How to Sell When Your Supply Chain is Broken
In many parts of the world, COVID fears have receded but supply chains remain broken. Forward-thinking companies are not waiting for a fix. They are adapting.
Adaption, however, has proved difficult. The reason: broken supply chains have created three distinct problems for businesses and the sellers within them.
- The scarcity of materials has led to an increase in the producer price index. The PPI – used to gauge price changes of essentials like warehousing, energy, and transportation – has increased by 9.8 percent from July 2021 to July 2022
- Lead times have increased considerably. Data from the Institute for Supply Management show that it takes an average of 100 days to receive production materials. This is the longest period dating back to 1987.
- The workforce has shrunk as the movement of goods has slowed. Research from the Society for Human Resources Managers determined that 90 percent of surveyed firms have experienced difficulty filling positions.
No business can change these circumstances but they can rethink their response to them. Here we offer three ideas for overcoming these challenges.
Position a Price Increase Without Losing the Relationship
When positioning a price increase sellers need the confidence that comes from having a plan.
A plan also allows all the sellers in a business to deploy the same method. The most effective plan for delivering a price increase consists of three parts: preparing for the conversation, notifying the customer of the price increase, and engaging with the customer’s response.
Each of these three parts contains a specific set of behaviours.
Preparing for the Conversation
As sales professionals prepare, they need to conduct research on market trends and the competitive landscape. They must also analyse the strengths and weaknesses of their solution and gain clarity on the intended outcome of the meeting.
Notifying the Customer
When positioning the price increase, the sales professional should take deliberate steps to set the context for the increase while reinforcing the relationship and explaining the rationale for the change.
Engaging with the Customer's Response
When engaging with the customer’s response, the seller must neutrally acknowledge any objections. A neutral acknowledgment does not mean agreeing or disagreeing with the customer. Instead, it means letting the customer know that their objection has been heard. This is a valuable opportunity to (re-) shape perceptions of value so that the customer can understand why the higher price is warranted.
Richardson offers training content focused on how to Position a Price increase, learn more about it by clicking here.
Deliver a Superior Customer Service Experience
Customer service is never more important than when competitive pressures rise. Supply chain challenges are prompting customers to explore other options. In response, the most effective sellers are renewing their focus on customer service.
Using this channel to maintain the relationship means doing two things well.
- Sellers must develop an emotionally intelligent approach consisting of rapport, empathy, and authenticity. Achieving these three over the course of one call is a challenge but the best service professionals can do it. Building rapport means letting the customer know that you understand their position. Displaying empathy means showing that you understand how they feel. Finally, authenticity means using a conversational tone free of corporate speak.
- Service professionals must also own the issue. The customer needs to know that they have an ally. Service professionals become that person when they take ownership of the issue and commit to finding a solution. This level of commitment will immediately stand out to customers who have previously been shuttled from one service professional to another.
Prospect Into the Customers That You Can Serve
Sellers need a group of new customers that will be ready to buy when supply chains finally do improve. Having those customers to serve later means driving prospecting efforts now.
Improving prospecting efforts means bringing more focus to three key areas.
Sellers need to consider the principle of reciprocity which suggests that when a person offers something of value, the other often feels compelled to eventually offer something in return. Sellers can put this concept to use by offering a piece of timely market research that has relevance to the prospect’s industry. The key is to offer the piece without a request for anything in return and to ensure that the content is pertinent to the prospect’s setting.
Sellers need to draft a more compelling prospecting message. Customers have been conditioned to ignore prospecting emails. Therefore, the seller’s challenge is to draft a message that is powerful enough to break through the customer’s filter. Doing so means opening with the most compelling message first. An idea becomes compelling when it speaks to the specifics of the reader’s world. The writing must also prioritise simplicity and originality with content that flows so that each sentence pushes the reader into the next.
Sellers need to get strategic about prospect selection by focusing on more than the accounts that represent the highest potential revenue. Sellers also need to consider which accounts offer the greatest alignment. That is, sellers must understand where their solution can offer the most meaningful value.
Additionally, sellers should consider opportunities that may be a low-value deal for the selling organisation but one that represents future white space opportunities because the solution offers a major business impact to the customer.
Selling Through Supply Chain Challenges
Supply chain problems will likely last for some time. The only strategy that is certain to fail is having no strategy at all.
Sales leaders need to take the initiative and think about the factors that are within their control. For most, this means developing a plan for discussing price increases with customers, improving customer service efforts, and reinvigorating prospecting efforts.
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