How to Approach Selling

Marketing provides the road map. Advertising and PR, if you are fortunate enough to have them, set the vehicle in motion. With or without them, you have to start from where you are. Buyers aren't fools. Initially, they will be inclined to take you at your word, but they will feel let down if you deliver less than you promise. And they won't give you the benefit of the doubt a second time.

Sales managers have an old saying: "The more you tell, the more you sell." It is not quite true. It is the more you are able to tell that gives prospects the information they need to make an appropriate decision. So make sure your salespeople know everything about your product and can answer every likely question.

If they don't know the answer, the worst course is for them to make up an answer. The right thing for them to say is, "I don't know the answer to that one, but I will ask the person who does know and get right back to you."

When it comes to opening a sale, there are only three approaches: sell directly, indirectly, or both. Direct selling is where the producer's sales force makes direct contact with consumers so there is no middleman. Indirect selling is where the producer enlists an intermediate to sell to consumers and deploys a sales force to sell to distributors. This is best suited to products with which customers are already familiar and where success hinges on volume.

Which should you use? Indirect selling costs can be high. On the other hand, distributors have many more salespeople and contacts. Sales volumes need to be big for this approach to pay off. However, indirect salespeople have many more lines to handle, so there is less incentive to promote your program for more than a fraction of their week. In any case, how will they know how to sell your product if you haven't done so yourself?

When all is said and done, direct selling from a manufacturer is ideally suited for high value, custom-made products that require a high caliber salesperson to make personal contact with prospects. Where the economics are borderline, you may find yourself selling both directly and indirectly.

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