One thing I’ve learned over the years as a sales rep is that “one size does not fit all”. The days of heavy-handed manufacturer demands are over, save the exception of a few mega-brands that continue this distasteful practice. I have yet to meet a dealer who was impressed or appreciated the one-sided conversation and threats of termination that came along with this approach. From my view, it’s far better to understand an account’s real opportunity with a product line and be respectful of that when discussing inventory commitments.
Product mixes for dealer profiles
Over the past couple of decades, musical instrument and pro audio distribution have changed significantly. Between consolidation of the retail channels courtesy of chain stores, followed by the parabolic growth of e-commerce in recent years, the landscape for local retail music stores has evolved dramatically. Then take into consideration the location of the dealer, whether in a major metro, secondary or tertiary market. Roll all that up and analyze carefully before you prepare a thoughtful sales proposal. It may be that a store in a smaller market has a major position in a certain product sector, based on their expertise or reputation. Conversely, just because a retailer resides in a densely populated area does not ensure high volume sales. Make certain that you have crafted a product mix that meets the dealer’s profile, and is a sensible approach based on the specific circumstances observed.
Inquiring minds want to know
It starts with asking questions, and not making assumptions. Whether a new prospect or existing account, engage in conversation about your customer’s business. Learn about the challenges they are experiencing and ask how they are dealing with the broader range of market changes. You may find that opportunity springs forth from such a dialog, this rather than assuming the status quo, or that nothing new is happening. That attitude will get you nowhere, especially in a day and age where experiential marketing is certainly a valid concept to pursue at retail. Talk to music stores and pro audio business owners about their vision for the future and bring along some of the good ideas you’ve seen elsewhere in your travels.
Coming full circle
The trite old expression “the more things change, the more they stay the same” comes to mind. This applies to every B2C sector, whether bricks & mortar or e-commerce, as some basic elements of success in retailing are timeless. Consumers tout customer service as a top consideration when purchasing, and relationships still matter. Give end-users a great reason to come in and shop, and then support them vigorously after the sale. Word-of-mouth advertising and reputation speak volumes, especially in a day and age where it comes in the form of a text, Yelp or Facebook review. As a vendor rep, part of our job is to recognize this, injecting value and meaningful ideas into our sales proposals. Oh yes, and show up…