Successful Sales: Planning to Succeed By Joe Fox and Gerry Giorgio

Do you ever get caught unprepared? Are you ready to answerquestions 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 retaillevel?” “Can you match this price to keep the order?”

You are going to run into these questions. While we all mayhave the initial posture of “What’s in it for me?” the company (orsalesperson) who is best at answering the above questions will win yourcustomer’s business.

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

Understanding your customer’s needs can be accomplished byasking yourself the following questions.

* Howdo new products and varieties help the retail customer?

* Doesthe intent to have these new products help differentiate their store from otherretailers they compete with?

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

Establishing an agreement

Some growers we work with uncovered these questions earlyand were prepared to answer them in a way that was best for their businesswhile providing the best response to the retailers’ needs. Individualizedagreements are the best way to accomplish this. Establishing meeting times andagenda topics have helped one grower keep the decision process on track whileproviding 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 forsuccessful sell-through.

Achieving an agreement is the consistent measurement ofsuccessful selling procedures. This agreement provides clear direction on thenext step in the process to both parties. You should reach agreements for thefollowing:

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

* Areturn visit with a detailed presentation based on what you learned from yourfirst meeting.

* Ordersthat include products, delivery and additional service for the upcoming peakspring season.

The planning of each contact or meeting should include aclearly defined customer agreement. Before you see your customer, complete yourplanning exercise by fully understanding your strengths and weaknesses. Thisclear understanding will help you provide the best solutions to untappedopportunities. If you are not prepared to talk about, or present, the followingunique characteristics of your business, then it’s very difficult to achieverecognition for the value you invested in. Be prepared to discuss:

* whatdifferentiates your company from your strongest competitors;

* howyour product is better;

* howyour product provides a better value to the consumer;

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

* howyour “plant packaging” is better than your competitors’; and

* theservices you provide (distribution/delivery, scan-based trading, POPinstallation, product mix evaluations/recommendations, turn-around time onrepeat orders, etc.).

Customer positioning

What is your customer’s position in the gardening consumer’smind? Is it low price, wide selection, one-stop shopping or high quality, forexample? How does your product support your customer’s consumer message? Howare your buyers evaluated and measured in their roles as purchasers? Yourproduct and service offerings can support their individual goals, contributingto their personal success.

The aforementioned planning and establishment of goals forachieving an agreement will provide a great start to more effective customermeetings.

“Marketing” is often discussed as the newdiscipline that growers must master for continued growth. Any developments orinvestment into marketing comes down to the basic ability to sell orcommunicate these concepts. An understanding of the value that you add shouldbe reached through the sales process, through items such as product packaging? from labeling to handle packs to printed pot designs ? andpoint-of-sale products to appeal to the gardening consumer’s impulsivepurchasing habits. These are cost-drivers for your product that can berecovered when correctly positioned.

Joe Fox and Gerry Giorgio

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 [email protected]

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