It’s time to share my favorite backselling story.
What is backselling?
It’s a word coined by John Haskell, a frequent contributor to Agency Sales magazine and author of Profit Rx under his pen name, Dr. Revenue®.
In my own manufacturers’ representative firm, I took backselling to mean, “Communicate with principals as if the line were in jeopardy even when it is not, because once the line is in jeopardy anything you say will sound like an excuse instead of communication.”
Here is my backselling story.
I had broken one of the fundamental rules of running a manufacturers’ representative firm. I had let one principal become more than 50 percent of my company’s income. Much more than 50 percent.
We were so busy selling the product that it just happened without us noticing it. Once we did notice, we needed to think about ways to make sure that this principal knew how much value we brought to their company; not just the local regional manager, but also the team at the principal’s headquarters. So, we asked to schedule a visit.
Apparently, it was the first time one of their reps had asked to visit headquarters, perhaps because the only way to get to their small town was to fly to Oklahoma City and drive 139 miles southwest or fly to Dallas and drive 141 miles northwest.
On that drive we realized we had come empty-handed. So, we stopped at Walmart and bought one-hundred one-dollar sleeves of “fun size” candy bars. Arriving at our hotel, I emptied my roller luggage and filled it with candy.
We visited customer service, product marketing teams, product engineering teams, and pretty much everyone we could see in the day and a half we’d scheduled. And at the end of each visit I opened my luggage and asked, “As a very small thank you for all you do, could we offer some candy?”
You would have thought we were giving away gold bars instead of candy bars. No one had ever come to headquarters to thank them for their help, and no one had ever brought them even a small token gift to thank them.
Each year our visits got longer and our discussions became more productive. Each year our bond with that principal grew stronger. And each year we gave away more sleeves of candy bars. I knew we had made our mark when we arrived for our third annual visit and saw a head pop up over one of the cubicle partitions and announce loudly, “Hey, it’s the candy man!”