Category Archives: Sales

5 Reasons Multiple Sales Channels Work

Brad wrote an excellent recap of some of his branding work at Hallmark.

There are lots of nuggets in this post, but what really stick out to me are his thoughts on adding new distribution channels while maintaining the traditional channels that got you to where you are today. In his example, Hallmark wanted to expand its presence by making a big push into mass retailers but not sacrifice their Hallmark stores and drugstore distribution. To pull one quote from the post . . .

Unleashing the power of the Hallmark brand in the mass channel resulted in substantial market share and profitability gains for Hallmark without taking away from the success of the card shop and chain drug store channels. (Hallmark card shops achieved consistent month over month sales increases for at least three years during this period, validating my held belief that the added marketplace exposure to the Hallmark brand would have a positive impact on all channels carrying Hallmark products.)

Any sales force is always going to moan over and/or fear the possibility of selling your product through another medium, be it a store front, the web, catalogs, etc. Few salespeople understand the importance of brand awareness and product exposure. They are all most interested in salesman awareness and salesman exposure. Naturally, your sales force is going to assume that having more channels of distribution is going to dilute their own chances for sales growth.

In my experience, this simply doesn’t happen, as long as the commitment to both the new channel and the traditional channel are both equally strong and appreciated. It can be destructive to the sales force when implemented poorly or when the new channel is strongly favored over the traditional channel. At this point, you have an altogether new strategy has been implemented, and that’s not what this post is about.

Increasing distribution options is just as much about increasing awareness in all channels as it is increasing sales in a single channel. Here are a few distinct reasons why:

  1. More exposures everywhere = more sales for everyone. Familiarity with a product is extremely important during the buying cycle. If the brand awareness is there, then that’s one less obstacle for the salesperson because the buyer has at least heard of your product. In addition, it sometimes leads to people finding you because they’re looking for the product due to exposure elsewhere. Not everyone buys a product at the same place they first see it.
  2. More introductions = more prospects for everyone. Part of the job of marketing is to make introductions to the proper selling agent. A good example would be the function of a website in a direct sales company. The beauty of the web is that it is accessible, it’s casual and it’s not an in-your-face sales presentation. But once the interest is created, the web can introduce the buyer to the appropriate sales channel/representative, be it a local representative, a nearby store or the online shopping cart feature.
  3. More success = more budget. This should go without saying, but if a company is committed to returning some of their profits back to the marketing budget, then high sales company-wide means higher support company-wide. This is another area where the sales force comes out on top.
  4. More options = more satisfied customers. Yes, you can “over-option” your product to where it just gives your prospect tired-head. But done correctly, where the customer receives certain areas open to customization, the customer sees value in what you offer. Some will prefer the no-hassle, low-touch channel of an online store. Others will appreciate the follow-up and hands-on approach of a local rep.
  5. More service = more value. The companies that appear to succeed with both retail store placement and individual stores or individual sales forces do so by providing more service outside of the retail store placement. Using Hallmark as the example, I know I can pick up a Hallmark card quickly at my local Target. (Actually, I must admit, I never look for a Hallmark card; I just look for a card, and it might end up being a Hallmark). However, if I need something special, I often go to my local Hallmark shop, because I know I can get more than just a card. I’ve gotten Christmas ornaments there, I know there’s more variety there and the staff are much more likely to help me out. They provide an extra service that I can’t get at Target, and I actually seek that out. The more specific the sales channel gets, the more it should be able to leverage service opportunities like this. The value will become clear to the consumer.

In my experience with direct sales/MLM sales consultants and industrial B2B salesmen, the argument over “chopping their legs out from underneath them” by exploring other sales channels is usually just the most convenient excuse for not succeeding. It rarely weakens the business, and when it does, that normally has more to do with buying trends in society and not the business.

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The Difference Between Sales and Marketing, part 1

It’s way too easy and way too common for sales and marketing to be seen as the same thing.  After all, marketing and all its tactics are only as effective as the sales they drive. And sales can only be produced when interest and introductions can be driven by marketing.

But too many of us (us can be sales or marketing folks) have a hard time ourselves describing the differences between these two eternally linked departments.

I’d like to take the next few weeks and break down how I see the differences, starting with this first rule:

Marketing is more than sales administration, and Sales is more than marketing implementation. 

In a sales-driven company, where the sales force beating the street is considered king, “marketing” could often be more appropriately named “sales administration.”  Marketing makes fliers, and websites, and promotions, and product launch plans, and the sales guys take it and run. In addition, the sales guys make suggestions for (or demand) new products, new tools, new campaigns, etc. that will help them close the deal now, while often bending the brand to serve their immediate needs.

