In my many years of working for various factories I have seen the good the bad and the ugly of sales presentations. Since market starts this week, this column should be as helpful to the factory as it is to the rep.
The good factories make sure their sales associates have all the tools they need to help a retailer make an informed decision. This includes a good picture, correct pricing, dimensions and fabric swatch if applicable. If the product mixes with other products from a certain factory, then those items that mix together should be identified. Going into market it would be helpful to have all this communicated to sales associates prior to presenting to a customer. Coming out of markets, the factories that provide good pictures and swatches to their sales reps to take on the road the next week will outsell those factories that do not. These pictures do not have to be studio quality but they need to be presentable.
I have found over the years that many factories spend all their time and effort trying to get new product to show at market and give little thought to the sales process after market. I understand that a product presented at an April market may not be ready to ship until August or September or even October. But the retailer is making decisions on what he is going to buy for Fall at or shortly after the April market. Without the proper sales tools leaving market, all the time and effort to bring product to the market will be wasted because better prepared sales associates from a competing line will get the business.
OK, that’s my little rant for factories. Your stuff generally does not sell by just putting it in a market showroom. You need to develop sales materials that your sales force can go out with immediately to strike when it is still fresh in the minds of market goers.
For the professional sales rep making a presentation of product, there are many ways to approach the after market meeting depending on materials your company provides. Many factories are cutting back on printed materials and even sales photos. They expect a sales person to present off a tablet device or print out pictures on their own. If a buyer was in your showroom and you have a list of what they liked, then by all means start with those items. Have them organized on a tablet in a presentation form or print out a book to leave behind. The Office Depot / Office Max or Staples printing discounts through IHFRA are very helpful for saving big bucks on your printing presentations in full color.
Some reps will leave behind a presentation, some a catalog and others will email the interested photos to the retailer. Whatever the form I like to include the following elements:
1. My name and factory name. Early in my career a major buyer asked me if a picture was mine because he wanted to buy the group. It wasn’t and since he didn’t know whose it was he never made the purchase.
2. Dealer cost with FOB point noted if applicable.
3. Dimensions. Believe it or not a lot of the furniture looks alike so a dealer can’t tell how good a value the product represents until they know scale.
4. Any distinguishing features that will set your product apart from others
Now let’s say you are going into a retailer that did not go into your showroom at market. You can prepare a presentation like above with market best sellers or what you think that retailer would like. One seasoned rep does not take out his entire set of pictures into a dealer who has not shopped his line. He takes out about 3-4 pictures of items he wants to focus on for that retailer. It is a lot less intimidating and begins the discussion. Then if the retailer is engaged they can look at other pictures.
The worst presentation I have sat through is with a fabric guy who just kept showing fabric after fabric with no clear path of what the buyer wants or needs. His objective was to show everything in the bag and hope something would work. Don’t be that guy. Have a purpose for the meeting. Have product you believe will be great for your buyer and focus your time and energy in helping the retailer determine what will be best. Your job is to help the retailer curate through all the items your factories offer to arrive at what will be good for their customers. You certainly don’t want to leave something in the bag that the retailer could use, but at the same time you don’t want to waste their time with product that will never sell for them.
Good luck at market. As always feel free to leave your positive comments for discussion below.