Saturday, October 18, 2014
There are a number of sales reps in the industry who are regular readers of this blog and while we have discussed in numerous entries how important it is to use them as a resource, this is a repost of an entry that is focused on giving them something to use.
The underlying theme of this discussion of closing a sale by selling to space can be used with any category of goods and in almost any retail situation. We will illustrate this concept with the hypothetical of the apparel rep attempting to place spring apparel for the first time with a head pro with which he/she has been unable until now to get an appointment.
Arrive early and study the shop as to the type of fixtures, location of fixtures and wall displays and their capacities for apparel both in terms of number of skus and total units.
Pay attention to the extent that the shop is departmentalized. Also make a mental note, albeit a cursory evaluation of how many vendors would comfortably fit in this space.
Introduce yourself to everyone available on staff who typically will be the representative of your product when you leave.
Make the company prescribed presentation of the line pausing often to ask open-ended questions along the way.
Attempt to determine with these questions the nature of the shop’s business in terms of turn of product, type of clientele, competing brands (successful and unsuccessful) and what price points are important - or not. Obviously the other information you are looking for is what the buyer/head-pro that you are presenting to likes most about what you are showing.
Use this opportunity to express your empathy with their business. Develop the skill of being a good listener as well as presenter. Conveying the impression that you are adept with your product line and are very articulate is important. Conveying that you care about your potential customer’s business is at least as important and starts with being a good listener.
Bob Phibbs (the Retail Doctor) makes the point that “sales are most often lost early in the interaction because the customer for your brand, service or product simply doesn’t trust you.”
The best way to overcome any chance of mistrust is to create trust and the best way to accomplish that is to ask the right open-ended questions, be a good listener and convey empathy.
This frankly is where many sales meetings fail. The presentation can be rehearsed but a good close is almost always the result of customized ‘thinking on your feet.”
Distill all the information that you have learned to this point and determine from a merchandising standpoint where best to put in the shop what the head-pro has intimated he likes and may work with his clientele. This becomes the close.
Remember that the close you are now ready to suggest is just that – a suggestion, an idea – and should be put forward with a “how about we try this” attitude.
The ‘Visual to a Yes':
“Mr. Nye you mentioned you particularly liked our ‘Merion Collection’. That lead nesting table as you walk in the shop looks comfortably well merchandised with 18 skus and a bust form. Let’s put together this look (lay out 18 skus that look great folded together and make sense). We can book it in a typical 1-med, 2-lge, 2-xl, 1-xxl which would make the delivery 108 units and would cost approximately $xxxx.xx.”
“You had also mentioned you thought our Performance Solid was perfect for your membership. This is an in-stock program so we can manage this staple all season and make it a real money-maker. How about we take the four-way that sits behind the lead table and which has 15 inch straight arms and put eight colors of the solid (2 colors per/arm) eight deep per color. Hang the eight shirts on a grid. We can consider this a par-level of 64 units and logoed will cost $xxxx.xx. I would like to come back at your convenience and work with someone on your staff to understand the business importance and the how-to of counting and filling this program.”
“We can book a back-up order for the fashion table assuming a turn of product in 4-6 weeks with another 18 skus that would look like the following or if you are more comfortable we’ll wait and see how the ‘Merion group’ sells through.”
What have you accomplished?
You have created a total visual of your product line in the head-pro’s space with goods that he/she has already specified liking or thinking appropriate. You have taken any and all mystery out of how to move forward with the process. Instead of asking for the business you have suggested exactly what the partnership would involve and assuming the close to be well received only needs a "Yes" to be completed.
Without announcing that you are about to deliver a primer on buying, that’s exactly what you have done. The buyer/head-pro should be realizing that your paint by number close is the way they should be thinking through the rest of their pre-book.
You have established yourself as a good listener and empathetic to the success of your product in their shop. Along these lines you should suggest at this point that at an appropriate time you would like to come back and have a round-table sit-down with the entire staff to discuss your brand, product knowledge, salesmanship and service.
You have established yourself as an “Idea-Man”. You not only know your line but can suggest and describe the important points of the partnership from “buying to space” to raising the level of service of the staff. The sales associate in the territory deemed the “Idea Man” usually gets the first call when there is a tournament or corporate need or any other extra-curricular occurrence.
This is not the only way to close a sale or handle an appointment but it is effective. A typical close in the industry goes something like this. “Our records show that you did $8000.00 with us last season, would you like me to work you up an order for you for that amount and email it to you for approval?” At this point my response is always “What would this order look like and where will we put it?” These are fundamental questions that need to be answered before any ordering should be done and better that those answers be the idea of the rep, especially if we don’t have that sales history yet.