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Looking For Sales Advice
Well I’ve taken the plunge into the world of sales, and I’m not talking about the Internet kind, and I am seeking your advice and guidance!
I thought this might make an interesting topic on the board because our whole plan revolves around one basic principle that is discussed here often:
"Don’t sweat the small stuff like “total” preparation, and lack of selling skills… just put together a good plan and get started."
That’s what we did. The results (so far) are outlined below.
I’ve made a 90-day commitment to a good friend of mine to help him develop the Detroit Michigan market for an Autobody Refinishing Supply Company. We sell directly to auto body and collision shops. We market basically everything collision shops use except the color system and body/engine parts. Basically the refinishing supplies: clear coats, primers, glues, fasteners, cleaners, sandpaper… basically 1200 different products exclusively for the body shop industry.
I have some sales experience but most attempts ended up being fail%^(@…. uh… I mean “learning opportunities”. ;o) Anyways… my buddy has been involved with this Company for a couple of years, kinda plodding along working a day or so a week, no real system, not much follow-up, and not a lot of sales experience.
But despite this… he’s done ok. But corporate wants him to do better or else they are going to take his territory away. So I agreed to help him out. He currently works NW Ohio, but the Detroit Metro market is his as well. That is the area we partnered up on.
As I mentioned we market AutoBody Refinishing Supplies directly to body/collision shops. Our basic premise is providing quality products at reasonable prices. All our products come with a full Money-Back Guarantee.
Our niche is shops that “shop around” for their supplies, and shops that no longer wish to pay the higher prices that the “BIG BOYS” are charging. So our hook is "Similar (or better) Quality Products for LESS than what you are currently paying."
The unique thing about this market is that the Big Chemical Companies are losing their market share due to increased competition from smaller companies like ours. So many shops are shopping price, of which we are comparable (less than the big boys but inline with the “new” competition). And also there are shops that are still “loyal” or “under contract” with the Big Boys. They are reluctant to change.
Here’s an overview of our prospecting system.
1. We have a list of 500 body shops in our area (90% accurate).
2. We are contacting these shops “in person”; introducing ourselves, dropping off a catalog, and asking a (probably weak) qualifying question… Do you shop around for your Refinishing supplies?
3. We get the name of the “buyer”, then let them know we’ll back be in the area doing some product demos, and we’ll call to set up an appointment.
4. We grab a biz card then “grade “the shop in terms of qualified “prospect potential.”
5. Enter this data into an Access Database.
6. Send them a “Letter of Introduction” in the mail to re-introduce ourselves and “sell” the “appointment/demo”.
7. We call them the next week. Try and “qualify” them a little bit and close for the “appointment”.
8. We do the “appointment/demo”, try and get some samples in the “good prospects” hands, and try and uncover any needs we can fill. Sometimes we get blown off… many times they end up with a few samples… sometimes we get an order at this step. We also send them another follow-up letter at this stage.
9. We keep track of all this with the access database, it generates call reports, appointments, letter sequence… Access keeps track of everything (as long as we do the data entry).
10. We Set up a “tickle loop system” for non-customers based on the “prospecting grade” we give them. This we can use to set up various future contact systems to schedule visits, letters, phone calls, postcard offers, etc..
11. We developed a postcard to send various offers to the list.
So the overall plan is for 90 days. Work the above system the best we can, and try and tweak it along the way. I believe even if our sales skills need work… if we work the system… we’ll succeed (at least to a degree). And we can get better along the way.
Here are our results so far.
Week 4: Each week we spend 3 days in the field, 1 day on the phone at home, and countless other hours working on the “system”.
Contacted 160 shops
Set 43 Appointments
Completed 30 Actual appointments/demos
20 samples were given to fairly qualified prospects
11 Orders – 1 large order, 3 medium orders, 6 small orders, and 1 medium repeat order.
And the prospect “funnel” is still full, and we have a lot of follow-up still to do on those original 160. So I think there will be several more orders rolling in.
So here's the problem...
The Detroit market is very competitive. Business is slow in the majority of shops we have contacted, and product competition is very high.
We are struggling to get our foot in the door. The competition is hitting the shops with lower prices and offers.
We have given out many samples of Clear Coat and Primer, and although everyone seems to be happy with the quality, we are not beating their current prices in most cases and they are not justifying the switch.
We are confident that if we can get some product into the hands of many of these shops and prove our value, quality, and service… we will generate repeat business.
The key is to getting our product in their shops. And unfortunately in the Detroit market that key seems to be savings!
We've discussed the situation with Corporate and they've given us the go ahead to offer a "BUY 2 Get 1 FREE" Introductory Offer on any product in our Catalog. In hopes that that will generate initial orders and "get our foot in the door".
My question is... do you guys have any ideas or advice how we can set ourselves apart from the competition? Do you think an offer like the above is a good idea? Or do you think they'll expect that kind of a discount everytime?
And if we do use the "Offer"... how would you suggest we present it to the Prospect?
Any ideas or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your time.
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