Saturday, December 6, 2014

Selling Furniture is Divergent to Selling Airplanes

Customer/Builder Divergence

When making a presentation to corporate heads, it is best understanding the audience. Better than the audience knows itself. If you don’t, you lose the audience in a divergence. They, the audience just doesn’t get it. Parry this down to the Board Room level, with a marketing representative, the presenter, who must become a chameleon in the room. They must understand the divergent dichotomy of decision making from the selling company as compared to the buying company. 

A sales person has a lot riding on its effort for those thousands of workers back at the factory. I know this on a small scale as I was owner and sales rep for the small factory of workers back home. I needed to keep their jobs intact, pay the materials bill, and meet payroll in one road trip.
Not only was I involved in the many-hats-I-wear division, I designed the product with the work force made advertising, and cold calls over a seven western states region. On and on went the duties for this small endeavor. It’s not much different than what Boeing does for its $$billions, as I was dealing with thousands of dollars.

·       The first task is to find out what does a customer want, not what you have for them.
·       The second task is understand a customer’s vision and how they see themselves obtaining its goals and objectives. Not thinking what’s printed on the company’s flyer for a mission statement.
·       Talk about dreams, aspirations and failures.
·       Know your enemy (Competitors) better than the enemy knows itself.

Once you have established a relationship and common knowledge you are almost ready to start sales. I never hurried the relationship part, as a bond must form first, and a trust evolves during short exchanges on ideas and opinions. I generally morphed into the person I wanted to sell to not out of some kind of patronizing effort, but out of the necessity of knowing your customers heart. I remember one time going to a customer on a cold call, driving through western United States. I think it was Idaho Falls, Idaho. I was 350 miles from my home shop. Nothing had happened on this trip. I was enthusiastic about the product, I had a stake in it, and I didn’t even know the next person I was going to tell about it!

So I pull up to this fancy store because it had space to park my truck and trailer. My trailer contained samples and furniture to sell. Not airplanes, but furniture. Walking into the store, I hunted down the person in charge of buying. No letter of introduction, no prior conversation and no appointment. So I told him like it was straight up, and then broke the Ice with asking him how it was going for him? We got it going by not talking furniture product. I told him how many places I had gone to this week, and people I had talked with. In particular to him were his competitors. He wanted to know what they were carrying in those stores. I told them everything they got came out of South Dakota. This also, was my main competitor in furniture making. They had a rail siding bringing in materials. I knew I only had this truck and it is nice truck, but I didn’t tell this man about how small we were. I only said they were our chief competitor, and we had made progress over what they did. He said, “Let me see”.

I went out to the trailer and set down a sample of each furniture type. By now we were on the same team slaying that same South Dakota monster furniture builder. We were no longer divergent, disparate or unalike. His problem now had become my problem. I was on to something, and I had a solution to both our problems. I had the high ground of a great product bonded with this company’s need to compete.

I then sold a hundred pieces that day and a hundred more each month because he blew them out of the store for a ridiculous low price, and still made money. Much like selling airline tickets flying with this furniture.

This story was repeated over and over again. I remember going from 100 production pieces a month to twelve hundred pieces a month in one year.


Boeing on a much grander scale has now obtained 1276 orders this year similar to what we built in a month. It was good stuff and people responded in spite of the South Dakota hype machine. I didn’t wear a tie, but I could tie a deal, because it was fun selling something that was so good.