You Need To Fish Where Others Fear To Tread

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Back when I started my sales career I worked for distributor that had 10,000 products. In the years I was there I probably sold 1500 of them at most, because it's just impossible to have a working knowledge of that many products.

When I started out I would pitch the same 150 products as everyone else, and buyers would do there best to get rid of me fast, because they had five guys pitching them the same thing.

About two years into my selling career an older salesman told me that what I really needed to sell was what everybody else found troublesome, or didn't carry. The great thing about that approach was that you could charge whatever you wanted for your service.

So I tried this out. I would go in and ask buyers what they were having trouble getting, or couldn't get at all. I was stunned by the response. One buyer gave me a list a couple of pages long.

I quickly became an expert on all these hard to get items, and formed relationships with companies who supplied them. I worked out special freight prices, and quick shipment policies. I went back to the buyers and gave them quotes including shipping and handling.

Soon I was being flooded with orders for these products, and I was selling them at very good margins.Nobody ever asked me about my prices for these items.

The other thing that happened was that I became known as "the go to guy." If buyers sensed a deal that had to be handled quickly, and efficiently with a minimum of problems, I would get the order, which usually would include staple items that normally went to competitors at a lower price.

I also got "emergency" orders. Sometimes this type of order was stressful, but I managed to pull them off most of the time. This also paid dividends, because these emergency orders were often placed by guys in the big chair. When I pulled off some of these deals, they often asked me how they could return the favor, and I wasn't shy about telling them. This got me a couple of very sweet exclusive deals, where I became a sole supplier.

I acquired a Fortune 500 account by getting a test from the CEO.
He wanted 500 leather chairs made with a very special leather. He thought that only he had a source for this distictive leather, and that I couldn't find it. If I couldn't find the leather there was no way I could bid.

I searched high and low for three weeks and was about to admit failure when I bumped into a competitor at lunch. We would see each other now and then and had a friendly relationship. I told him I needed a leather expert, and he said he knew one, and would take me there. Here I was looking all over the country, and the guy was just blocks away.

We went in, I told him what I needed, and without batting an eye he said, "How many skins do you need?"

I said, "500." He said, "Where do you need them shipped to?"

I went back to the CEO with a bid. He looked at it, sat up in his chair, signed the order, and said, "I was told no one else could get that particular leather, but you found another source.
Good for you, and bad for the guy who told me he had an exclusive."

That account was worth hundreds of thousands a year at premium prices, and several wonderful referrals.

If you want to be mediocre, do what everybody else does.

If you want to be a sales star, walk where others won't.

Jim Whelan is The chairman of Board and owner of The James R Whelan Agency - The Most Powerful Name in Advertising. Please sign up for his daily free newsletter at thejamesrwhelanagency.com

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