Here are three strategies to distinguish yourself from your industrial sales competitors and soar above the crowd.

Dan Floen, - President, Professional Materials Management (PM2) , pm2online.com

If you sell products to industrial customers, you know that the competition is fierce. It’s getting harder and harder to rise above. You also know that most customers have grown to expect value added services—like vending or vendor managed inventory (VMI). Today, providing VMI services is the price of admission.

Here are three strategies to distinguish yourself from your competitors and soar above the crowd.

1. Solve Big Problems.

When you replenish inventory for your customer, you’re solving a significant problem for them, but what if you could go even further?

Most VMI solutions focus on high volume, low dollar inventory, like fasteners and personal protective equipment, and each distributor (rightfully so) only replenishes the items in their product line or on their contract. For the customer, these items represent a small percentage of their total MRO inventory on-hand, and they’re a nuisance to replenish, so they really do appreciate your VMI services.

For industrial sellers, the hope is that these value-added services will bring “pull through” sales on the customer’s higher dollar purchases as well, and sometimes they do.

While VMI services are valuable to your customers, they are usually not a silver bullet.

The fact is, many of your customers are facing big, hairy, audacious inventory management challenges. They are desperately seeking reliable inventory and are just waiting for someone to bring it to them. Ask your customer, “What is the biggest inventory management problem that you face right now across the enterprise?” And then, fix that.    

It may not make business sense for your company to provide directly all of the inventory services your customer needs to solve their big, hairy, audacious inventory problem. In this case, you can become the customer’s hero by introducing them to inventory management experts who will solve the big inventory problem that they don’t know how to solve.

2. Help Your Customer See More.

Many customers have little or no visibility into how much MRO inventory they own or where to find a critical part when they need it most. Down time is a constant problem, and they are overnighting parts from all four corners of the earth to get back up and running, only to find the part they were missing tucked away in the back of the storeroom the very next week.

Many of your customers have stories like this. Without reliable inventory, they can’t see what they own.

Often times, what your customer needs is a complete inventory of every spare part they own. They need it catalogued and entered into an inventory management system, but they don’t have the resources to get it done in-house.

Again, the rocket fuel is to introduce customers to the experts who can bring them crystal clear inventory visibility.

You’ll be the hero. And, by the way, when your customer sees more reliable information, so will you.

3. Be Relational, Not Transactional.

The most successful sellers in the world are those that can see beyond today’s sales transaction, and focus exclusively on solving real problems for their customers, with no visible regard for capturing the sale at the end of the day.

Genuinely prove to your customer that you’re more concerned about them as a person and business partner than you are about making a sale today, and the sales will come.

This is the nature of bringing reliable inventory to your customers. You may not see an immediate increase in sales after having helped them achieve reliable inventory. In fact, they may need to burn-off some inventory.

But you will have become a trusted business partner that your customer will come to for their one-off and spot buy purchases!

Building personal trust is rocket fuel for sales people.

I would love to hear about your experiences in the competition for industrial sales. Please comment, ask a question, and follow me for more ideas about boosting industrial sales.

Dan Floen is founder and President of PM2 Professional Materials Management where he has led a team of experts in providing inventory management solutions from analysis through implementation since 2001.

PM2 provides inventory management solutions to meet the toughest industrial inventory challenges, while building a solid foundation to sustain future growth.