’s company. Day after day he learned of new companies who were potential users of his product. He was shocked at the number of good, qualified prospects that he had no prior knowledge of. He went to all the industry trade shows and searched google up and down for all the industry keywords for a decade. He had done this type of prospecting for years and years and was just in disbelief in regards to how many companies he missed during these prospecting activities.


The material issues lasted about 6 months. In that time Sammy had met and learned about over 50 companies that he didn’t know before the shortage sent everyone shopping. He was simply amazed at how many of these potential prospects he had no clue existed! Sammy ended up closing business with almost half of these 50! At an average revenue of $20,000 per customer it was an incredible half a million in new business. The shortage married with Sammy’s good communication and good attitude turned into a blessing in disguise and some lessons were learned.


LESSON LEARNED FROM THIS TALE OF THE SALE:

There are a few lessons learned here when it comes to selling in a shortage. Maintaining a good attitude and communicating solid information to your current customers is one of them. Sammy was able to use his acumen and experience to clearly explain the situation and help his customer work through the rough times. He became an advisor and a consultant to his network and these customers were very grateful. His relationships were only made more solid even in a tough time.


The second and most important lesson and silver lining when selling in a shortage…….YOU don’t know everyone no matter how long you have been in a given industry. There are always companies out there. There are stones left unturned. This is one of the only times in your sales career that potential customers will be COLD CALLING YOU! That is unheard of in our world.


Handle this gem correctly. Keep great notes and build that prospect list up. You likely can not help now as you are doing what you can to help current customers with the limited supply you do have. This day will end, and you will have arrows in your quiver once again. Don’t let this once in a lifetime opportunity slip by. Don’t find yourself sitting around trying to remember or searching emails for “that company” who called during the shortage. Start building those relationships now. Be a trusted advisor, give updates, and help these new contacts through their situation anyway you can.


If you clicked on this blog because you are in this situation currently, keep your head up because these hard times won’t last forever!




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