Playing the long game

On our office wall we have a cartoon of a machine gun salesman trying to sell a gun to a medieval knight heading off to battle with his sword. The knight says that he doesn’t have time to speak with the machine gun salesman as he has a battle to win. This image is an excellent metaphor for how we often feel when speaking to new contacts. Of course, everyone is under time pressure but it’s frustrating when a short discussion could bring so many benefits for their company.

Over the past few years ‘total cost of ownership’ has been a real buzz phrase in the business world but is it is not always brought fully into consideration. A few weeks ago we had a meeting with a buyer who stated that they were only concerned with the cost of acquisition and that operating costs were not their problem. We also witnessed how another buyer had ignored the advice of their company’s maintenance department and ordered a lower specification chain, saving 10% on price.

On the flip side, we recently heard how we had saved one of our customers in the energy sector more than half a million pounds as a result of reduced conveyor downtime. Both of our engineering teams had committed time to fully understanding the issues at play and while there were costs involved in tweaking the specification of the chain and sprockets, the savings generated by increased uptime and reduced repair and maintenance charges significantly outweighed them.

With the pressure on everyone, it’s not always easy to justify spending time investigating new ideas. I think salesmen (and I still consider myself as one of them) often have a lot to answer for. Instead of being so keen to secure sales in the short-term, we need to be clearer about the long-term financial benefits our products and services can bring. But of course, we can only provide these benefits with the time and cooperation of our customers.

So next time you get a sales call, take a few minutes listen to what is being sold. You never know what advances it could lead to!

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