The key to making more effective sales calls is in providing
your customer with the information they need to make the best
purchasing decisions. If a petfood manufacturer's sales
representative can provide a store manager with data
demonstrating strong sales of a particular product, they are
more likely to get the shelf space for their product. In this
article, we will examine how the right data can help a
manufacturer get more of their product on the shelves and,
ultimately, better sales figures.
Now, let's look at an example of two sales representatives
on a call. Manufacturer A's salesman calls on You Pet Your
Life, our fictional store. He walks the store, and is happy to
see all his products neatly displayed on the last row of the
petfood section. He makes small talk with the clerk, while the
manager finishes a phone call. In his conversation with the
manager, he asks how business has been, thanks her for being
such a loyal customer and mentions the two new flavors of pet
treats coming out.
Manufacturer B's salesperson calls on the same store the
next day. The store manager is busy, but clears time on her
schedule for a working session with the representative.
Together, they review the results of last month's in-store
demonstration and the increase in sales of the small bags of
cat food which followed. The manager thanks the rep for
recommending that she add those small bags in their previous
meeting. They talk about the expanding line of treats, and the
manager decides to make room for the new products by dropping
the slow-selling treats from Manufacturer A.
What did the second salesperson do better? Obviously, the
rep from Manufacturer B had done her homework. More precisely,
she was armed with the store and SKU-level data and the
analyses necessary to prove the value of her product line to
You Pet Your Life. Of course, we all hope that our sales team
is like that of Manufacturer B. Assuming we're not quite there
just yet, let's examine the steps along the way to sales
We all know that having a customer's buying history is a
requirement in planning an effective sales call. We want as
much detail as possible, going back as far as possible. But all
that data can become overwhelming, so adjust your scope to
what's manageable. SKU-level data are ideal, and typically two
years of purchases summarized monthly are adequate.
The purchases history alone can't tell the story. What other
events may have influenced the purchasing patterns? An
often-overlooked element of the data is promotion history and
results. Can we measure purchases during the period of a
particular coupon or give-away campaign?
It's not only sales figures that are important. We also want
to know what stores comprise the local competition for our
customer, whether those stores are also our clients or not.
Which of our SKUs do those stores carry, if any? On a regional
or national basis, what percentage of the stores carry each
If you sell through a distribution channel, how do you get
the data you need? While some distributors will initially put
up an argument like "that's my proprietary information," they
will usually agree to share the data with you once you explain
how you're going to use it to plan more effective sales calls.
That's a classic win-win for the distributor.
In the petfood industry, the odds are they are already
providing similar sales data to some of the petfood companies.
There are also third parties who can act on your behalf in
collecting the data. Sometimes this adds to a distributor's
comfort level. When all else fails, a manufacturer can and
should require detailed sales data on a monthly basis as part
of their standard Distribution Agreements. There can be
provisions to protect the distributor, such as an agreement not
to share the data with any other distributor.
We all recognize that selling to our existing accounts is
much easier than finding a new customer. So, if some additional
effort would increase sales to the stores that already carry
your merchandise, that's worth quite a lot, right? Can you
afford not to make the effort?
Still, there are investments to be made here, and you might
not be ready to take on all of the analysis for all your
customers at once. Start simply, using a program like Excel and
do the work "by hand" in spreadsheets for your top 10 accounts
(or the top 10 per salesperson or sales manager, etc.),
limiting history to the last few months. As you see results and
refine your processes, you should consider more automated
solutions that may have high up-front costs, but are relatively
inexpensive to maintain.
You could also consider outsourcing the analysis work. Many
petfood manufacturers tell us their core competency is in the
science and the nutritional formulation of their products, not
in crunching numbers. There are many avenues for these
services, including some firms that work exclusively in the
petfood industry. You can find these organizations on the
Internet. Try doing a Google search for "petfood sales
Armed with the proper data, the possibilities for how to
analyze it are virtually limitless. Let's examine three types
of analyses likely to have the greatest impact on the
effectiveness of your next sales call:
The most effective sales call is the one in which the time
is spent discussing the future, not explaining the past. Do
your homework by gathering and analyzing the historical data,
establish specific goals based on the data and present your
well-supported recommendations to your customer.