Despite the absence of a buyer, actions taken here can surely influence sales results
Manufacturers and distributors in the musical instrument and pro-audio business rely upon the nation’s chain stores for a large portion of sales revenue. While there’s no direct contact here with corporate buyers, the physical presence and support is nonetheless quite valuable and a catalyst for sales if done well. Depending on the approach, personnel deployed may be product specialists, dedicated merchandisers or the sales reps that are also calling on the independent dealers in any given geographical territory.
Activities at these locations include:
- Product and sales training on primary offerings
- Merchandising and point-of-purchase display upkeep
- Product specialist or public event coordination if applicable
- Relationship management with key players at the store
- Monitoring of inventory positions and floor representation
- Field intelligence and assessment of current market tone
- Firmware upgrades and overall product maintenance
Improving the Customer Experience
Musical instrument and pro-audio vendors allocate significant resources to drive end users into the channel, ideally to purchase products. It’s important to have a consistent approach to best serve these retail locations, ideally creating a pleasing experience for the prospective customer. The value added by your company’s presence has merit, securing your place as a desirable and supportive supplier and ultimately winning the “hearts and minds” of your retail partners at the street level.
Planning for Success
It’s best to meet beforehand with corporate leadership to develop a strategic plan, which includes establishing metrics to measure the effectiveness of in-store visits. Frequency of call for these activities will vary depending on the size and scope of the market being served, along with initiatives that may drive a campaign, such as a new product rollout or vital technical training. When confirming appointments, ask that a department sales manager participate in training sessions. These are the “champions” who can carry your brand message to other sales associates and likely are longer-term players in the organization. Your team should be maintaining a list of current salespeople, noting the evangelists in each store.
Creating a Residual Benefit
If you streamline your visit agenda, you’ll get more done in less time, leaving a lasting residual benefit for store personnel. Be accessible to retail salespeople and management alike, treating them with the same respect you expect in return for your brand. If you attend to these important accounts with vigor and a unified approach, you’ll stand a good chance of improving sell through, which in turn, will stimulate purchasing. Ultimately, you want your efforts here to leave behind an indelible, positive vibe at the retail store.
There is much more to be said on this topic, so keep an eye out for “part two” in an upcoming blog post, or contact me if you’d like some help refining your own strategic plan.
Paul Callicoat says
Most vendors don’t even call on my shop anymore. I have maybe four reps that stop in a couple times a year. Large manufacturers such as Gibson, Fender, etc. don’t even give us a chance. The music business continues it’s journey to mostly online sales. There’s no fun in that.
Russell Reed says
Great article Sir. I do have a few road blocks I would like to discuss and to learn what I can do better for the industry and for the consumer