Tips on integrating your product into large retail chains
This one should be obvious, but you would be surprised how many sales managers and VPs go to large retail chains without all their product, sales or marketing info. You don’t get two first impressions and with a lot of these large retail chains, the first impression is key, mainly if you are dealing with an upper level territorial manager or upper level executive. Have all the data you need at your fingertips. Use a tablet like an iPad for quick data lookup and make sure to have some type of a written bound report that will highlight the important facts and graphs that will use or mention in your sales presentation or meeting.
2-know the store policies and rules on integration before hand, especially if you are trying to get around them.
This is very important, every retail chain has its own rules when it comes to full product integration and if you go into a meeting formal or informal without full knowledge of these rules and regulations, you will be putting yourself one step out of the door. This is especially important if you are trying to circumvent a rule that they have regarding outside product integration. When you are trying to circumvent one of their rules, you must not only know that rule inside out, but know all supporting rules and any rules that are in the same realm as the one that you are trying to go around. You must also be prepared to sell your point for going around a company policy and why it is a good idea. and trust me, you will not be the first one to try this, but you better be the most prepared and polished in order to be successful.
3-Be a salesman.
I tell people this all the time, you are a sales executive, so be a salesman. So many of us get into management roles and we become only businessmen, but we must be both and remember what made us a good VP of sales or Regional manager of sales and marketing and that was our ability to be a superstar salesman. Don’t lose this, it is especially important when trying to integrate your product line I to major retail chains. These chains get business,en pitching their products all the time, but how often do they get a true superstar salesman, not often. Prove to them why you are a VP and make it happen. There are only two outcomes in sales and they are both the same, success, failure is never an option.
4-try to get your products integrated locally, then move from there.
This is for when you have a very new product with no sales history and limited supply and manufacturing resources. It can be very easy to get your product into local stores of a top retail chain. This is relationship, relationship, relationship. Get to know the zone managers and the store managers, let them try out the product. Do some local surveys. Prove to the, that it will sell and that it is a good idea to try out an end-cap or other promotional display and be relentless. If you devote the time and effort, you will get your product in,locally. You may have to stock and restock yourself, but it will be worth. Once your product starts selling out, have the manager get you a meeting with the regional or district manager and move on from there. It will take some time, but this approach has a high rate of success and can end up in full product integration, the only thing that can stand in your way is your own ability to fill POs (purchase orders).
5-know your competition and their stats.
This one is highly important. Know your competing products that the retail chain currently stocks. Find out their weaknesses and any aspect of that product that may make them unattractive to a retail chain. For example, if you are trying to get your wood dowels into Home Depot, research the competition and dig into where they get their wood and if there are any illegal or immoral environmental aspects of the logging operation. Start a small social media campaign introducing the consumer to this and where these products are ticked. Try to get some environmental groups on your side and then pitch you environmentally friendly wood dowel with an environmental group endorsement to the retail chain. Odds are that they are going to want to showcase your product and make a big deal out of the green friendly alternative. You may not take a large market share out of our competitor, but it will,get you in the door. They say that knowledge is power, in the sales and marketing game, it is everything.
7-try to make friends.
This is obvious, don’t be a jerk. No one wants to help out or work with someone they don’t like unless they have to. Put the attitude on the back-burner and focus on the job at hand. This is more for the hiring department or for small startups and businesses on the VP,or President himself. Sales is all about the relationship and no one wants to be friends with a jerk.
To sum it up, take all of the skills that made you the VP or Manager and use those to get full product integration, you rose to the top for a reason and you should only be limited by your production ability when it comes to product integration into large retail chains.
The key is not to “call the decision make.” The key is to “have the decision maker call you.”