Last week I wrote about tough sales, but this week I realised there is a whole other level of sales toughness – the critical sale.

The more I work with industrial clients, the more I realise that every factory has a machine that should not break down. If it does, the entire operation comes to a standstill, and people’s jobs are on the line. If you’re the supplier of parts to this machine, you’re making critical sales.

A critical sale is a whole different game. Suddenly price is not the issue – reliability, performance and after-sales support are. If something breaks, it’s serious!

Convincing a customer to buy a critical part from you, for their essential machine, takes a long time. Two things need to happen: you need to start building a relationship with the prospect long before they buy from you, and you need to wait for your chance for the current supplier to drop the ball. Patience is of the essence.

Since critical sales are typically high value and complex, you mostly can’t do it in vast numbers. You need to focus on key customers and build relationships with them. Importantly, the marketing and sales teams need to work together to pave the way for such a sale. There should be complete alignment in sharing information and customising messaging.

The critical sale is probably the most lucrative of them all. High margins, sticky clients who don’t want to play around with other options, steady orders and high levels of supplier-customer trust. This is where you want to be, but it takes time and careful planning.

The next question is how to turn whatever you sell, into a critical sale? I’ll give that some thought.