Sales & Merchandising 101- Sharing Albemarle Stoneworks Stone Story - FREE Sneak Preview - Chapter 7
As many know Rep Methods is going strong. Business is picking up and the book is "LIVE". My friend and customer Wes Carter reached out last week to express some unprompted gratitude for the "foresight" (his words, not mine) in regards to merchandised inventory I've sold him since 2023. Wes called to tell me a story about how the merchandising skills had now turned into a fruitful project up at Fisher Mountain, WV.
Merchandising Sales - Chapter 7 -The "Art of Selling"
"This magical little topic of merchandising sales is huge. It gives me a unique advantage point compared to other sales trainers. Through proper merchandising, I built better relationships as a product representative, increased my overall sales numbers, provided clients with a complete package, and earned a larger sale for the store. As I’m working with younger salespeople, I often get twisted looks of confusion when I bring up merchandising as a selling technique. Merchandising isn’t just for those of us peeking in the windows on 5th Avenue. “Merchandising is everything you do to promote and sell your products once the potential customer is in your store.”4 Merchandising is about the presentation of products or services. As a sales rep, it’s not always inside the store, as this quote suggests; sometimes we bring the merchandising directly to the customer. Merchandising as a sales tactic builds customer loyalty while controlling the attention of our clients. Typically, we are talking about products and manufacturers regarding merchandising, but any brand can be merchandised, even if it’s a service.
While studying marketing at the university, we first learned about branding using Kleenex as a keen example. Do you buy tissues or purchase Kleenex? Do you ask for ibuprofen or Advil? Those with brand loyalty will buy the name-brand items. Take the SPANX brand, for instance: this billion-dollar, 100 percent privately owned brand sells its product in major department store retailers and within SPANX’s retail locations nationwide. What about the SPANX brand keeps customers returning to its products and brand year after year? With humble beginnings in lingerie, the brand has expanded into ready-to-wear apparel. The creator of SPANX, Sara Blakely, began her merchandising strategy with a small hanging rack in the back of the hosiery section at Nordstrom, but over time, she observed most of her clients checked out in the suits department. During the crucial moments of her trial sales period within this department store, she shifted her strategy and moved the display to a flat counter space at the checkout area in the women’s suit department. She did this without permission; however, breaking the rules paid off as sales started to pour in once the retail associates became comfortable showing the product to the customers trying on suits. Sara used a brand strategy of observation and the sales process strategy of merchandising to make the product easy for a client to pick up during a purchase. Proper merchandising can propel a brand into a household name. Women don’t go to department stores now and ask for “undergarments.” Instead, they walk in the doors and ask for SPANX.
As my skill in merchandising became increasingly important to my client’s success within the wholesale industry, I became their first call. So how do we stand out? How do we set ourselves apart? How do you merchandise a service? How can you merchandise your brand to fit in amongst the competition? And finally, how does this correlate to increasing your sales and overall profits?
There are five adjectives to consider when identifying merchandising: placement, style, cleanliness, convenience, and ease.
4 “What Is Merchandising? Definition and Guide,” Shopify (blog), November 11, 2022, https://www.shopify.com/blog/what-is-merchandising.
With products, placement is the most apparent merchandising tactic. If we’re thinking about shelf space, the psychology behind a shelf’s placement has to do with the consumer’s eye level. For example, lower prices and off-priced brands are typically on the lower shelves in the grocery store. For showrooms, you want to place the most expensive and exclusive (better markup or margin) items in front of the showroom, closest to the presentation/meeting area. This way, when working with a client, the products that produce the most revenue are the easiest to grab during a consultation.
In regards to services, place your brand where it’s convenient for customers to use you. Sometimes this is obvious, such as hair supplies in a salon, but my challenge for today’s reader is to look beyond the low-hanging fruit. Try connecting with co-op businesses that can make your service shine. Often, I see business cards laid neatly up at a reception desk in an attempt to co-op business-to-business merchandising. But simply placing your business card or flyer on the counter won’t do much. Instead, you need to coordinate with the person working the front desk, or other in-house personnel who would be responsible for referring to your merchandised service, to refer you. If you are a service provider and utilize other companies to display your company, make sure you’re educating the personnel on how to help sell your service. Don’t forget to thank those referrals as well. It’s just as important to follow up with thanks after receiving leads from co-op service marketing.
When considering merchandising style, consider a brand’s overall appearance. Do the logo colors correspond with the colors in the retail showroom? Does your brand package fit the same style as the vehicles your team drives? Does your “look” blend in with the brand?
Sometimes, we don’t have a say in a brand’s appearance. For example, you might get stuck selling a brand priced like a brand-new Lexus that looks like a Kia Soul from 2006. How do you get around these selling barriers? You may have to get creative! One technique I have used is to forget the entire collection and focus on the winning item or items that have a better chance of success. For example, when selling a collection of surfaces with 120 colors, many outdated and not on trend, I opt to pare down any display to six or eight winning colors. I have to change the customer’s focus away from the ugly and worn-out selections which can weigh down a brand’s overall appearance. I’m helping my client and their customer look past the price point and focus on the successful elements of the brand.
Keep it clean!
It’s problematic that, as managers and owners, we must constantly remind our staff of the importance of re racking samples and cleaning the windowsills. What about keeping the presentation area of a vehicle vacuumed and organized? Have you ever had to ride with a sales representative who needed to vacuum the food from the baby car seats and your passenger seat? Imagine what a customer sees when that vehicle shows up on their property.
