It is critical that we ask questions, visit customers and hear what people are saying. So much can be learned by canvassing customers and researching what our competition is doing.
- [Male Voiceover] When we're selling to customers and clients, one of the critically important first steps in the sales process is planning, gathering information, and preparation. This sets the foundation for developing a sales plan with an account. The same type of procedure holds true as we survey the marketplace to determine the best strategy for selling a product or service. The gathering of market research is like being an investigative reporter, as we ask questions and obtain information and facts.
We need this market research if we are to make the right choices. It's this planning and preparation that will guide our sales channel decision making and strategy. Two good roots that will provide you with solid market research is tracking your competition and asking customers for feedback. I think that monitoring your competition is always important. Whether you're exploring a new venture or have an established offering, it can give you a lot of insight and a heads up when maybe you should be on the same path or going with a different approach.
Always bear in mind that just because a competitor is doing something, it doesn't mean that it's right. I remember a number of years ago a competitor of a company I was with expanded their sales team dramatically to reach a new market. I was perplexed with their move, but also under a lot of pressure to give serious consideration to expand also. Thankfully I didn't, as the competitor ended up consolidating their sales team less than 18 months later. Here are a few ways to get information about competitors that's public for all to see.
Corporate website. You'd be amazed at how much valuable information can be found on the investor relations page, the product launch pages, and in press releases. LinkedIn. I always follow my competitors and the leaders who regularly post articles. Sign up for email updates. Be smart so you're not overwhelmed with email, but you would be amazed at what your competitors will say about their new products or services. Conferences and advertising. Monitor where they're going and how much they're spending.
Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. These sources can be a gold mine of information. The other excellent source of information is from your customer. They can't provide confidential details, but general questions about who's doing things well in the marketplace and how they are being sold by certain companies will often yield some excellent feedback. Again, this also ties back to following the basics of the sales process. Asking questions, being an active listener, taking good notes, and developing a relationship of trust with your accounts and buyers so that you can ask questions without it being awkward.
A lot of this may fall on your shoulders to do if the projects are confidential or if you can't afford to reallocate resources to do it. In some cases, you may need to hire a consultant to help, or even consider hiring interns to do some of the website and social media research. Getting a solid feel of what's going on in the marketplace is not the most glamorous part of developing a sales channel plan and strategy. Market research takes a lot of leg work and manual labor, but what you get from it is such valuable knowledge that it will pay you back in dividends, hopefully spare you some missteps, and aid dramatically as you develop your own course of action.
- Surveying the marketplace
- Reviewing channels
- Managing channels and investments
- Developing a go forward plan
- Working with other departments and teams
- Handling channel conflict
- Forecasting sales
- Creating a channel marketing structure