There are many, many options for where you will sell your products and services – your distribution strategies.
But you also need to consider how you will sell – the step-by-step sales process you will use to turn a suspect into a prospect and ultimately to a customer or client.
There are many ways to bring your products and services to market. Each has there own unique challenges and opportunities, as well as cost structures.
It’s relatively easy to find individuals and organizations who sell products and services for your company. The challenge is getting them to actually do the work of selling, especially if they are a multi-line wholesaler/distributor. They will always spend their time on the most profitable and easiest products and services to sell. If your product doesn’t make it to the top of their list, you become just another item on their line card.
Sales Agent/Manufacturer’s Rep
Sales Agents and Manufacturer’s Representatives can be full-time and captive to your product or part-time with multiple product lines. They can be paid a salary, bonuses and even commissions-only. Much like wholesalers, you’ll need to make sure they are spending adequate time promoting and selling your products and services.
Selling online is very appealing for many products and services. You can work directly with your customers and cut all of those sales commissions out of your prices. Maybe. Because if you are also selling through any other distribution method, they are not going to respond well to competing with you on price.
If you have a wide range of products, you could sell by publishing your own product catalog. You could also advertise your products in someone else’s catalog.
You can build your own external and/or internal sales team. Your new responsibilities now include recruiting, training, motivating and managing those sales cats. As we have managed sales teams with as many as 40,000 sales cats, trust me – it’s not the same as managing your other employees!
Value-Added Reseller (VAR)
A value-added reseller takes your products and/or services and packages them as part of a bigger solution or offering for their clients. The good news is you can leverage their marketing and selling efforts to sell more of your products and services. The caution is you can get caught when another part of the packaged solution fails and damage control falls to you, even though you may not have caused the problems.
A Dealer network allows you to distribute your products and services without the overhead of running a full-scale retail operation. You contract with Dealers to market and sell your products and services and to follow your guidelines, but they operate as their own separate businesses.
Whether you are running a single retail store or an international network of stores, you’ll take on overhead responsibilities and the relentless assault of online retailers such as Amazon.
If you choose to distribute your products and services through multiple channels of distribution, make sure you are prepared for channel conflict. No matter how well you cater to the unique needs of each specific channel, they will think other distribution channels have advantages that are costing them business opportunities.
What is your selling process? How does that process change in each distribution channel? What are the tactics and tools you have implemented to optimize your sales results?
You shouldn’t assume that your sales partner knows how to sell your products and services. You should instead assume they don’t – and that is your job to develop, train and implement the best methods of selling your products and services.
Here are five key steps to consider in your sales process.
Prospecting and Getting Appointments
You would be surprised to learn how many sales people are simply lousy at prospecting. They may do well with a referral or an inbound call, but ask them to call on a stranger and even you won’t be able to find them.
How should any sales person discover their prospect’s needs and wants? The only way is to question skillfully and listen carefully. If you catch your sales people telling, you know they are not selling!
There is a time, in every selling opportunity, where it is time for the sales person to present your product or service solution to the prospect.
Are they sharp enough to adapt their presentation to speak to the specific benefits for this particular prospect or are they the “drop another quarter in the juke box” presenter who plays the exact same tune every time?
Which type of sales person do you want representing your business?
In golf, you drive for show and putt for dough.
In sales, you present for show and close for dough.
No matter how well your sales person has built trust, investigated needs and presented the best solution, there will be questions, concerns and conditions.
It’s your job to train them how to answer those questions, address those concerns and resolve the conditions.
Last, but far from least, they have to have the intestinal fortitude to ask for the order and the discipline to shut up after they have asked.
Creating Raving Fans and Earning Referrals
The costs of acquiring a new customer are significant.
Your greatest opportunity for profits is yours for the taking after you have made your first sale to a new customer.
Job one is delivering a great product or service as well as a great product and service experience.
Your opportunity now is to bring your delighted customer back to buy again. Bring them back to buy more. Bring them back to buy more often. Your business can grow exponentially if you will just care for your current customers.
The added bonus is some of your customers can become raving fans. You can then encourage them to refer others to you and give five-star ratings, testimonials and endorsements of your business, products and services.
The flip side is delivering a poor product or poor service and failing to nurture your customer relationships. Those rewards will come back to your business too, often with a vengeance.
Note: Although the context is very different in selling online, these sales process concepts still apply.
When You Are Ready to Herd Sales Cats
We’ve been implementing various distribution models and developing sales teams since 1984.
We can help you architect your business success and drive profitable sales results.