Aren’t all retailers the same?

Or do I really need to understand my customers?

I mean, seriously, they buy some stuff, they put it on the shelf and hope that we show up to buy it – that’s about it, right?

Target sells the same thing that Wal-Mart does, Best Buy has some of the same stuff as the Apple stores do, they are all the same, right?

If your customers include retailers, I hope you don’t agree with that statement at all.  In fact, if you’ve been a salesperson, I hope that reading that made you cringe.

One of the first things that any salesperson has to do is to understand the difference between customers.  Each customer has their own unique tendencies, buzz words, or focus’s that a good sales person can and should use when in contact with them.

You can, and I have, certainly bunch similar customers together in order analyze, report, track, or otherwise group them.  For instance, for retailers, you have some retailers that could be put into a channel called the Mass Merchant channel that would include Wal-Mart, Target, Fred Meyer, Meijer, and K-Mart.  They all have similar (relative to other retailers) layouts, product mixes, distribution models, etc.

However, when calling on any one of these retailers, you should be focusing more on the unique, different aspects of the customer.  That will allow you to focus your presentation and discussion on things that this customer needs from you or your product.  After all, your product is unique and different from all the other similar products out there, right?

The way you present a line of products to Wal-Mart vs how you present them to Target should be different.  And not just the logo on the first slide, either.  I’ve seen too many presentations given that are the same, no matter who is being presented to that it’s just not funny.  I’m not saying that every meeting has to have a unique, use once and done with it set of slides.

For instance, for a while, Target was segregating products into either a ‘pay less’ or a ‘get more’ group.  If you knew that and your product fit into the ‘get more’ grouping, you could compare and contrast product features that made it a ‘more’ product.  You could make sure to point out that it was still a great value with a lower retail, but the ‘more’ part of your product is what makes it desirable and deserving of the shelf space.

Every retailer and customer is different.  Find out how they see themselves and use those points in your conversations with them.  You will sell more, and add more value to your relationships with them.

First words…

First post: laying out hopes, dreams, and goals…

My hope is that by writing this blog, I can teach, entertain, learn and explore the world of selling.  I will look into selling of all kinds, products, and channels.  However, a lot of articles and discussions will be about the retail channel in North America.

By reading this blog, I hope that you can learn a bit more about how products get to the shiny shelves in your favorite (and not so favorite) store.  I hope you will not just read the info, but that you will join in on the conversation and make comments, ask questions, learn, and share your knowledge.  No one has all the answers, but together we can get a lot closer!

Retail Channel…

Here, I define the retail channel pretty loosely – I throw retail, etail, and distribution all together.

Retail stores are anything from Wal-Mart and Target (Mass Merchant Channel) to Best Buy (Consumer Electronics Channel) all the way to the corner Independent Apple reseller.

Etail is the channel of online web stores, from to some web site you’ve never heard of. of course is the largest and almost everyone has shopped there.  Contrast that with some of the other online guys that are one man shows and don’t actually own anything other than a web site and never see or touch the actual products they are selling.

Distribution is the collection of companies that buy, hold, and supply multiple manufacturers products and sell them to every class of business out there.   They specialize in having the right product at the right time.

So that’s what I’m aiming at as we start this.  Hang on to your hat’s and let’s enjoy the ride!