October 24/31, 2016: Volume 31, Number 10
By Mike Nichols
We’ve all seen it. A great sports team is exposed and gets beat by 50 points. You may have experienced this with your own college alma mater or high school. Have you ever wondered what the coach does at the first practice after such an embarrassing defeat? Typically, the coach encourages the team to go back to basics, the fundamentals of blocking and tackling. As adults, we sometimes forget this and believe our knowledge trumps real-life experience.
Let’s take a look at a fundamental example we all can employ to help become better partners with our front-line retailer owners and sales associates when it comes to product knowledge “PK” sessions. Here’s the scenario: The 30-minute-turned-one-hour webinar just ended. Your company is launching another product and it’s your job to beat the pavement to spread the product story. Regardless of what your company believes about said product (it’s a game-changer, we’re late to the party on purpose, etc.) your job is to communicate the proposition and drive sales in your top accounts. Remember that 80-20 rule in college where 80% of the business is driven by 20% of the customers? Well, despite some of your college courses not being so useful, this rule really applies. To that end, here’s how to re-think this process and show your customers you are different from the average rep.
Begin by working a full day with your top retailers. Yes, a full day in their shoes will reveal more than you ever expected—or that a spreadsheet can forecast. Be sure to:
- Arrive early and see how many crews pick up at the backdoor
- Make coffee for them
- Answer phones for an hour while welcoming customers
- Unpack samples and update displays
- Attempt to quote a price for a customer
- Write up a real invoice
- Field a complaint or claim
- Call a lead or a recent customer to see if they like their floor or have maintenance questions
- See how other sales reps interact
The next step is to follow-up with a thank you note to your retailer for allowing you this privilege. Next, re-engineer your product knowledge sessions to honor the retailer’s time. Pulling flooring associates off the sales floor is costly to them and the owners. (I’ve never experienced a PK that ran shorter than promised.)
In two weeks’ time, follow up the PK with a lunch and let the conversation occur naturally.
Another option is to develop a short PK video in lieu of a standard presentation. This is especially useful considering all the mobile devices in use today. For example, a product manager can easily shoot a 1-minute video and disseminate to the team via e-mail or in the retailer’s preferred mode of communication. In it, you might cover the top three product attributes. Also, be mindful of the time of day you send the video for maximum exposure.
Think about it: 30 seconds of video technology sprinkled in a text or e-mail can deliver the information to all your stores in one day with no travel. Yes, travel will be required for follow-up but here’s the common-sense solution that can help you work smarter and not harder. In the end, you will be a better rep and share the information in a fun, friendly format.
Once you employ this simpler new PK format, you will see results. Some will begin to use it for communication, encouragement and praise. Some of the old guard might not readily embrace it, believing that “video can’t talk back.” While they may have a point, 5 billion You Tube views a day is hard to refute.
Mike Nichols is a sales manager at Dalton Wholesale Floors in Adairsville, Ga. He previously served as a territory manager and corporate sales trainer.