One of the most difficult things we face is the ability to take in adversity without taking it personally.

In coaching clients on how to present themselves and their products to potential retailers, I am struck at how much their story matters to them when their ultimate goal should be getting the product placed. Even experienced salespeople can lack intention and be too self-serving when making presentations, thinking they know what works, what the customer wants to hear and how the customer’s world works. I want to take you through the steps of the sales process and the most common mistakes.

Prospecting: knowing who your target audience is and why is paramount. You only have so much time, spend it wisely. While “everyone” could eat your product, there is a sweet spot and you should aim for that, always. However, also be open to any inquiry, yet have qualifying questions so you don’t waste your time (or theirs). More on qualifying in a moment.

Closing for the appointment: the first step is to get an appointment to have a dialog. If you tell too much in your email or trade show interaction, why would the person want to see you or talk to you later? Have an elevator speech that lasts 30-60 seconds, that peaks interest and that helps both of you to move to the next step. They will ask questions to get more information if needed, but usually the details are more important after you’ve formed a partnership by agreeing to various marketing and promotional expenditures. Ask them for their elevator speech, “tell me about your store”, “what’s selling in your department?”, “what are you looking for that made you stop and talk to me?”

Qualifying prospects: while supermarkets are expanding their specialty and natural offerings, the supermarket shopper may not be willing to pay your premium price or understand how to use your product. Ask questions and negotiate to a place where you feel confident you’ll be a good partner with a mass-market retailer. Unless you have a very friendly price point, you are unlikely to get a consumer trial of your brand without a good deal of promoting and marketing.

Creating the partnership: in your presentation, you’ll want to use the information obtained during your previous encounters, especially the qualifying process, to design a program that is a win-win. Your best marketing spend is usually at the store level. The product is there where the sale can occur, so promote where the shopper is physically able to commit. Most chain buyers are clueless as to how their free-fills, slotting, promotions, demos and return policies routinely put small companies out of business. They are tasked with maximizing every square inch of shelf space. Understand how you finally make a profit so you don’t give into every request without knowing the impact to your bottom line.

Follow-up: do what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it. No excuses. Under promise, over-deliver.

How is this Buddhist?

  • Listening skills
  • Observing
  • Filter out the noise
  • Choosing how to react
  • Maintaining a sense of joy
  • Understanding requests are not demands
  • Knowing when to walk away with kindness, leaving the door open for the future

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