Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sell Sell Sell, SCHNELL!

Otherwise known as SELL SELL SELL

I am not a salesman. I have never worked in a sales role. For many of us in this game, the selling is a brand new paradigm. And the thick skin comes in really handy here. Let me start out by saying that you must 100% believe in and love your product. You must truly believe that it's useful, attractive, and will be so to consumers.
I once literally stood in line to present to a retailer (at the cash register no less), and the person in front of me was a distributor who sells on behalf of a number of juvenile lines, and I keenly listened in on the pitch to see what I could glean for myself (take it wherever you can get it). I was literally stunned at what I heard. This gentleman was so blase about the product he was pitching, that honestly it didn't matter what it was. I wouldn't have bought it. I may actually need it. But to listen to him, I could take it or leave it. Lesson learned. People respond to your enthusiasm (and in some cases not, but you gave it your best shot, so move on). And then I asked myself why a distributor, who stands to profit from his pitch, could sound so utterly banal about the product, and I came back to the fundamental I have accepted from the start of this venture: No one will ever sell your product- and by extension YOU - as well as you can.
So when you are representing you, bear the following fundamentals in mind:
1. Be concise
2. Be passionate
3. Accurately convey the benefits to the retailer and consumer
4. Never leave a potential retailer empty handed (leave a marketing package and a sample)
5. Confirm a follow up. Let them know you'll be calling them in one week, 3 days, whatever, but let them know they can expect a follow up. This is important - retailers do not follow up with you, they expect you to do it, so do it.
6. Never sound apologetic for taking up someone's time. You are presenting the retailer with an opportunity to sell a fantastic new item, they are not doing you a favor. (ok, some are, but we'll get to that in Angels and Saints).

What's a marketing package? Joys of the Internet. So many of the tools you need are here and free. What should you download?
1. A standard nondisclosure form (to be signed by anyone who sees/creates your protoype
2. Marketing tools, how to create a product page
3. Networking sites for your product
4. Mompreneur sites - many downloads available for marketing kits
5. Contractors in your area (also called incubators for people working with anything in textiles)
6. Photoshop - if you don't have it, get it - also, get a digital camera with the most megapixels you can afford. Pro photography is a fortune, and the more you can do yourself, the better.

So having never worked in a sales role, I have gone through the pitfalls that I suspect any new salesperson would go through. I could give you a list, but honestly, I think every sales opportunity is different, and will require you to be nimble and change quickly. At the very least, know something about the store you are selling to. I suggest visiting them incognito to see if your product would actually fit. You can save some time and energy this way. And that brings us back to thick skins:
Even the largest manufacturers and distributors have a rejection rate of over 50%. Tell yourself that every time someone says no. And remember, sometimes no means, not right now. Some retailers will offer you a window of when to re-approach. Write it down on your calendar, with the persons name, and stick to it. Smicko'z had a couple of rejections that have come back and asked if they could stock Smicko'z for the next Christmas season. It's a ways off. The sales won't be made until September. But it's an important lesson in remembering that even no is sometimes maybe. And sometimes no means no. Don't get too down in the dumps over no. No happens to the best. Don't dwell on no. Call the next person on your list and keep going. And even if a person says no to you remember to thank them for their time, and ask that they keep the marketing package to consider it for the future. Always end on a positive note. (but by all means go back and retrieve your sample, you only have so many of these things and you need the samples back to try on a new prospect)

Read the next to come installment
The Promised Land; or YES

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