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How to say "Yes" when customers ask for non-standard specifications

Implications of selling products, services, and delivery outside normal specifications - 5 Oct

Hello Subscriber,

If your company makes everything to order and your normal delivery is 21 days, what should you say when your customer asks for a 14-day delivery?

If your customer says that they want a yellow version when you normally only sell blue, how should you respond?

Here’s the big question for today:

How flexible should you be when customers ask for non-standard specifications?

In today’s ultra-competitive markets, of course, we should respond with the greatest possible flexibility. However, it’s ENORMOUSLY important that you remain aware of the commercial implications of what the customer is requesting.

Our goal is always to be able to say “Yes” to customers because we can see a way to negotiate and make it work commercially for everybody.

What are the costs of non-standard specifications?

Most salespeople like to say “Yes” to customers. Of course you do! You want to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes to you.

However, almost every time your customer asks for things that are outside normal specifications, there will be commercial implications. Here are some examples:

  • SPEED - To deliver faster, it may be that another customer’s order will have to be delayed, or we may need to schedule some costly overtime.

  • SPECIFICATION - A different specification might require materials that have to be ordered specially and from a different supplier.

  • EXPERTISE - Connecting your products and services to your customer’s unique mix of technology platforms might require costly external expertise that will have to be sourced and purchased.

The key point is this. Every time your customer asks for something that is non-standard, there will be commercial implications. And it’s your job to identify these commercial implications and negotiate agreements carefully.

What are your customers’ real priorities?

Some people reading this email are account managers who work with customers who buy from you regularly. In these situations, it’s very likely that your customers will be aware when they’re asking for something that is non-standard.

But if your job is mainly about winning brand new customers, it’s probable that these new customers will not be aware when they’re asking for something outside your normal specifications.

In these circumstances, it’s your job to coach these customers about the implications of their requests for non-standard specifications. Your goal is to help them prioritise their needs as you make them aware of the commercial implications of their requests. And then, you can all negotiate carefully and accurately.

Back to our big question. How flexible should you be when customers ask for non-standard specifications?

You should be as flexible as you can possibly be to win the customer! But ALWAYS with sufficient awareness of the commercial implications of what the customer is seeking.

Here’s one area of practice to emphasise today

Whenever customers ask for things that are outside your normal specifications, coach and enable them to be aware of the commercial implications.

Coaching Focus

  1. Review some recent sales when customers asked for things that were outside your normal specifications. How well did you handle the situation?

  2. As you review your current pipeline of opportunities, which ones are seeking something non-standard? How might you respond most effectively?

If you have questions or comments, it would be great to hear from you. Just hit reply and send me an email.

Have a great day!

Founder & Leader

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