“I have asked to not have a TM”

“Lately I have asked to not have a TM, just give me the bigger discount . . . since they can’t provide added value and are simply wasting time calling on the business.”

A business owner shared this candid opinion of TM value with me yesterday.  Territory Managers who cannot add value to their clients are more likely to struggle with price bake offs.  More likely to lose business from friends.  And more likely  watch their margins erode.  Lastly, sub-value service harms the TM’s company brand.  However, there are five things that a Territory Manager can do to prevent their customers from questioning their value:

  1.  Learn how your customers make money.  They don’t make money buying your products.  They make money selling your products, installing your products, managing labor, controlling inventory, reducing work-related call backs, retaining customers, and cross-selling products and services.  Smart Territory Managers can utilize this advanced insight to thicken their value.  In lieu of this insight the TM-to-Customer relationship will most likely remain transactional.
  2. Improve your business acumen.  Salesmen speak one language.  Business owners speak a different language altogether.  Theirs is the one that matters most.  You don’t need an MBA to improve your acumen.  For example, here’s a link to an accounting and financial statements course from The Khan Academy: https://www.khanacademy.org/economics-finance-domain/core-finance/accounting-and-financial-stateme.  It’s free and it’s good: IF you’re one of those insatiably curious professionals.  Your ability to speak a business owner’s language increases your credibility.
  3. Teach your customer’s how to sell your products.  Leave the spec sheets alone and please don’t rely on a brochure or product tear-down.  Very few homeowners care about motor bearings or heat exchanger construction.  Teach your customers how to sell your products using homeowner-friendly retail language.  You can’t expect a retail salesperson to know how to sell your products if you can’t do the same.  If you’ve never made a living at the kitchen table then this will probably be an eye opener: are you able to sell your own products?
  4. Know your customer’s customer.  Spend time with homeowner’s–ride along with retail salespeople.  Listen to homeowners.  Learn about their interests.  Learn about their concerns, objections, questions.  Reverse engineer the field experience in to value-added coaching sessions.  If you’re guffawing: “My customers would never let me go with them on a sales call” then ask yourself why.
  5. Do your job intentionally.  Plan in and out of every meeting.  Focus on short, medium, and long-term development goals.  Agree to shared accountability.  Always ensure that loose ends are tied up.  Follow-up.  Honor your promises.  Make it easy to do business with your company.  Add value, add value, add value.  If you want to know how to add value then simply ask your customer.

If you’ve every lost business from a friend then you also know that “friends buy from people they like” is a hopeful strategy at best.  In order to improve top line results, protect margin, and secure loyalty a Territory Manager must gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of a customer’s definition of value-added services.

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