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4 Proven Strategies for Heavy-Duty Parts Sales Professionals

You have been asked once again to increase sales, every year like clockwork you are expected to grow by 8% to 10% despite not receiving any additional resources and regardless of how much market share you already have in your region.

What strategies can you use to sell more heavy-duty parts?

At a recent Annual General Meeting of a Heavy-Duty Parts Distributor they started the meeting with this statement:

“The financial results in 2019 reflects the positive impact of our strategic growth initiative. With a continued focus on improving our operating performance and maintaining a strong balance sheet, driving meaningful cashflows, and effective capital allocation we streamlined our operations with the sale of several non-core businesses. We accelerated our initiatives to improve our operating performance. Our team executed well and successfully increased our revenue and gross margin rate for the fourth consecutive year.”

This is the annual growth model: More sales, higher margins with fewer resources.

Every few years the market tanks or perhaps you change jobs and you get to start with a territory that is underperforming. You work hard and for a couple of years and you make good money with commissions, bonuses, and winning sales competitions.

But you cannot escape the tyranny of the annual growth model. Every year that you succeed you make it more difficult for yourself the following year and eventually you reach a tipping point where you can’t increase your sales enough to hit your targets and suddenly you go from hero to zero in the company.

The annual growth model mostly works for two groups of people and it is not the salespeople or the customers. It is the accountants and the executives, and in all fairness when you are responsible for hundreds of retail stores, multiple distribution centers, and thousands of employees you must have systems and metrics to manage everything.

While the annual growth model is not ideal for salespeople it does at times present an opportunity if you take the time to understand the rules, the way your commission or bonuses are calculated, and what metric is being incented at the highest rate.

Strategy #1 – Value What Your Company Values

Take time to understand exactly how your company is structuring the commission or bonus structure. Talk with your leadership group and find out what they are valuing the most this year and then align your efforts with those goals.

A Personal Story

I worked for a heavy-duty parts company many years ago and in two years they changed the commission structure three times.

The third change was a glorious opportunity for me personally because they gave us access to the spreadsheet they were using to calculate our commissions and once I understood the way they were heavily rewarding the percentage of new business over the volume of sales I did something that no other salesperson did and it perplexed my boss until the end of the year when he looked at my annual bonus.

I asked for all large customers who purchased large volumes to be transferred to the inside salespeople (who were not on the same commission plan, so it helped them immensely) and I took 80 customers with almost zero sales. Then I worked hard to sell those customers as much as I could.

The result was that I had 80 customers who grew by over 100%, some as much as 1000% and I earned one of the largest bonuses in the entire country despite having one of the smallest sales results.

You see when you have a customer that does $1,000,000 a year in sales, and you increase their sales by $100,000 you have only increased by 10%. But when you have a customer who does $10,000 a year in sales and you sell them an additional $10,000 you have a 100% increase and when your bonus is tied to the percentage of growth instead of the sales volume it is a golden opportunity for a smart salesperson.

Take Control of What is Within Your Control

You cannot control what your company, your customers, or your competition will do next. All you have control over is yourself, so it is essential that you focus your efforts.

A sales plan will help you to organize your activity into a systematic approach that will move you consistently toward your desired outcomes. A sales plan establishes clearly defined goals, priorities, timetables, and necessary resources.  It is a roadmap to success.

The 5 P’s – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance

I learned the 5 P’s from Brian Tracy early in my career. The 5 P’s is a mantra that will help you to stay focused and to prioritize your work. There are so many demands on your attention and in order to succeed you must focus on the things that will help you close more deals.

When developing a sales plan, it is important that it is simple and that you take consistent action every day. This is a secret to high performance.

“An average person who develops the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks completed quickly will run circles around a genius who talks a lot and makes wonderful plans but gets very little done.” – Brian Tracy

Sadly, we often underestimate what we can accomplish over a long period of time. We get frustrated when we do not achieve amazing results in a short period of time and so we abandon our plans and start over. This costs us more than most people realize in resources of time and money.

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” – Bill Gates

Strategy #2 – Make a Plan

To achieve great results as a sales professional in the heavy-duty parts industry, it is very important to commit to developing a simple written plan and then to work on that plan consistently for a specific amount of time to ensure that you give yourself enough time to succeed.

Step 1: Define Your Outcomes

To hit a target, you must know what you are shooting at. All too often we will set arbitrary goals that define ACTIVITY but do not necessarily result in achieving the desired OUTCOME.

For example, a sales manager once required that I do a minimum of 8 in-person sales calls a day. That is an activity that does not guarantee any sales. What was missing was defined outcomes, in other words, what exactly was the goal when I made those sales calls? What heavy-duty products was I going to focus on selling and how much product did I need to sell to be successful that day, that week, the month, and that year?

Your sales plan should reflect a focus on achieving outcomes, not activity. Instead of 8 in-person sales calls the plan should be to sell a specific product, a specific volume, within a specific timeframe. Then you do whatever activity is required to achieve the outcome.

