A friend of mine and fellow entrepreneur is a ‘sensei of the sales process.’ The guy is a natural closer. He does it in such a casual yet skillful manner that when describing how he closes tough deals, you get the urge to pull out a pen and pad. When he and I get together for a meal or drink, I probe him to share his latest sales adventures across the country. He’s a humble guy but enjoys talking strategy and techniques almost as much as closing a deal itself.
Selling Oil & Closing Deals
Like an athlete who hit a game-winning shot, recounting how a big deal was closed is a conversational past time for passionate entrepreneurs. And while there have been many sales lessons gleaned from my friend, one stands out in particular…
Before sharing his most important practice when pitching, it’s essential to get some context of what he is selling. He sells engine/machine lubricant – intended for large, expensive machines such as semi-trucks, mining equipment, and so forth. It’s a niche market but is valued globally over $100 billion. And like many niches, it has very healthy margins.
As he’s explained to me, most prospective customers initially view all lubricants as equal, even though that is not true. So it’s part of his sales process to educate them on the variations of oil in the market, and their potential impacts on heavy machinery.
His first barrier to closing a deal is educating his prospective client, and his second is explaining why they should pay a significant premium for his lubricant over most other alternatives/competitors. He sells the crème de la crème of oil – and he sells a ton of it!
Addressing the Elephant in the Room Right Away
My friend’s sales strategy is to immediately address the elephant in the room when making his pitch. The elephant is the fact that his product is close to, if not the most, expensive lubricant on the market… not exactly music to the buyer’s ears.
But once that fact is out of the way, it’s all positive statements from there. His product is proven to help engines last longer, run smoother, etc. etc. And he has mountains of data to back that up.
Point is, he gets the one common objection out of the way, proactively and before the prospective buyer has the chance to bring it up. This is, most importantly, a great way to build trust with the potential buyer as you’re giving them full disclosure immediately so to avoid surprises later. There’s nothing worse for a customer than to find out right before they’re about to hand over the cash that the price tag is noticeably higher than what they presumed.
When meeting a prospective client, it’s usually in a warehouse or truck yard-type setting. He’s meeting with CEOs who have minimal time, more important things to focus on, and their bottom line is always front and center. So it’s up to him to pitch efficiently. When walking through the warehouse or yard, he takes stock of what kind of tires they have on their rigs (do they buy quality tread or the cheapest), the type of vehicles they have, and the quality of equipment in their inventory. This immediately gives him ammo for the pitch and an understanding of whether or not they value quality product.
Many of these CEOs have put premium tires on their fleet of vehicles, or spend an extra $25K on all their semi-trucks to get the best and presumably longest lasting. If he sees that type of inventory, then he knows… they appreciate quality.
Why would a CEO spend an extra $25k on a rig and not be willing to pay an additional $1,500 a year on lubricant? Lubricant, after all, is the lifeblood of any engine.
And that’s likely why his business has boomed. By addressing the elephant in the room immediately (cost), he quickly moves on to the benefits.
Closing Deals is About Disclosing Early
When selling, start by addressing the most enormous objection/the elephant in the room, and it’s all blue skies from there. Full disclosure goes a long way in the sales process. It’s a great way to build trust, and quickly move on to the strengths of your product. If you don’t address the elephant in the room, the prospective buyer eventually will; and if you let them bring it up, it will appear as though you were trying to skirt the issue.
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