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Breaking into a New Sales Territory
The Beginning is the Critical Time
This is not a hub about how to sell. Hopefully the reason you have landed this new sales territory is because the company that hired you assumes you have the ability, either natural or learned, to sell their product. Maybe you have been a salesperson for a while and have proven sales ability. However you have gotten here, this is very exciting. Don't rush it - set it up properly and develop the correct processes so winning will be in your future. It takes a little planning and investigation, but if you do this right, selling anything will be easier and you will be more successful.
I have sold chicken feed, agricultural health products, commercial real estate, insurance, safety products, internet technology, software, advertising in all formats, surgical implant hardware and stem cell products. I think I have a pretty broad background. I think I can say without a doubt, people buy from people. It is from this perspective I believe I can explain entering a new or new to you territory.
First Step, Know Your Product
To often today, companies don't spend any time training their new salespeople on their products. They hand them some brochures, meet with them for an hour and send them into the world unarmed against armies ten times their size. Failure is the most common option and this just keeps the circle going. Management then says, "we can't find good salespeople." Salespeople say, "we can't find decent companies to sell for or decent products to sell." And often, both are wrong.
A salesperson must know his product inside and out. He must know what it is intended to do - but also what it is NOT intended to do. He must know how it is assembled or used and how it is used. It is better to know your product is assembled in such and such country and parts are made here and there. Customers today ask that question. It is important for the salesperson to know company alliances and who is on the board of directors. If you will take a look at who is influencing your company from the very top you may have a better understanding of how to approach your planning.
Don't get in a hurry. I know your boss is asking how many sales calls you made today and wants to see business cards or some other proof you are making calls and seeing people. He knows that it is a game of numbers and if you see enough people enough times someone is going to nibble at you for some interest. But hold on, what if they ask something and you don't know and the one time you are in front of them with the opportunity to possibly close a great account - and you don't know diddle about what it is you are selling? This lost sale will stay with you forever. Taking a day or two, or at least hours in the evening, to really research and know what it is you are selling is the first good step in breaking into that new territory.
Know Your Market
I have had territories that were six counties in size, and I have had territories that covered the world or at least large chunks of it. But within that territory was my market - and it was always much, much smaller. Who sells something everyone can actually use? Very few people or companies. Sure, food companies, phone companies, all sell products that everyone might eventually buy - but who do you sell that to? You sell it to distribution who gets it down to the consumer so your opportunity or market went from six billion to sixty thousand in a world market. So in a business with a few counties or a few states, who is it within that territory that is going to make the purchase decision to buy whatever product or service it is you will be peddling. Who are the influencers within that market? Is there an association people belong to that you can be a part of and participate? Recognize that often people who are leaders in these associations really like whatever it is you are involved in and feel more involved in their business by leading them. Getting to know who those leaders are will enhance your understanding of how business is done and who those people are that you need to know. Better yet, you get to know who is working with whom so you don't step on toes inadvertently.
Know Your Competition
One of the first things a medical hardware company does in every training of every product I have ever sold in this field is tell you about your competition. How are you going to point out the differences if you don't know what they are? If you sell a commodity, what sets you apart from your competition? #2 yellow corn is #2 yellow corn - but do you deliver it on time every time? Do you guarantee some kind of quality measure beyond what is required? I know people that sell gasoline, for example. It all comes out of a pipeline into a region and, although some companies may have some additives or octane boosters or something, the unbranded stuff - is the same thing for everyone. Someone sells that to unbranded gas stations and makes money doing it. So how does one of these guys get the sale? Delivery agreements, financing, credit card charges, all kinds of nuances that separate companies. If you don't do your homework, you might just stumble into a deep cavern and not know it until it is too late.
Know what is put out there as fact and what is actually fiction. I know a company I have competed against in the medical field that lists there product as "like" in their advertising and what their reps actually are told to sell! In this case, there are different kinds of electrical stimulation, one being interferential current, another is more familiar called TENS or transcutaneous electro-neural stimulation. The former provides 40 times more energy into the same area for relief of pain than the latter - but one company using TENS but at its highes possible level of energy puts "IFC Like" on their label. They even go so far as to put 5 different pictures on the unit showing different parts of the body to use the unit on - and suggest their would be a different module for that part of the body....but 3 of the 5 are identical. Perception is all a part of reality and the physical therapists that end up providing these to their patients actually don't know it isn't IFC or these are the same 3 of 5 - because that is how it is promoted.
Map Out Your Plan
Literally take out a map and begin with Google and start marking on the map where you believe your greatest opportunities are located. Keep this map up to date. It will save you dollars on gas and hours in time. Depending on what you are selling, you may begin to see trends and directions that will aide you in your planning. Obviously it is imperative in real estate, insurance, but just about anything will begin to show you where you are gaining and where you are losing - is it because of competition or something else. This is the best way to physically see what is going on.
Now get out there and sell something - remember:
Nothing happens until somebody sells something!