On the flipside, other companies might be too marketing heavy, viewing their sales force as mere pawns within the bigger picture. Marketing sets the rules, the planning, the approach, and expects the sales force to implement it to the hilt. And the sales guy, who naturally has the inkling to do his own thing, feels trapped, frustrated and stuck.

Neither approach is completely wrong, but neither approach fairly represents the form and function of both sales and marketing. The beauty lies in the relationship between the two areas, realizing it takes both to make the business succeed.

Sales Tactics I Don’t Understand

Used Car SalesmanWho ever started the lie that these sales tactics work?

  • Why do used car salesmen think they have to yell at me in a dumb hick voice and tell me that “they don’t care how I git there, just git there.”
  • Why do furniture store salesmen lurk in the interior ‘circle’ of the store while you shop the perimeter of the store, popping up out of their ambush with a sniper’s attention the minute you pause for one second?
  • Why do cell phone kiosk salesmen in malls assault me every time I walk by, wanting to see my phone?
  • Why do charity telemarketers always tell me they are counting on my donation this year just like they did last year, even though I never donated last year?
  • Why do gym membership salesmen work on commission, when most people are looking for a gym that makes them comfortable, more than anything? (and there’s nothing more uncomfortable than spending time with most commissioned salespeople).
  • Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses keep showing up at my door even if I nicely tell them I’m not interested in changing religions today?

The sad thing is that most of the above tactics are based in a motivated form of trickery, aggression, lying or all of the above.

Is Your Marketing Half-Full?

Great post over at A Clear Eye, Tom Asacker’s blog.

He takes the classic example of a glass of water being half-full or half-empty and shows how many different people would look at it, including the government, a banker, a philosopher – you get the point.  He finishes with asking how a marketer would answer that question.

I think the marketer should ask “Who’s Thirsty?” Every other marketing question will lean on knowing the answer to that. Then I think you’ve got to be disciplined enough to ask if this glass of water is what they really want, or would they be better off if you found them something else? The first step in marketing a product is determining if the product is worth marketing.

What Are You Really Buying?

Lawn MowerMy neighbor two doors down runs a landscaping service. He does a really good job, and he makes you pay for it, too. So while I appreciate the work he has done on my yard up this point, I did have one major problem with it:

He charges me $21 every time he mows my measly little yard.

Now, let me get you up to speed on the size of my yard. We could barely fit a kiddie pool into it if we wanted to. About 10 steps gets you from the front of the front to the back of the back. It probably takes 15 minutes to mow and weed the whole thing.

So, I wasn’t gonna do it. We just moved into the house last August, and I haven’t bought a mower yet, so I’ve bit the bullet and had him mow it up this point. But I was pretty adamant on taking care of it myself this spring. I mean, in Texas, you easily have to mow once a week – that’s $84 a month I’m gonna pay for this. Plus, I’m a man – I can take care of my own yard.

Then I started to think about what was really at stake. For one, I don’t always get around to stuff I plan to get around to. Great at planning the work; not so good at working the plan. In the case of a yard, I could easily see that leading to lots of weeds and a shoddy sidewalk. And that means an irritable and ashamed me, an irritated wife, and an ugly yard in a pretty well-kept neighborhood.

Then I remembered how hot it gets in Texas during the summer (and by that I mean April – September).

Then I remembered how much I’ll have to spend to buy a mower and weedeater and all that.

So I realized that I’m not really paying my neighbor to mow my small yard; I’m paying him to keep me in a good mood, out of the heat, out of the lawn equipment business and, probably most importantly, to keep my wife happy. And that’s worth a lot more than $84 a month.

So here’s the point: what are your customers and prospects really buying? Cuz it’s rarely what you think you’re selling. More times than not, it’s an experience, not just the product or service.

Supply is the New Demand

Supply and DemandWe’re starting to stray from the pillar of business that says that supply and demand are equal partners in a proven cycle that has the power to either explode or implode your business.

Now, in many cases, where your product and/or idea is supplied often creates the demand. The demand is becoming a result of the supply, or better yet, how it is supplied.

Get your product in the right mega-store, and it will sell. How often do you go to Target and buy something you had no intention of buying? The fact that it is there, staring you in the face creates the need.

Get your webpage on Digg.com, and the traffic will start flooding in, exponentially. (By the way, you can dig this post while you’re at it . . . . 

Get your song on the homepage of iTunes, and watch it soar.

Get your book on Books – Bestsellers of Amazon.com and the sales will inevitably grow.

Get your video on this page and watch the views take off.

It’s even as simple as someone at work putting candy on their desk. You might not have wanted it before, and you might not have any reason to go to that person’s desk otherwise, but I guarantee you you’ll be visiting all day with your new desire for sweets. All because the supply created the demand.

So the question is where can you supply what you’re writing/selling/thinking/offering?

We’ll talk about the who and when in another post.