December 6, 2011

Selling in a Tough Environment!

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It might be economy today, competition for your item tomorrow, or the commoditization of your companies products - you will face a tough market as I have over the years. These key ideas will save your butt when going for additional sales opportunities and closing deals. Check out my more than 15 ideas to help you rock and roll and gain new product distribution, sales, authorizations, and distributors.
Form Relationships based on Trust
Who are you calling on to sell your product? Do they trust you or even know you? If not, you can improve your odds of success significantly by bringing someone else to the table that has the trust of the buyer or let that person or company present your product offering. Food Brokers can provide this service along with other suppliers to the Category Manager for the specific product. Get trust and build trust for your products success. This is the first tip for a reason - neglect trust and everything else is moot with the best retailers, operators, and distributors.
Create Vertical Client Relationships
With the customers you already have in your portfolio go deep! Introduce various members of your organization to the appropriate managers at the client. Get them working and interacting on your companies product behalf. Connect for success. Your distribution people direct with their team; your accounting folks with their AP staff; and your President attends the event or outing that introduces him to their President. These contacts are for action and should be in context their function within the organization and your products success.
Tell Them before they tell you
Don't allow your competitors to inform your buyers of any bad news or problem. Problems and hiccups can be the foundation of an impressive manufacturer-client relationship. In many situations, the response and repair of the problem results in a much stronger client relationship than prior to the issue. Problems provide evidence of the value and after-sale power you bring to the table that other suppliers cannot. See problems as your opportunity to shine and deepen your connection and value to the client.
Practice Ambassador Techniques
Help your clients grow business beyond the area of product support and supply. For example, volunteer to support their efforts internally at their meetings, support the company Christmas party, involve yourself in their charity events, get in their and support the initiatives and values of the client organization that does not directly connect to your product offering. You know the companies that do this ongoing, Coke sponsors the refreshment tent at the golf tournament, Kraft provides gifts for the charity auction, you can be just as supportive with your time and visibility regardless of your company size.
Eliminate Negative Thoughts
You have to drop any negative thinking. Food growth is about action, aiming for goals, and making things happen. My first million dollar order did not happen overnight and along the way were many obstacles that could have prevented it from happening. If my concerns and negative thinking impacted my actions I would not have dialed that next phone call, sent the additional sample, or traveled again to the offices for the final meeting. It requires effort, action, and activity to achieve new distribution. There is no guarantee in any particular avenue and by definition it has to be done with a hope of success. You are building new business, not refilling orders.
Inform your Circle of Influence and Referral Sources
When you find success, make sure you inform your circle of contacts in an intelligent and ongoing manner. You would be smart to build a list and add to it as you move forward in your business Build a database and distribution list of company team members, salespeople and organizations, client team, other interested parties to include investors, potential investors, and friends and family.
Quality New Business
I learned the hard way to ignore some business and began super-qualifying new business opportunities. Today, there are more potential clients that will not fit my qualification test than those that will. Once you understand your ideal client, every golf club has a sweet spot, you can provide more value, help them much more quickly, and your capacity to serve is broadened. Also, the process of qualifying will strengthen the relationships and speed the trust with the clients you do decide to support and add value with your product offering.
Help your clients lower their overall cost of doing business.
How can your product, processes involved in distributing and paying, people involved, retail effort lower the overall costs of oind business with your company? For example, can you package your retail offering in a shelf ready tray that does not require the store to stock your shelf in more than one motion? What other areas can you bring to bear on the account to lower their overall cost of doing business with your firm?
Commit to your client.
Go ahead, stake your claim with your customer. Run ads in the market only for the account, build special displays and packaging that help your client succeed against his competition. Bring special packs and bonus offers to the account and help him find success within his channel and consumer base. How are you committing to the client or you just girping they are too demanding? Money does not buy love and your clients will send more business if they see the commitment.
Prepare for the unexpected.
Orders will be refused, product will damage and spoil, packaging will be printed wrong, purchase orders will be delayed for some holiday event, drivers will fall asleep and miss the door time, retail pricing will be in error, your new authorization will b set-up in the system as discontinued, and you might receive an order 10x what was expected. How are you prepared for the unexpected. Your response and ability o move quickly will make the difference between your next order, new item authorization, or getting that end-cap with the client.
Pay Close Attention to the Trends
How are consumers using your product and what is happening in your market? Products experience natural life cycles and consumers move through various stages of trial, use, and consumption with your product. Your consumers often follow trends in the marketplace that will impact your product offering, category, and customers. Get ahead of the trends and seek competitive advantage and success for the category by riding the wave of success on new trends. Also, you can gain more PR, authorizations, and distribution when you are connected to a new favorite trend of large groups of consumers.
Become the Expert.
If you are in the cherry business, know everything about the cherry from planting to field preparation to harvest times, yields, packaging, consumption, recipes, and delivery to the customer. Your depth of knowledge will assist your efforts at retail and with distributors. Can you seek out experts, seminars, and online events to round out your skills with your product and category. If you are able to obtain Nielsen data then understand and use it for your customers success.
Hold Meaningful Sales Meetings.
When you meet with someone in this environment it imperative that you are serious about business. Do you have an agenda? What are your goals and are you working to move the business forward for your client? They are looking to you to provide them with ideas, solutions, and methods to move the business forward. What are you going to do? When is it going to happen and how?
New Product Introductions
New Promotions and Themed Events
Special Events and Marketing Efforts
Consumer insight to be more effective on shelf.
Keep Visible with Clients
If times are tough, you can bet the competition is even more fierce with keeping high visibility and making sure the existing business stays on course. It is harder than ever to secure new business and that means staying in touch and connected. How are you top of mind and highly visible without being a pest? How are you driving new business and making things happen for the client?
Email
Newsletters
Facebook
Social Media
Events
Phone
Meetings
Webinars
Store Openings
Charity, Trade, and Golf Events
Out of office meetings.
Restaurant Meetings
Other
Sell Small
Whenever it appears I might be in a slump with a situation I have found it is useful to back-up and log a few easy, smaller sales for a product. This will do several things for your benefit and for me it gets me on that roll to further and much larger sales success.
Opportunity Abounds
Some of my biggest opportunities arose from doing what I do day in and day out. Just working...they were not specifically planned to be million dollar opening orders or as successful as what occurred, it was just doing the work necessary for success and allowing luck to me and my clients. The more actions you can take and the better your attitude towards success, the more that will occur in your favor and on your behalf. Opportunity exists all around you every day and it is the action attitude that will create the results that you are seeking.
Hire Tim
If you are seeking growth and avenues to expand your food enterprise, Tim is available to assist your efforts with specific programs created to take your company to the next level and beyond. LINK
 
Since 1987 Tim Forrest has served the food industry and the world’s largest food brands. Sign-up for Tim's insights, upcoming videos, and free reports.
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