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!

Are You Your Customer’s Biggest Fan?

Are You Your Customers Biggest Fan?Ever buy something that costs less than the thing you really wanted because it looked all right and somebody said it would work just as well?

Then, when it didn’t live up to your expectations, did you tell yourself you’d gotten what you paid for?  We’ve all done it.

Stop selling on product and price!

Yet, people continue to buy based on appearances and price…and to make them comfortable about products that can’t be tried before they’re bought, both makers and sellers issue liberal promises. Those promises are on the web, in advertising and sales literature. They are repeated by sales people, and reinforced by warranties.

But, customers sold on unfulfilled promises can be lost forever once they are unsold. The web and social media give these unhappy customers a megaphone to declare their disappointment, frustration and, occasionally, raw bitterness.

There is a way, however, to beat the price game, still make the sale, and keep the customer satisfied. The answer is to add value to your product lines.

Tthe way to do that is to stand out from the competition.

The real key to unlocking growth with your customers is to align your business with their needs

Key to unlocking growth with your customers is to align your business with their needsTruth is, having the right product at the right price and an acceptable level of service are the cost of entry today.

You have to stop selling product features and specifications.

You need to start selling

  • Service
  • Relationships
  • Customer success

Your customers, like all of us, are bombarded with thousands of messages everyday…family stuff, business, the news of the day, social media, advertising, email, sales promotion, publicity. The trick is to avoid having your message lost in the daily clutter. So your customers know who you are, what you have to offer, and that you care when they’re ready to buy.

Looking beyond products

Looking beyond productsIt’s the “care” part that makes you different.

You have to guarantee their satisfaction. Your sales people must be knowledgeable. You have to offer the best products available in every price range…best for the money, best for the application, best for builder, best for remodeler and homeowner satisfaction.

You’re an expert at what you do. That means you need to look up from the day-to-day business long enough to identify market problems and turn them in to advantages.

Do this customer by customer with the goal of being the supplier who is most committed to their success. Leverage your strengths as the marketplace expert and resource.

Why adding value is good for your business

Good for your businessThe end result? You will stand out in your customer’s minds. You will make your competition irrelevant because all they are selling is product. And if they are using price as their primary sales tool, this strategy makes price less important.

That’s why adding value is good for your business.

Because aligning to customer needs benefits you with…

  • Increased customer loyalty
  • Less price sensitivity
  • Higher sales

And, that helps you stand out in a crowded marketplace, beat the market’s economic swings and pitfalls, and increase sales profitability.

For other posts on value from Channel Instincts, see Are You Ready For A Dog Eat Dog World? and  Are You Delivering Real Value to Your Customers?

Good Selling!

Image via Shutterstock

Are You Delivering Real Value to Your Customers?

price_is_what_you_pay_value_is_what_you_getMany business experts have hailed the arrival of a changing marketplace, one with a great emphasis on value and even a new value-conscious consumer.

But more than a little debate surrounds the questions of what really constitutes value and whether the so-called value-driven consumer actually exists.

Over the years, some have argued that today’s consumer is no more value driven than Cro-Magnon man was or space colonists are likely to be. In other words, the erosion of brand equity is nothing more or less than bad marketing.

Does value equal price?

Cost-vs-ValueMuch of today’s ineffective marketing stems from confusion between the words “value” and “price.”

Every consumer purchase can be seen as an equation in which value equals what you get divided by what you pay – and too many people mistakenly use “value” to describe the denominator of the equation rather than the result. This leads to tactics like price reductions and promotional discounts, “value” strategies that can actually erode a brand’s value.

On the other hand, by building up the “what you get” part of the equation rather than reducing the “what you pay” portion, smart marketers know they can get a stronger response over time.

How does prestige factor in?

Value Driven ConsumersAdmittedly it has become fashionable to consumers to demonstrate smart buying.

Yet prestige remains an important part of the value equation.  In marketing terms, it’s senseless to cut price and quality in order to maintain margins. Smart marketers maintain prestige imagery as part of their brand equity, while shifting their marketing emphasis to communicate the quality of their brand in more tangible terms.

Economists who think value equals price miss the point. In many cases, price is a secondary, sometimes limiting factor rather than the essence of value.

For example, while builders are notoriously price conscious, this does not keep a high-priced entry-door supplier from being the market leaders. A builder may actually consider the line low-priced because its decorative glass enhances the look of a home so much that its selling price is boosted far beyond the extra cost of the door.

Who defines quality?

Value-as-shown-in-dictionaryThen there is the manufacturer’s mistake: defining value as quality. Wrong again.

In a nutshell, value to a consumer is the satisfaction of a desire, not quality as defined by the manufacturer. What manufacturers consider a quality product may be irrelevant to the consumer, nothing but waste and useless expense.

Manufacturers may see this as irrational, but business common sense says there are no irrational consumers; they all behave rationally in terms of their own priorities.

There is nothing esoteric about this concept. Value merely means different things to different people at different times.

For more posts on value from Channel Instincts, see Are You Ready For A Dog Eat Dog World? and Are You Your Customer’s Biggest Fan?

Good Selling!

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Photo credit: StuartPilbrow via Flickr