A polished, practiced sales pitch will come in handy anytime you have an audience that needs to know the many benefits of your wastewater services.
You likely got into the pumping profession because you enjoy working with equipment and doing a tough, physical job in the great outdoors. You can sling hose or work on an excavator all day long. That’s the fun end of the business for many pumpers.
As much as you enjoy the physical and technical challenges of the industry, you may be equally uncomfortable in another critical area of owning a pumping or portable restroom business: sales and marketing. But in order to get all the fieldwork you can handle, you’ll often be put in a position of selling your competence to potential new customers. So you have to polish your presentation to grow the business.
How do you do that? You need to develop a sales script to memorize, then pull from your memory bank and tailor it to the customer you hope to land, according to Patricia Fripp, a sales training expert, speaker and business coach with her own website, www.fripp.com.
DON YOUR SALES HAT
Think about the many times daily you need to sell your services to a public that knows very little about the importance of septic service, portable restrooms, grease trap cleaning or time-of-sale inspections, for example. Teaching moments may come when a homeowner calls with an emergency situation, a special event organizer is listening to proposals for restroom service, or a Realtor needs a clean bill of health for one of his seller’s septic systems.
And then there are those general business-building opportunities in your service area, such as renting a booth at a home or wedding show, meeting with a neighborhood homeowners’ association or speaking to a group at the local chamber of commerce.
Just like you’ve always got the vacuum truck prepared for your daily route, you must be prepared to act as the chief sales representative for your pumping company. To get you on the right track, Fripp offers her list of the 10 most common selling mistakes and advice on how to avoid them:
1. Unclear thinking. Imagine the busy head of a restaurant chain meets you and says, “You have exactly 10 minutes to tell me what I need to know about your company.” You should know in advance what your prospect is really asking. The real question is, “What do I need to know about how your company can improve our company? Will your services solve a problem, simplify our processes or save us money?” Accomplish this, and you can present your options more formally.
2. Talking too much. The key to connecting with a client is conversation and asking questions. The quality of information received depends on the quality of your questions, and waiting for and listening to the answers! A successful encounter early in the sales process should be mostly open-ended questions — the kind that require essay answers rather than just yes and no. And never rush on with preprogrammed questions that ignore the answer you’ve just received!
3. Wrong structure. Do not build your talking points and presentation structure around your company. Structure them around your potential customer’s interests, challenges or opportunities. Put their words into your presentation. Yes, you will be talking about your company, your satisfied clients and your uniqueness to prove that you can solve their challenges and take care of their wastewater systems.
4. No memorable stories. People rarely remember your exact words. They remember the mental images your words create. Support your key points with vivid, relevant customer success stories. Create a movie in their minds by using satisfied clients as memorable characters. What was their starting situation? Their problem that your prospect can relate to? What are their results since you worked with them?
5. No emotional connection. Your customer or client justifies working with you for analytical reasons. What gives you the edge is an emotional connection. Build an emotional connection by incorporating stories with characters they can relate to, by using the word you as often as possible, and by talking from their point of view. Congratulate them on their success. Thank them, not for their time, but for the opportunity to present your solution. Don’t say, “I will talk about ...” Say, “What you will hear is ...” Remember, their unspoken question is, “What’s in this for us?”
6. No pauses. Good music and good communication both contain changes of pace and pauses. As counterintuitive as it may seem, you actually connect in the silence. This is when your audience digests what they have heard. If you rush to squeeze in as much information as possible, your prospects will remember less. Remember the rule: “Say less, say it well.” Give your customers enough time to ask a question or reflect.
7. Hmm, ah, err, you know, so, right. Non-words and low-quality words often fill spaces where silence is needed. How often have you heard a speaker begin each new thought with “Now!” or “Um” or “So” as they figure out what comes next. Pay attention to your own speaking style and practice your sales talk with a friend or colleague. Audio-record yourself, and note any digressions. You will never improve what you are not aware of.
8. Weak opening. If you’re speaking to a group or a few decision-makers, prepare a powerful, relevant opening that includes them. For example, “You have an awesome responsibility,” or “Congratulations on your company’s recent success.” Then focus on their needs, such as environmental compliance, promoting a clean environment, or preparing a home for a sale. How can your product help?
9. Weak closing. After reviewing your key ideas, answering their questions, making suggestions for the next step and thanking them for the opportunity, make your last words linger. Conclude with a strong, positive sentence that will be embedded in their minds. Do not introduce a new idea. Reinforce one of the main advantages or benefits you can provide for the customer.
10. Lack of specificity. Specificity builds credibility and helps position you above your competition. Give the potential customer some concrete information they can relate to. For example, explain how routine maintenance should help their septic system last for decades, or that routine grease trap service will eliminate expensive emergency calls in the future. Show them exactly how your service will help them and you’ll be more likely to stand out.
GET OUT THERE AND SELL
For many pumpers, sales isn’t an intuitive part of the job. Many of you would probably prefer being out in the truck, solving problems as they come up and handing over invoices to customers. This seems like the part of your work that puts food on the table for your family.
But if you want to grow your pumping and portable sanitation business, daily sales work is a necessary part of the equation. The more comfortable and skilled you can become in promoting your company, the better off your bottom line will be.