Step 2: Establish a Timeline that is Challenging

We need to push ourselves to achieve great results. This means that we need to set a challenging timeline that will take us out of our comfort zone but is still possible to accomplish. Be careful with this though because nothing will kill motivation more than a feeling that it is impossible to achieve the outcome.

Step 3: Use a Consistent Alphanumeric System with Your To-Do Lists

This is something that I believe in and I think is an especially important ingredient to developing and executing a successful sales plan.

It works like this:

Create four working lists. Label the lists Annual, Monthly, Weekly, and Daily.

Start with your Annual List and list the outcomes that you will achieve this year. Use the A, B, C Method of prioritizing these outcomes.

It might look like this:

A – Exceed Sales Targets for the Year by 15%

B – Expand the Number of Customers I Have by 20%

C – Expand my Network on LinkedIn by 30%

Breakdown your outcomes for the year into monthly benchmarks that will keep you on track. Some people simply divide the metrics by 12, others adjust for the different annual cycles, for example, higher targets in the spring and fall and smaller targets in the summer and winter when people tend to take more holidays.

Now it is time to start planning specific activities that will help us achieve the outcomes we have targeted.

When we get to our weekly and daily lists, we want to use the A, B, C Method again to stay focused. On each list label the most important tasks with an A, the second most important tasks with a B, and the least important tasks with a C. If you have more than one A, B, or C task on the list you can add a number.

It might look like this:

A1 – Send Contract to Big Prospect Ready to Buy

A2 – Send Quote to Fleet Who Asked for Competitive Quote

B1 – Connect with 5 Prospects on LinkedIn

B2 – Send 5 Follow Up Emails to Fleet Maintenance Managers in Specific Area

C1 – Fill out Sales Report for Last Week

C2 – Complete Expense Report and Submit

Take a few minutes at the end of each day, week, month, and year to plan. According to research done by Brian Tracy, “every minute spent in planning saves as many as ten minutes in execution.”

Strategy # 3 – Align Your Activities with Your Strengths

As humans, we all have strengths and weaknesses.

In fact, you have a specific set of personality characteristics that define you. These personality characteristics that you inherited from your grandparents and parents were shaped by the environment you grew up in. The result is that you now have a personality profile and that profile can be matched to a specific job or role in a company.

Just as people from the same family can be quite different from one another despite sharing the same DNA, so can the role of a position in a company within the heavy-duty parts industry.

What kind of salesperson are you?

Identify which type of salesperson you are, discuss with your supervisor what role you should have at your company, and make sure that your activities align with your strengths while activities that you are weak in are delegated to someone else who is better suited to perform them.

Here are several different types of sales personas:

The Farmer

The Farmer is the type of salesperson that nurtures and cares for a customer. They rarely leave the “fields” they know and find new customers on their own. Typically, this type of salesperson gets new customers through inbound marketing and referrals.

This type of salesperson is usually outgoing and friendly, so relationships form quickly between the salesperson and the customer. This salesperson will often deliver orders (saving shipping costs) and use the deliveries as motivation to make a call. They will often create a route and consistently visit the same customers on the same day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

The Hunter

The Hunter never stays in one place for too long. The Hunter is always on the move “tracking” the next “kill” or in other words, the Hunter is always chasing the next sale. The Hunter does not do well if he is required to call on the same customers repeatedly.

The Hunter also is not particularly interested in customer service or even a relationship with the customer. The Hunter is good at building rapport, but that is not with the objective of building a relationship, it is with the objective of making the sale.

Once the sale is done the Hunter moves on.

The Product Specialist

The Product Specialist is very analytical, often is introverted, and typically has worked for the company for an exceptionally long time. They know the company and the products inside and out.

They build rapport with their customers by finding ways to apply their knowledge to solving problems the customers are having. Once they have delivered that knowledge, they feel their job is done.

The Product Specialist often becomes a valuable member of the customer’s team and works as an unpaid consultant.

The Deal Maker

The Deal Maker is like the Hunter but differs in one major way. While the Hunter is a pure salesperson, they are often less sophisticated than a Deal Maker and are often happy to focus on the sale of a single product. Deal Maker’s on the other hand focus on complex sales and creates large opportunities for the company.

These are just a few of the common types of salespeople out there. If results are less than stellar it may be that you are not matched to an ideal sales role. When you match the role to the salesperson not only do your results dramatically improve but also your morale in the company dramatically improves. Salespeople are happier, the other employees that support the salespeople are happier, and your customers are happier. Everything works much more smoothly, and revenue and sales will climb.

Strategy #4 – Master Your Pitch

“Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that he sometimes has to eat them.” – Adlai Stevenson

Can you improve your communication style? Like any skill with education and practice you can. This investment in yourself can pay huge dividends in future earning potential.

The way you communicate with your customers, suppliers, managers, and colleagues creates a reputation that either enhances your position in the heavy-duty parts industry or hinders it.

