Food distributors planning to set up partnerships with their customers should follow three levels of sales strategy to ensure the success of the venture. These levels are product-oriented selling, buyer-relationship-oriented selling and partnership selling. Although there is no guaranteed sales strategy, distributors can achieve success by finding the right strategy mix. They should also remember that the three levels work are independent.
There are three levels of sales strategy that you as a DSR must develop when pursuing a productive partnership with your customers:
- Product-oriented selling.
- Buyer/relationship-oriented selling.
- Partnership selling.
These strategies must be developed in sequence and can serve as the core of a sales-development program for your organization.
There is no one right sales strategy. All strategies work to some degree, depending on which is right for your business and customer mix. However, your plan to achieve long-term success as a DSR should be geared towards the partnership level of sales excellence.
Not all customers are candidates for partnership. Eighty percent of your business comes from only 20 percent of your customers. It is that 20 percent that should be the target a partnership relationship.
However, the other 80 percent of your customers cannot be ignored because they are important for your personal income. You can sell them using a lower-level strategy, and then invest your quality time in penetrating and expanding your key accounts. Those are the accounts that pay off in long-term volume and profit.
Think of each strategy level as one of three rocket stages. You cannot reach orbit without good planning and by firing each stage in sequence until the partnership goal is attained.
Each stage builds on the preceding stage, is more complex, and requires more planning, practice, and experience to develop the skills necessary to sell at that higher level. As you understand and move through each stage, you gain the experience necessary to succeed in partnership.
Product selling is the foundation from which all selling begins. Unfortunately, it is a level that too many DSRs never move beyond. Typical product-oriented salespeople usually fit the negative sales stereotype. They’re always pushing the product.
The product-oriented sales call is typically made with a brochure and a price book. The DSR does lots of talking and not much listening. This type of sales call is also often characterized by pressure selling.
Product-oriented selling is not necessarily a bad strategy, however. You just need to know when it is the right strategy. And it should never be your only strategy.
DSRs use product-selling strategies most of the time. However, this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t continue to strive toward a higher-level strategy.
If product selling is your only strategy, your margins will always be squeezed because price is your major competitive difference. The value of your product and service remains at or near a commodity and can easily be matched by your competitor.
All DSRs need experience in product selling. It is the starting point for all new salespeople. They need to know about their company and what it has to offer. They need to know the features and benefits of their products and services. Above all, they need to know the basic of product selling to move on to relationship and partnership selling.
Each level of selling requires knowledge of the basic sales process and the ability to ask for the order. If DSRs cannot operate at this basic level, they will never progress.
Buyer/relationship-oriented selling is built and depends on strong personal relationships between DSRs and customers. It requires a total commitment to serving the customer.
Relationships should be developed with all people who influence the buying decision. These relationships rely on strong support from the functions within your company. Operating in this strategy may require working in the customer’s operation during a unit opening or laying out a customer’s storeroom to be more efficient.
Sometimes the relationship can become more important than the product or service. This can lead to a dangerous situation. An individual or a relationship cannot become more important than the company. The person and the company are one. Your task is to sell the customer profitably, and the relationship is part of accomplishing that task.
Relationship selling is a very important part of the beginning of a partnership. You must have the ability to develop relationships with all of your partnership customers. Foodservice selling is a personal business and often requires a personal effort.
Relationship selling is based on a high degree of service to the customer. Relationships can be a very rewarding part of being in the foodservice business. The value of long-term relationships and continuity cannot be underestimated as an ingredient for success.
This is the highest level of professional selling and should be your goal. Operating at this level is a requirement for success in the ’90s. Partnership selling targets the customers that offer the most growth and profit potential. Having a partnership with key customers can make the difference in your performance as well as that of your company.
Partnership selling requires a commitment of time and energy. It is not a quick sale, but a lasting and profitable sale. Partnership selling has a long sales cycle. Partnership selling also hard work.
There are several requirements for implementing a partnership strategy.
* There is one focus for customer partnerships: improving the customer’s profitability. Partnerships are dedicated to profit improvement. Don’t forget that your profit improvement is a result of your customer’s profit improvement.
* Partnerships are not a bidding process. In a partnership, you work closely with the customer developing plans and proposals.
* Partnerships add value that is recognized by the customer. The value is the result of helping customers solve their operating problems and building their business. Your basis of competition is now value, not price.
* Partnership selling starts with a blank sheet of paper, asking questions, and listening to answers to understand the customer’s needs. From that process, you develop a plan and proposal that addresses the needs of customers and improves their bottom line.
* You must have a thorough understanding of your customers’ operating processes and that includes knowing how they serve their customers.
* You must have mastered the skills in stages I and II.
* You must understand the application of your products and services within the context of your customers’ operations to help them improve their operation. You must be creative and innovative in developing applications. You must be able to think on a perceptual and conceptual basis. Think as the customer would think.
* You must have the total support of all functions in your company. Your company must be committed to the partnership process. Providing the customer with the best your company has to offer is team effort.
Every DSR should evaluate the nature of his or her sales strategy. Then study what elements you need to modify in order to move toward partnerships with your key customers.
A Trend To Sell To: Pizza
Pizza, pizza everywhere. Is there any end to how much pizza Americans can eat? It is market approaching $25 billion. To put it mildly, the pizza business is no longer confined to the local pizzeria. Pizza Hut’s mission statement says that it wants to provide the highest quality pizza for every pizza occasion. We now see pizza in many non-traditional locations such as airports, campuses, business and industry, hospitals, and delis. We even see frozen pizza and pizza kits being sold in fundraising activities. You can sell pizza products in most every segment of the foodservice industry. Here are some tips:
* Talk to your customers about the importance of the pizza business and how it is changing. Pizza offers the operator superior margins.
* Sell the whole pizza, not just pizza sauce, crusts, and toppings. You will enhance your margins because you are selling the whole concept, not just the product.
* Find the right crust for the customer’s operation. Some operators might want to prepare their pizza from scratch, but there are many alternatives such as complete mixes, frozen dough balls, par-baked crusts, and fully prepared and frozen pizzas.
* Help the operator develop promotions, such as double-cheese premiums and point-of-sale material.
* Also help operators select equipment, smallwares, and packaging.
* If you have an independent pizzeria customer, aid it in adding pasta to the menu. The independent operator is at risk as the big pizza chains get bigger and delivery becomes the major way that pizza is being consumed.