It’s not always obvious how to launch a new product and succeed. Of course publicity and advertising are huge, but even big numbers of preliminary views, eyes-on-it, and social media impressions may not equate with sales to come. This is especially true for a major appliance launch.
What is the secret ingredient then, the magic sauce that propels a great concept item from pre-launch positive studies and forecasts to actual positive sales number sheets? According to Mark Doornbosch, Retail Practice Leader at MarketSource, the answer—which may surprise you—is in the point of sale relationship.
Why you must nurture the point of sale relationship
When a major appliance manufacturer invests in a new product, the emphasis is huge for the “birth buzz”—the point from concept to development at which that product ships. Large budgets were spent on R&D to concept to manufacturing, and then larger budgets still are spent on PR/marketing to bring the product to public life.
But the product is going to rest right there on the store floor until one charismatic “sales voice” connects with a curious customer, and the old fashioned magic begins.
What if there’s no magic?
Successful sales magic comes from a high-energy relationship between the floor rep and the out-the-door customer, but the problem we often overlook is that the sales voice on the floor is only going to work magic if they’re fully enthusiastic. They need to be, and feel, up to speed on the glowing benefits of the new item.
Without an educated energy on the floor, no amount of prelaunch energy is going to pay off.
For some, the field relationship energy, where the rubber meets the road in the retail story, may sound like a simple thing to spiff up. With the carrot of “bonus money for surpassing quota,” or the stick of “job security only by making quota,” you can get your sales people busy getting the product out the door, right? Maybe. But maybe not. Let’s look at why.
Education is critical
Sales people can only deliver great customer experiences if they know more about your product than the customer does. Things have changed over time and the customer base now has increasing access to more and more information about the products and specifications. Your sales team needs to stay on top of new products and competitive intel. Training has to be ongoing.
Spiff motivation is temporary
It’s true that adding a quick bonus will result in a quick uptick in the sales numbers on some channel partner floors. But it’s also true that the uptick disappears as soon as the incentive does. To really be a market star in channel partner sales, you must revisit and retrain the sales force more often than every 30 days.
Selling is emotional
According to government statistics for sales persons in retail, most retail jobs require evening and weekend work. Often stressful, the life of the floor salesperson can obviously lead to job fatigue and loss of enthusiasm.
How to dramatically boost floor morale
Doornbosch points out that personal visits from field supervisors improve morale on the floor. Sales numbers and customer service indices benefit from closer and more frequent communications between field reps and floor personnel. Outsourced sales providers like MarketSource use this practice when training sales teams. If you are rolling out a new major appliance, do whatever it takes to get your best foot forward on the front line.
- Find a way to inspire enthusiasm in your frontline salespeople. This is easier to achieve than you’d think. Increase your ratio of field reps to sales points and watch as morale, and sales, increases.
- Get help with your weak links. If you’re on the cutting edge of appliance technology and production, you’re not really in the business of training sales teams. Are you using 3PL yet?
Use a 3PL provider to your best advantage
As a manufacturer, you hire a third party labor source for the quickest, surest way to train or fill front line sales positions. But how do you know if the service provider company is worth it? Here are several things to grade your 3PL on to measure the level of service they give you:
- GIS studies – A geographic information system (GIS) aids your company in analyzing and interpreting spatial relationships of your personnel. It facilitates scheduling and placement in the field. Is your 3PL provider using GIS?
- Optimizing coverage – Your 3PL should be fully responsible for keeping all positions covered at all times. Are you having any coverage issues?
- How in-depth is the reporting? – Remember that you have hired this 3PL to give you service-oriented personnel. What evidence do you get that they are giving you the desired results? Your reports should be indexed fully.
- Are they bringing you market insights? – Yes, your contractor should be fully on top of market trends and creative insights to push you above your competition. Are you getting that input?
- Do they find and suggest continuous improvement? – The last thing you need is another cheerleader. Are you getting the constructive critiques and insights from a true market insider? Are you hearing new ideas for ways to better your sales presentations at the front line?
- Is your marketing message aligned all the way down? – Take a good look at the 3PL service you’re getting now. Do your frontline representatives represent your brand? Do they know your core values, or could things be better?
The launch of any new major appliance should be predictably exciting and well received. If you’re planning a roll-out, or working through an existing launch, take a look at the enthusiasm levels of your front line. Do you have point of sale relationships vigorous enough to work as is, or do they need a boost to ensure your success? MarketSource would like to share more tips with you on value drivers we offer and using 3PLs to sell more, faster.