Are You Building Your Sales Plans Without the Customer?

Are you building your sales plans without the customerWhen it comes to building annual plans, how disciplined are you?

Lots of annual plans are built by the executive team, especially finance.

Where’s your voice?  More importantly, who’s talking to the customer about how to grow their business?  That’s their goal, too.

Mutually strategies don’t just happen.  They need a plan, good communication and, ultimately, agreement.

Use this approach to build an annual customer growth plan

1. Sales Review

Sales ReviewStart your plan by calling out a specific customer.  Not a channel or your “other” group.  Make it personal.

What’s been their sales history?  Break it out by quarter.  Forecast the coming year and compare it to the one just completed.  What’s the percent change? Do this for every pertinent product category

2. Product Review

Product ReviewNow it’s time to dig into what your customer’s product mix was.  What was their top sku’s?  Is this mix expected to change based on trends in the category?

3. Promotional Program Review

Enter planned promotions in this section.  Be sure to include an implementation plan and indicate who will pay, and how much.

4. Promotional Calendar

Enter your promotion and other customer events in the calendar.  Mark the months where the activity will be occurring.

5. Issues to Resolve

Issues to resolve with your customer to grow their businessThis is the section to outline the roadblocks to your success.  Maybe it’s the elephant in the room, but if you and your customer don’t address these issue jointly, the relationship can fray and the growth you plan for won’t materialize.

6. Customer Committed Actions

Customer commitmentJust as you’ll commit to taking certain actions, the customer needs to have skin in the game.  There’s a good chance they will willingly work to grow your product line but committing to specific actions in writing will give you something to measure against all year long as you update the customer on their progress against your joint business plan.  These steps could include price increases, commitment to take new products, joint calls, training and other activities that will increase their product knowledge, sales and profitability.

7. YOUR Committed Actions

Your committed actions to drive growth - for you and your customerEnter YOUR company’s committed actions such as:  Joint calls, customer call frequency, promotional support, customer events, availability, and product, training).  This is critical because in order to grow your customer’s business, you have to be willing to make an investment in that growth.  This commitment will reinforce the customer’s desire to do business with you and increase their confidence that they can achieve the growth you’re suggesting is possible.

Committing strategies to paper is different than having them in your head

Writing down a stBusiness-Planrategy forces you to think.  Developing a business plan with your customer builds your relationship, deeps their commitment to growing the business and helps you jointly work through issues that could stand in the way of success.

Good Selling!


Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) – Winning Women Shoppers


Are you missing out on leveraging the ZMOT model for your retail business?

See also the Channel Instincts post on “Are Your Boring Online?”  There you can read about how you can use content marketing to stand out and gain preference by helping consumers become educated and knowledgeable about your category.

Good Selling!

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Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) - Winning Women Shoppers

Let me tell you a shopping story.

A few days back I wanted to buy a western top and didn’t have the time to visit many stores and check them out for myself. I am a very choosy shopper and usually try to visit as many shops as I can before buying something. In this case, I was in a hurry and quickly texted my WhatsApp group, who according to me are a bunch of conscious and smart shoppers. They gave me a list of sites wherein I had the option to view the collection of multiple brands, do a comparative study of the prices, ratings and reviews. It worked miraculously for me and I ended up with a fabulous green Van Heusen top as well as two pairs of jeans from Vero Moda in a matter of an hour or so.

Smartphone aided shopping

The moment I reached out for my smartphone…

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Is Messaging Confusion Hurting Sales?

Are you playing the telephone game with your customers?Is your management team in sync with customer perceptions? I know you think they are.

But one CEO bragged to us that his organization would do anything to deliver their product to customers on time – regardless of cost. Everyone around the table was committed to make it happen.

When I asked their customers the about this bold promise made by management, none of them had ever heard it. Worse, their perception was that this company was late in all of their deliveries.

Don’t let messaging confusion hurt sales

Don’t let messaging confusion hurt salesThe vision was not getting communicated clearly. Every sales person had a different take on what was coming from senior leadership.

That confusion was hurting sales.

It was like they were playing the telephone game. Senior management would tell the sales team what was going on in one off meetings.

Messaging was different. Understanding was different. Customers weren’t talked to at all.

Identifying customer perceptions is critical. That’s your baseline and lets you know how to begin to move the communication needle. What customers believe about you is a key indication of how much they will want to buy from you.

It’s critical that the bold promises and firm commitments born in the board room get translated from vision to implementation.

Use a discovery process to identify perceptions

telephone_game_tin_cans_stringYou need to end up with these four critical elements at the end of this process:

  1.        Market position
  2.        Target message
  3.        Competitive benchmark
  4.        Accountability – allows you to gauge improvements over time

You need to discover:

  • Current market situation
  • What needs to be accomplished

Set out to determine:

  • Who buys your products
  • How are you thought of
  • What’s important to make the sale
  • What are our objectives

Using Outside In Thinking

Using Outside In ThinkingTo accomplish these goals you probably need a third party to help you uncover in separate discovery sessions:

  • Management’s perceptions − what they told you
  • Sales discovery session (by phone and in-person) to establish position of your products plus key company characteristics − what your sales team told you

Psst…there’s a secret ingredient in this process.  It’s the missing link − what your customers told you (Outside In Thinking).

This type of Discovery measures your position in the marketplace and identifies the market’s hot buttons. It results in maximum marketing effectiveness and better utilization of brand and marketing communication dollars.
Using Outside In THinkingMost importantly:

  • Discovery session gives you an opportunity or window to look into your company and see how you think and work
  • And Discovery gives you a window in to how your customer think about who they want to work with. It gives you an education on how them make their decisions and the key criteria underlying the decision to buy.

It doesn’t get much better than this. But you have to take the message back to the senior leadership team and convince them of the disconnect.

They won’t believe you. And will probably blame you. But if you succeed, everyone wins. 

Good selling.

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