Merchandising keeps the presentation clean, influencing the egos of our customers. It’s an easy, cost-effective, and time-conscience step to ensuring no barriers to sale. This is the same for services as well! Find new ways of presenting your service and brand within those co-op environments that help you stand out and keep it maintained. Perhaps, you need to set a schedule to follow up with those co-op service companies to see what needs to be done to refresh and tidy up your service’s presentation.
You need to merchandise your clients as well as your products. Identify new business clients best suited to your brand, size, and aesthetic. For example, in the commercial specification world, we talk about leads in terms of low-hanging fruit versus more complicated projects. When I’m searching for the right target audience to get my product on specification, I want to make sure my product or service is convenient in its selection to the architect or designer. This might require multiple library visits to ensure the materials are updated. This might require multiple continuing education presentations to be sure the teams involved consider me the expert in this field and increase my chances of becoming the first call. I must ensure my product is easy, convenient, and on the specifiers’ minds. In established territories, many merchandised service relationships exist already. It’s my job to penetrate and showcase how my product or service can improve, replace, or complement existing relationships. Showcasing complementary tactics encourages a smoother transition if I come in as a new product or service. Start by examining the best business relationships already in place. A properly merchandised product or service brand leaves no stone unturned (pardon the industry pun) in its search for new business. As we mentioned in style, some companies might require smaller displays for products, so get creative and make it convenient.
A well-merchandised product or service becomes the easy button. And the salesperson just needs to be reliable, answer the phone, respond well with a follow-up, and be an expert in their field. Referring to the expertise chapter, an expert merchandising salesperson ensures customers remain informed about product and service advantages. It’s imperative to remember that salespeople sell what they understand, what they like, and what’s easy. This might require you to spend extra time with co-op company representatives to ensure they’re properly trained for your service or product.
If you’re selling a product, schedule monthly product knowledge reviews and maintain displays, keeping the overall appearance of the brand clean, new, and fresh. You must expedite instructions and information regarding all changes in a product quickly and efficiently. Service merchandising requires consistently updating clients on changes in fees, packages, and/or new recommendations you want to be discussed with a potential client.
How to master a sale with merchandising in five
If you sell products and visit clients to discuss replenishment orders, implement these steps into every visit—starting today.
Step one—Know your inventory: This technique works from fashion to flooring. If stock constantly changes, figure out a method to keep up. We must take the time out of our week to study, memorize, and know our inventory.
Step two—Count your inventory: Upon arrival at the client’s location and before you speak to them, count and take a quick inventory upon arrival. What has sold and what’s still on the floor, yard, shelf, etc.? Record the counts and make notes in your CRM, device notes, planner, etc.
Step three—Take notes: Meet with the client briefly and present what has sold since your last visit and what you currently have in stock that would complement what they already have. Start the conversation by congratulating them on a successful month. Next, ask for advice and information regarding product performance. Make sure to take notes. Would they like to see similar options? You will know what to suggest based on sales history if you know your inventory. Are there multiple sales associates? Should you be talking to each of them?
Listen to your client and let them tell you what to sell them!
Step four—Send offers: Use those notes when you are back in the warehouse or home office to make a new product offer to the client. You have easy sales at your fingertips if your sole job is refilling sold materials they use regularly. Your knowledge of incoming inventory will become helpful when making suggestions of alternatives if an item is not available. Use the latest inventory information, photos, and price deals where possible.
Step five—Follow up: We must follow up in various sequences. After twenty-four hours start with a text or a phone call to ensure the client receives your message and pushes the sale. Within forty-eight hours, follow up to see if they have decided. If they need more time, ask them when you should check back to close the deal. For those of us who schedule regular visits, we can use that offer on the next visit and push the client to make the decision in person. Use the data you already have to help you close! Stay humble! If you miss the sale for any reason, ask questions. You will build confidence with information for the next opportunity and may guilt your buyer into buying something from you on the next occasion. I guarantee the success of this process and welcome feedback from all who implement this into their daily routine.
This five-step method is a perfect segue for discussing controlling the sale. At Rep Methods controlling the sale is how “We make order makers, not order takers.” This five-step merchandising method allows our “accounts,” our clients, to become dependent on our skills in managing their inventory. You might even become an exclusive salesperson because you’ve spoiled them with your new techniques. Call up a few of my former clients in Virginia and ask them yourself! I guarantee that a few of my former customers (not all) became dependent on my merchandising and controlling sale methods to fulfill their inventory needs. As master salespersons, we should tailor sales pitches to each client and change the delivery angles to fit each scenario. My success working for a wholesale distributor as a slab, bundle, and container saleswoman was built on these simple tactics and day-to-day merchandising techniques. Please write to me and tell me how well this new strategy has worked to change the dynamic of your sales. Info@repmethods.com."
And as for Wes's biased adoration for my sales regime, he sent me this email.
We were given a challenging stone project for a golf course club in the Allegheny mountains of West Virginia. The clients made a huge transformation of their entire golf club house interior, and with that decided to really spring for making a spectacular new bar.
We fabricated the bar facing using a polished dolomite, Zermatt.
For the bar counter, we chose to use a leathered 3cm "Avocatus" you and I purchased from Italy. The deep greens and chartreuse highlights speak to the surrounding mountains so eloquently. The random puffs of white quartz reminded me of the clouds in the sky. The whole thing just came together in such an amazing way, we are all very proud of this project, it took a lot of time, and thought.
We are very thankful to have had you as the original merchandiser and foreseer for these materials.