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Winning That All-important Sale

February 23, 2018

We’ve all heard about the significant changes on the High street.  We’ve heard about retailers needing to re-think their customer journey by delivering a frictionless experience which is both quick, efficient and inspiring (take a look at Amazon Go which seems to be the current favourite).  We’ve also witnessed the fall out from changes in consumer shopping behaviour knowing that global online shopping is predicted to increase share from 10% in 2017 to 15% in 2021 whilst nearly 8,000 bricks and mortar stores have closed in the US last year alone.  Within this climate we see all kinds of innovation that seeks to rejuvenate in-store experiences and re-ignite a waning consumer desire.

 

When we talk bricks and mortar, department stores in particular have suffered over the last few years - Macy’s and Sears in the US have closed around 100 stores each – and they are being forced to look seriously at their way forward.  Note the likes of Debenhams that begin to play with formats (e.g. in-store gyms which embrace the health and well-being movement) and you begin to realize that brands have bigger problems beyond their own store portfolio - they are fighting for their space on an ever-decreasing shelf.  Unfortunately for many brands these environments represent a significant percentage of their business.  Not surprising then, the requirement for brands to fight tooth and nail for their space.  This is a situation which is not unusual within the FMCG industry where the supermarket environment is challenging to say the least but has historically been less fierce elsewhere.

 

For this reason, sales teams who are approaching these multi-brand environments need to go that extra mile in their conversations.  Buyers aren’t just looking for competing sales teams to showcase good-looking product, or a re-fresh of last year’s range.  No, they are looking for them to talk beyond the product or service they’re selling and to seduce them with a concept that will start to talk to a lifestyle.

 

We’ve all read about how to generate sales leads and how to motivate sales teams but less around the content of the subsequent sales dialogues once interest is piqued and that first meeting is scheduled.  This is just as important as managing to secure that face to face with a buyer, it’s proving that the sales person has a compelling argument that resonates enough for their offer to feature on shelf at all or to gain greater shelf space vs. last year.  

 

So, a few tips on areas to consider in that all-important discussion:

 

Be clear about how the product or service fits into the market and satisfies current trends

How is the marketing faring in your area of business and what does this mean for your customer?  Which brands or products/services are winning and what do you offer that gives you customer another string to their bow?

Which trend does your product or service tap into which makes it highly relevant in this competitive market?  For example, if its health & well-being, what makes your product fit in nicely?

 

Explain how the product meets consumers needs and behaviours (and how this was incorporated at the development stage). 

The most powerful product story begins and ends with a consumer need and benefit.  Be able to prove that the development of this product or service was closely tied to consumer understanding whether that be how they shop, what they’re buying into, what they’re thinking, feeling, believing…

 

Discuss the specific points of difference of your product vs. the competition

Your customer will have a portfolio of products within each area of their business and they’ll be looking for an understanding of how this product can be positioned to give them maximum impact and ROI.  So, if the manufacturing techniques are integral to the offer or the materials used or sourcing approach, talk about it.  Be careful not to drown in detail, you’re probably deeply immersed in your business, but the customer doesn’t need to be, simply highlight the defining, & overarching thought which will put them in the driving position they desire

 

So why should you bother?  Because it works.  Your customer will be thinking in this way and will be looking for relationships with brands who have a similar and more sophisticated approach to sales and marketing.  My work with Clarks Shoes is a case in point where the brand sought to grow its account with a UK high street department store.  The brand needed to present a brand and product story beyond its usual product features – colour, sizes etc - which brought the range of shoes to life with a hero product and a clear reason to believe.  This was a totally different, but massively successful approach for them.  Not only was the department store taken by surprise, but they were genuinely excited by the opportunity presented.  The result?  Greater presence in their flagship stores.

 

For some this may sound an obvious approach, but it’s amazing how many brands and retailers still fail to realize the need to go above and beyond what was typically acceptable in the past.  Quality outcomes require quality conversations and quality conversations can only come from a well put-together argument that powerfully ENGAGES, EXPLAINS, INSPIRES and INFORMS.

 

Agree?