It goes something like this: you need more great ideas to build more engagement to drive more sales. After all, your goals haven’t changed; you just want to be the go-to brand of all the top sales associates in your sales channel. Simple, right?
There is a great quote from Confucius about simplicity: “Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated.” When it comes to building mindshare and thereby market share in the channel, I believe that focusing on the modest set of principles outlined below is a great guideline to help us stay focused on how to get where we want to go.
The power to maintain that focus is what’s going to move the needle for you.
Another unchanging factor of channel sales: in the majority of verticals the array of products being launched at any given time is staggering and varied. We see everything from established companies betting the farm on proprietary new technologies all the way to unheard of brands with enormously deep pockets working to penetrate established spaces. Brands trusted by our parents and grandparents struggle to balance the very practices upon which they have been built with new procedures as they attempt to synch up with the modern customer journey of the attention economy, all the while navigating the challenges of new and unknown supply chains.
Without radical product differentiation that captures the minds (and wallets) of consumers, how can a brand make a big enough dent in the marketplace to gain a foothold and start to grow? Consider this: what makes a retail sales associate (RSA) show and ultimately sell the products that they show and sell? Each time the RSA encounters a customer, the salesperson needs to make a lightning-quick decision of what they believe will best suit the customer’s particular need. Ultimately, this decision is driven by six factors, several of which can be supported and even driven by excellent work at the field sales rep (FSR) level.
Build Brand Awareness
Yet another simple truth: it’s much easier to sell products that customers have heard of. Your advertising efforts, however creative and noble, are going to continue to lose their effectiveness as the world continues to change the way they discover and buy products. It is a simple fact of the connected world that the influence of advertising continues to diminish as people increasingly turn to the Zeitgeist for help in decision-making. Stay with me though, friend; I would never write an article claiming that all hope is lost.
A huge impact can always be made at the individual FSR level. (Did you just groan out loud at the utter unscalability?) All of the best FSRs we currently talk to are setting aside time to do work at the grassroots level, offering product demos, creating impactful launch events at retail locations and generally making the public aware of their products in a very real, high-touch way. These tactics continue to be highly effective and work hand-in-hand with the next important factor. Furthermore, in making real human connections they are often able to harness the very Zeitgeist I mentioned above via social shares, blogs and if they are very lucky, viral video.
Provide Product and Sales Education
Product knowledge education is critical because RSAs will always revert to selling the products they know best. This has become an even greater challenge with the ubiquity of Internet usage – any retail associate in 2016 will tell you what it’s like to work a deal with a customer who knows a product better than the RSA herself does. Hands-on product knowledge sessions with the right FSR or via an online learning management system (LMS) go a long way to educate the sales associates and make them more comfortable selling the goods. As we all know, the comfortable sale is a much easier sale.
What’s Their Incentive?
In the CE space, swag or demo product is formidable fuel for the sales engine. Top-selling RSAs are very motivated by the idea that if they hustle to sell a product and stay connected with the rep, there is a great chance that they will have access to these goodies.
A more scalable option is going to be sales SPIFFs or dealer incentives such as sell-through allowance and MDF/Co-op would be the equivalent move. We all know that sales incentives are not meant to entice an RSA to sell someone the wrong product, but they still work like a charm when the product is a good fit for the customer.
Build Great Relationships
During the course of researching user needs for our software platform and writing our e-book The Six Reasons That Front Line Salespeople Sell, we captured this quote from an appliance RSA which sums this point up perfectly:
“I actually got into a bit of trouble from my supervisor a couple months ago because I was just selling so much of Product X’s line, but our rep is just so great! He comes by all the time, makes sure we have all the info we need, chats us all up and seems really interested in our feedback. And wow, when we have any sort of warranty trouble the guy is just all over it; helping us process the claim as fast as possible so we’re keeping our customers happy. So, I guess they kind of just became my go-to line when I’m selling.” ~ Trevor
Today there are many technologies available now to help a brand better scale this connectivity – online training platforms, sales leaderboards and other engagements can now be executed with ease and excellence via Internet. Think how many elements of your strategy could be deployed straight to the mobile phones of the RSAs - perhaps the most highly trafficked point of contact in their lives. As a trade or sales channel manager though, it is useful to look at whether or not your FSAs understand the power of these tactics and are willing to do the legwork to action them in a meaningful way.