Does your traditional way of selling − your “selling chain” − always start with your products?
Of course, you present them to your potential customer be they retailers, distributors, corporate buying offices, contractors, etc. And, I’ll bet you are telling great stories about how good those products are for your customers.
But let’s be honest. You are reactive to those customers. Too often, when they say jump, you’re asking how high.
You may be afraid to take price increases, wary of losing volume. Your products and programs are all aimed at their needs. You wait and hope that they take your products and market them – for you – to their customers, and you hope even more that your products reached their final destination: consumers.
I’ll bet you support these efforts with elaborate marketing plans, POP materials, promotions, sales literature, and more. You also may communicate with consumers through TV, trade magazines and promotions.
You may call it pull marketing, demand generation, or selling through, but what you are really doing is simply producing and throwing as much as you can into the marketplace, hoping people will react and that consumers will buy.
That’s a lot of wasted money and effort. Some even call this the “black hole” of marketing spend. (Your Ops team may even claim that every dollar they save through cost improvement is squandered in marketing.)
Changing Your Perspective − A New “Selling Chain”
You need to turn your perspective completely around.
Instead of starting with the customer, start with the consumer. Now we ask them what they need. Strive to understand their problems and concerns, and determine their needs, at the retail level.
Task your teams to provide products and solutions that meet those needs and drive everything from new product development to merchandising and POP materials.
The better you understand your end consumer’s needs, the easier it is for you to communicate, and the consumer to accept, your products as a solution to their problems. Only then do you focus on calling on the next level, contractors and builders, working your way up the chain.
Share with them what the consumers shared with you, and show how your products are meeting their customer’s needs. Then, just like you did with the consumer, find out what are the builder’s needs, and show them you can help them stand out from the competition and sell more homes by providing solutions to their problems.
Next, work your way up to the distributor and retailer. As before, share with them what the consumers, builders and contractors are sharing with you. Tell the distributor about the tools you provide to meet everyone’s needs, about the products, solutions and systems that will help them make more money − solutions and systems that apply all the way up the pipeline.
If you’ve done your job, you shouldn’t have to tell distributors and retailers much at all. They’ll already know about your products and solutions from their customers. They’ll know you talk to their customers, and their customer’s customers, and are creating demand for products they sell.
And all you’ve done is reverse the direction of the “Selling Chain,” and changing your story from one that highlights product features and turned it into how you’re introducing a simple approach to solving consumer problems.
Differentiating Yourself on Something Other Than Price
Distributor and retailers still buy “product” and think in terms of discounts, profit, and “What’s in it for me?” But now, instead of increased profits from lower cost of goods, you can bring them higher profits from increased sales. You can demonstrate this by telling them:
- What the consumer is telling us
- What the builder is telling us
- What the contractor/remodeler is telling us
Then show them the tools you have to meet those needs, including products, solutions and systems to help them make higher profits. Because they know that you have been talking with consumers and builders, they will be receptive to your presentations.
Listening to the Future
There’s an old saying in sales that says, “We never make a mistake when we make a decision in favor of the customer.” The basis for that philosophy is formed by putting the customer’s needs first.
Remember that you need to think about your customers broadly…consumers, distributors, retailers, dealers, contractors, builders, the investment community, and so on. A customer-driven company defines their customer as broadly as possible…opening up incredible opportunities and difficult challenges.
A customer driven company also knows what their customers want in their terms, not their own. They have an external focus and bias to all they do. They will do things in the short term that are costly in support of their customer needs, knowing full well that they will repaid 1000 times over
It’s good to have these perspectives as part of a company philosophy, but it’s equally important that you remember that if you listen closely to the customer and put their needs first, you will benefit from a preferred position and market share while achieving outstanding customer satisfaction. And it will touch every aspect of your company, including quality, brand, service and value.
Focusing on the customer is a key to your future – for without them, you have no future. Any time you hear a customer request, listen closely, that’s the future talking.
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