We are in the midst of the longest lasting "non recession" in recent memory – one that has been called everything but the "r" word, so we’ll call it an " intermission". How to sell your way out of an intermission? … can’t be done - but we can suggest some tactics:
- Sit down with your key manufacturers and focus all of your marketing efforts on them. Why? These are the products that are most important to your customers, plus the complementary lines (adhesives, tools, etc.) that you should be selling to these same customers but are not – the so-called extension sales. You need to "ask" for the business.
- Consider how you can involve your sales force in any promotion by having them focus their efforts on targeted customers.
- Make sure each program is performance-oriented. Determine program goals, and communicate!
- Send promotional mailers (by snail mail and/or e-mail) to remind your customers about the services you offer. Use every opportunity to promote the ways you are different from your competition.
- Be creative – how can you make yourself unique, thereby standing out from your competition – what hasn’t been tried in the market? – what has worked for friends? Talk with distributors in other parts of the country for ideas.
- Use every manufacturer "co-op" dollar or market development dollar you can. And once you’ve run out, ask for more. If a manufacturer believes in your idea and can see how it will grow their business, they will invest in you.
- Conduct a Customer Profitability Overview Analysis. Develop a short list of HPHP(high profit, high potential) customers – focus on these best not necessarily biggest customers.
- Look at the product mix for these HPHP customers. Are they buying "everything" from you or using you for certain types of purchases? Many times your salespeople just need to ask for the business!
- Look at why your customers are doing business with you vs. the competition – conduct a brief customer survey – they love to help, especially since a survey is not a plea for an order and people relax when its only a survey.
- Give your sales force additional training – a successful sales and marketing training program is available from this writer after Oct. 1, 2001 contact us for costs and schedules.
- If you have a good website, promote it, but more importantly, begin capturing customer e-mail addresses to initiate e-marketing with your customers. This will enable you to get timely information to them quickly, before your competition, and enable you to quickly respond to competitive efforts. While your customers may not be ready to order from you over the web, or you may not offer this service, many people do have online access and want information to help them work more productively.
Any company that takes all or some of the above steps is on their way to helping them and the industry resume the upward trend of the 90’s after the all too long "intermission" we’ve experienced in the 2000’s.
Just a note on some of our industry’s recent developments including the integration of the "big two" into the GE giant – does size matter? … bigger is only better if a company understands and is committed to using the unique advantage of size. The jury is still out on this one.
Here’s to a successful fourth quarter 2001!
For more information, click on the Author Biography link at the top of this page.