So, I thought I would have a little fun with this article as my last few have been pretty deep.  However, as I go through my 5 Best Tips for How to Sell to Facility Managers, I’m offering sincere advice.  As practicing FMs, we have much to worry about.  What’s going to be the next thing to break?  Is my budget going to cover everything I have to do in order to maintain operations?  Have I put in the appropriate emergency response procedures in case of the worst?  Is my most dependable technician who knows how to fix everything going to find a new job?  You get the idea.

To be clear, this is not an assault on salespeople.  I know and work with some excellent sales professionals.  I learn a lot from them and they routinely bring value, which is why I continue to do business with them.  That said, we have all dealt with the portion of the sales force that can paint these great professionals in a negative light.

Knowing all of that, facility managers on the whole are not trying to be rude when they are short with salespeople.  I know this for a few reasons.  First, if I gave a meeting to everyone calling to sell me something, I would spend more than 40 hours a week in meetings!  Second, I don’t want or need half of what is being peddled to me.  Third, of the things I really do want and need, I still need to find room in my budget to make the purchase.  Trust me, it is definitely a challenge to find extra room for an unforeseen expense, even if you’re selling the best new gadget that I desperately want.

So, let’s get to it.

Tips for How to Sell to Facility Managers:

1.  Do Not Show Up Unannounced

This one is pretty easy and should go without saying.  But does it?  Unfortunately, it does not.  I’m not sure what goes through a salesperson’s mind when they make a cold-visit to me.  I stay very busy, as do all FMs that I know.  We do not have time to sit down with you and talk about how I can buy whatever it is that you’re selling.  Still, people do this and it never ends well for them.  Please, do not make unannounced visits.  We will make an appointment with you if we like what you’re selling.

2.  Do Your Research

My last unannounced visit came by about a month ago.  It was from two salespeople that somehow got past my security at the main entrance and found their way into our Clubhouse.  I found them sitting in the main member’s area waiting for me.  Not good.  To get them out of that area, I told them I would give them five minutes of my time.  The first thing they asked was, “Where are you lacking in chemical products?”  Seriously?  If I knew I was lacking somewhere in chemical products, it would be fixed by now.  Needless to say, we are not doing business together.

So do your research.  Ask employees what they use and how they like it.  If you can solve a problem for an FM employee, that goes a long way in the facility manager making the decision to purchase.  When you do get a meeting with the FM, show up able to identify a problem.  Then tell the FM your solution to solve it.

3.  Offer a Free Trial

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I like free stuff.  If you want me to purchase something from you, let me try it for a while first.  This is especially true if you are seeking me out.  If that’s the case, that means I haven’t decided if I want what you are selling yet.  So, once you identify the problem and the solution, offer a free trial.  This also has the added benefit of giving the FM additional time to free up money in the budget to make a purchase.  Additionally, if the FM says yes to a free trial, they’ll be more likely to keep (purchase) what you’re selling at the end of it.  Here, I’m of course assuming that it actually does what you said and solves the problem.

4. Give Purchase Options

I’ve worked in different types of facilities.  In some, it’s easier for facility managers to make room in the operations budget for new purchases.  In others, they have more luck with capital budgets.  So, my advice is to give multiple purchase options.  If it’s a huge capital expense, offer a lease in additional to a lump-sum purchase.  If it’s a recurring monthly expense, maybe offer a lump-sum purchase option as an alternative.  The more options I have on how to purchase the product, the easier it is for me to figure out how to make it happen.

5.  Don’t Make Cold Calls 

While not nearly as annoying as showing up unannounced, cold calls rarely work.  There is a reason cold calls depend on volume.  The second I pick up the phone and realize it is a cold call, I say, “No thank you, I’m not interested.”  You can guess what I do next.

The best way to get in front of a facility manager is to get an introduction.  Find someone that they already know and get them to introduce you.  This can be a respected subcontractor, another employee, patron, etc.  All FMs I know are friendly and open to new things that will help them be more efficient.  They also understand that these things will cost money.  The problem is weeding through all of the worthless sales calls and finding the few products or services that will actually bring them value.  Assuming that you bring value, get the introduction.

I’m not sure how everyone else addresses cold emails, but here is Part B of this tip.  If there is absolutely no way for you to get the introduction, send a personalized email that briefly explains what you’ve learned from Tip 2.  Then request a phone call.  If the phone call goes well, that will lead to a meeting.  There is nothing wrong with following up on that email in a week or two.  After three unanswered emails, you’ve got your answer.  Finally, don’t send multiple emails in a week.  The relationship between quantity of sales emails and willingness to buy is linear (in a downward direction).

Wrapping It Up

So there it is.  These tips shouldn’t sound like rocket science, because they’re not.  In fact, if I hadn’t personally dealt with salespeople that violated them, I would think these tips are common sense.  I hope you take from this a few things that can help you succeed in your business.  We’re all trying to do well in our chosen career paths and I don’t begrudge anyone for attempting to sell me things.  That said, you will be much better served following this advice.

For all of you active facility management professionals out there, I would love to know what you think.  What are your pet peeves when it comes to being pitched?  Any good tips or advice you can pass on?

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