In January I visited a trade show which did not have the expected number of visitors. In fact exhibitors had a lot of spare time and shared many views with me about their own sales performance and how they perceive my company Prolease Ltd, and general comments about finance in the market.
I heard the same comments repeated numerous times and so I have decided to address those comments in this article.
Customers are not buying equipment – well only you know how much this applies to your business. But to some extent this applies to all of us because we all want more sales.
All my customers pay cash – this is what you would expect if you only offer your customers a cash payment option.
Customers have cash but do not have budget approval
These statements really do contradict each other but we hear them repeated all too frequently. Your customers can only pay you cash if you don’t offer an alternative but currently it appears not enough customers are investing.
So do potential customers have the cash and budget?
Why are they not investing?
How can you tell which customers have cash and which will buy? I don’t think you can and I don’t think you should try to find out.
It is worth considering the options that might address the above which can add sales to your business.
- Discounting– in 1991 the machine tool suppliers in the UK were not selling machine tools. When I asked them why, suppliers told me customers could not afford their machine tools. The suppliers’ solution was to discount their products until customers could afford to buy them, but in reality price was not the issue. So yes, this approach can win sales but will damage your profits and long term business plan because the discount will need to be massive. What does this strategy do for your product?
- Supplier credit terms – this is an option if you can afford to give credit to customers allowing them to delay payment. Can be damaging to cash flow and you have exposure to customer credit risk. Are you a bank or do you want to be like one?
- Finance– it is not surprising that I recommend finance as the best if not the only practical solution. Most traditional equipment assets (identifiable, durable and removeable) are sold with finance because it works e.g. cars, lorries, fork trucks and even photo copiers. So why not give customers the option to pay for the equipment you are selling by spreading the cost over periods of up to 5 years?
Finance versus Cash
Selling equipment for cash means you have got lots of competition.
A well-known iconic motor bike manufacturer surveyed their customers to establish who their main competition was – they found the answer surprisingly was not other motor bike brands but home improvements. Customers faced the choice of buying the bike or a conservatory.
The equipment you want to sell is in competition with many other items customers want or need. Your potential customer’s budget is required to cover working capital, vehicles, property, marketing, staff, IT and other equipment purchases. This is fine if your equipment is budget approved but what if something changes or it is not approved? Your current sales are in the bag but what about future sales?
Offering a finance solution can win incremental business – you will not lose your cash sales but you will pick up additional sales from new customers. This is what we all want, extra business and for really very little extra effort.
I am uncomfortable mentioning finance
We often hear this stated by sales people who do not choose to finance purchases in their own personal life and are therefore uncomfortable with offering a finance option to their customers. This is probably the single most common objection I come across and to be honest I am still looking for a good solution.
Is the sales person who is not using finance overlooking their own circumstances? Do they have a house mortgage? Car finance? Credit card? 0% finance purchases? Monthly insurance premiums?
Should the sales person make a decision to exclude a purchasing option unless stated by the customer?
Please let me know any thoughts you have on this topic.
I don’t want to suggest to my customer they cannot afford the boat
Customers will not ask for finance because they may feel uncomfortable too and many will not be aware the equipment you are selling can be financed. The banks are still difficult to deal with and they may not be supportive of a non traditional asset.
Giving customers the option to spread the cost of investment is helping them to buy and justify the purchase. £10k over 5 years costs from £235 per month – some customers considering investment will view this as a sensible option to cash. If cash is not available or in demand for other purchases the finance option can win the deal.
Our standard terms are available via the link below which is also on our web page.
How should I introduce finance? – it can be really simple and should be part of your standard quote.
Adding the following words next to your capital cost quote will get the message across
“Cost price £15000 + vat or £341 pm over 5 years with Prolease Finance subject to credit approval”
We can add more but we do like to keep the sales pitch simple.
We are looking at ways to help you to get the customer to perceive the purchase price in a different way. And a way that will help them justify buying from you, now rather than some time in the future.
In December 2015 we began working with an external consultant, Peta Stuart-Hunt (Twitter: @PRPeta), to assist our marketing strategy and ramping up our social media presence.
We now have a Twitter account @proleasefinance and we have been using #spreadthecost as our hashtag.
Please do get in contact with me if you want to discuss how we can help you to win more business this year.