The best speakers in business and entertainment develop a presentation that they use every time they speak. Over the months and years, they improve on the foundation they originally created, and their delivery becomes effortless and engaging.

Step 1 – Consider Your Customer

Who are you selling to?

Executives, Inventory Controllers, Fleet Maintenance Managers, Repair Shop Owners, Mobile Mechanics, and Owner-Operators will need to hear different things, so you must tailor your message to them specifically.

Step 2 – Establish Outcomes

Before you give a sales presentation or make a sales call you should have clearly defined outcomes in mind and you should communicate those outcomes to the prospective customer.

For example, I often tell my clients that I am going to tell them a bid idea, deepen their appreciation of the economic impact of the problem my company solves, and then I will explain to them how we solve that problem. I tell the prospective client that when I am done (in about 15-minutes) I’m going to ask them to tell me how they see our solution working in their business.

Step 3 – Prepare an Outline

Depending on the nature of the situation you may use a pitch deck or just use a mental outline. By having the key thoughts clearly in mind, you ensure that you communicate effectively while leaving yourself the freedom to have a real conversation.

Step 4 – Focus on Being Natural

Your delivery should be natural despite any nervousness. The best way to be natural is to practice, practice, practice. The better you know your audience, outcomes, and material the more natural your delivery will be.

Step 5 – Plan to Listen

I try to achieve 40% speaking and 60% listening but admittedly I struggle to accomplish this because I am a natural-born talker.

Step 6 – Reflect and Adjust

Each time you present to a customer think about the reactions you are getting from your customers. It is important to deliver the same presentation many times to give yourself the opportunity to make needed adjustments to your presentation. In this way you will hone your communication skills and that will make you communicate more successfully.

3 Different Types of Sales Presentations

Here are three different types of sales presentations that you can develop.

Type 1 – Selling an Individual Product 

This is the simplest type of sales presentation and can be used in B2C and B2B sales situations.

As a sales professional, you have already discovered the needs of your customer by asking a series of questions and now all you must do is match the customer’s needs with one of your heavy-duty products. The product must solve their problem and fit their budget. You demonstrate the product, explain why the stakes are high and a decision is required within a specific timeframe, which builds tension, curiosity, and buying desire and then you close the sale.

Type 2 – Selling an Entire Product Line

Selling a heavy-duty product line is a much more complicated sale and is typically only for B2B sales situations.

When a customer considers changing from one product line to another, they must consider many more factors than just the features and benefits of the product line and the purchase price.

The factors a customer must consider include:

  • Does it make sense to change this product line currently?
  • With limited resources can I afford to use valuable time and effort on making this change?
  • How much will the change cost in downtime?
  • Will the savings of the new product line offset the cost of the downtime and produce an additional profit?
  • Will my customers purchase the new product line, and will it generate new customers?
  • Will I lose something because I no longer carry the old product line?
  • Will the new supplier provide me with the same or better service?
  • If I decrease my sales with the old supplier will that cost me in the future?

The list of factors goes on and on and therefore so many proposals based solely on features, benefits, and price is rejected by the customer. In order to successfully sell an entire product line to a customer, you will need to convincingly demonstrate that the return on investment produced by changing is far greater than staying with the status quo.

Even when you successfully demonstrate value to a customer they may reject your proposal simply because they do not want to take the time and effort to change. Complacency is often your greatest enemy.

Type 3 – Changing Suppliers

When a person or a business considers changing from one supplier to another, they must consider many factors. Prices, service, reputation, hours of operations, quality of products, payment terms, and the environmental and social record of the supplier are just a few of the considerations.

To convince a customer to make that kind of change, you will need to present enormous value, demonstrating that your company can exceed the service of the previous supplier and explain how making the change, which is very disruptive, will yield far more return on investment than if they stayed with the status quo. Again, complacency is your enemy.

A Note of Caution

Basically, when a person or business who is considering making a wholesale supplier change approaches you typically one of three things have occurred:

Situation 1 – The previous supplier has made a catastrophic mistake or has ignored repeated complaints from the customer, and they have decided to move on.

Situation 2 – The previous supplier and the customer were not a good fit. This happens sometimes and no one is really at fault.

Situation 3 – The previous supplier has fired the customer because they are unreasonable and/or yield no profit due to endless customer service complaints that are not legitimate.

As a sales professional, it is your job to uncover exactly why the customer is wanting to make such a drastic change. You will do yourself and your business a huge favor by screening these customers. You do not want to take on situation 3.

Sales is not an easy job. It requires dedication and determination, but it requires more than that in our modern fast-paced world. We must out-think our competitors and leverage technology, we must use best practices in time management and strategic planning, and we must leverage our own unique personality profile and hone our skills.

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Author: Jamie Irvine

Jamie Irvine is the host of The Heavy-Duty Parts Report and a consultant that works with manufacturers, distributors, and SaaS companies serving the heavy-duty truck parts industry.


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