Successful Sales: Planning to Succeed

February 28, 2003 - 09:07

Part two in an 8-part series about sales strategies that improve profit.

Do you ever get caught unprepared? Are you ready to answer
questions such as, "What do you have that's new and interesting in your offering?"
"How will your products help me be more successful at the retail
level?" "Can you match this price to keep the order?"

You are going to run into these questions. While we all may
have the initial posture of "What's in it for me?" the company (or
salesperson) who is best at answering the above questions will win your
customer's business.

Planning for these questions and being prepared can mean the
difference between increasing profits or watching margins continue to erode.
Planning means you have prepared to first understand these questions from your
customer, then provide the best possible solution.

Understanding your customer's needs can be accomplished by
asking yourself the following questions.

* How
do new products and varieties help the retail customer?

* Does
the intent to have these new products help differentiate their store from other
retailers they compete with?

* If
the need is to have new items at retail, does my offering effectively highlight
the new items for the consumer to recognize?

Establishing an agreement

Some growers we work with uncovered these questions early
and were prepared to answer them in a way that was best for their business
while providing the best response to the retailers' needs. Individualized
agreements are the best way to accomplish this. Establishing meeting times and
agenda topics have helped one grower keep the decision process on track while
providing the necessary time to produce the products. For this grower,
agreements are generally reached (based on a plan) regarding plant products,
packaging, themes, pricing, store locations involved, and measurements for
successful sell-through.

Achieving an agreement is the consistent measurement of
successful selling procedures. This agreement provides clear direction on the
next step in the process to both parties. You should reach agreements for the
following:

* Determining
the day and time for your meeting with the customer.

* A
return visit with a detailed presentation based on what you learned from your
first meeting.

* Orders
that include products, delivery and additional service for the upcoming peak
spring season.

The planning of each contact or meeting should include a
clearly defined customer agreement. Before you see your customer, complete your
planning exercise by fully understanding your strengths and weaknesses. This
clear understanding will help you provide the best solutions to untapped
opportunities. If you are not prepared to talk about, or present, the following
unique characteristics of your business, then it's very difficult to achieve
recognition for the value you invested in. Be prepared to discuss:

* what
differentiates your company from your strongest competitors;

* how
your product is better;

* how
your product provides a better value to the consumer;

* how
your products can enhance the sales of other products (this meets the needs of
your retail customer, so it pays to give it some thought);

* how
your "plant packaging" is better than your competitors'; and

* the
services you provide (distribution/delivery, scan-based trading, POP
installation, product mix evaluations/recommendations, turn-around time on
repeat orders, etc.).

Customer positioning

What is your customer's position in the gardening consumer's
mind? Is it low price, wide selection, one-stop shopping or high quality, for
example? How does your product support your customer's consumer message? How
are your buyers evaluated and measured in their roles as purchasers? Your
product and service offerings can support their individual goals, contributing
to their personal success.

The aforementioned planning and establishment of goals for
achieving an agreement will provide a great start to more effective customer
meetings.

"Marketing" is often discussed as the new
discipline that growers must master for continued growth. Any developments or
investment into marketing comes down to the basic ability to sell or
communicate these concepts. An understanding of the value that you add should
be reached through the sales process, through items such as product packaging
? from labeling to handle packs to printed pot designs ? and
point-of-sale products to appeal to the gardening consumer's impulsive
purchasing habits. These are cost-drivers for your product that can be
recovered when correctly positioned.

About The Author

Joe Fox is marketing director and Gerry Giorgio is creative director with MasterTag, Montague, Mich. If you have questions about this article or about sales in general, they can be reached by phone at (231) 894-1712 or E-mail at foxmsu@earthlink.net.

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