Proven strategies to grow sales, stand out on a crowded shelf, and 2x your loyal shoppers.  That’s a pretty bold claim but that is exactly what we are going to be talking about today. By the end of this episode you will have the roadmap to do exactly this and much more. 

Hi, I’m Dan, the host of the popular podcast Brand Secrets and Strategies. This the focus of the podcast episodes including interviews with over 50 of the leading industry thought leaders including Gary Hirshberg , John Foraker, Seth Goldman, Sheryl O’Loughlin, Steve Hughes and many more. My guests candidly share their advice, insights, and recommendations with you – we rise by lifting each other up! 

There is a better way. My mission is to empower brands and to make our healthy way of life more accessible by helping to get your products onto more retailers shelves and into the hands of more shoppers.  

The strategies I am going to share with you today have been proven time and time again giving me a significant competitive advantage against the biggest and most sophisticated brands in the industry. They helped me and they will help you. This truly is a David and Goliath story! 

First to help frame our conversation I want to share a brief story with you. 

Several years ago someone shared a story with me that helps put this in perspective. The story goes like this. Several years ago there was a race horse that was the winningest most race horse in history at the time. The horse’s winnings were 10 times that of the second place race horse. For each race, the first place horse beat the second place horse by only a nose.  This didn’t mean that the first place horse was 10 times faster than the second place horse, it was only a nose faster but being a nose faster translated into 10 times the earnings. The point being that only outperforming your competition by a nose can help you standout and outperform them. The best part is that your success is compounded over time!

Now, some of you may be saying that this is business and this would not work here while others are saying that it’s too expensive. I’ve heard this a lot and I will share exactly how I did this later in this episode. I will share with you how I blocked a large national brand from getting incremental merchandising opportunity. I will share with you how I was gifted a 4,200 unit display for a superstore’s grand opening.  

You’re also probably saying, “Hey, I’ve seen your resume, and I know that you’ve worked for some pretty big companies.” Well, you’re right, I have but this is a strategy that I developed without the funding, backing, or the support of any of the large brands I worked for. These are strategies that I developed early on in my career. Let me be crystal clear, I accomplished these remarkable results on my own and with only my own blood, sweat, and tears. These strategies only require you be a little more strategic than your competition every day. Remember that it’s the early bird that gets the worm. I even built a free course to help you navigate these strategies.  Let me explain.

Now for today’s story and how you can leverage these strategies to grow sales, stand out on a crowded shelf, and 2x your loyal shoppers.  

Shoppers want what they want, but they can’t buy your products if they can’t find them. It is your responsibility to make it easy for shoppers to find and buy your products. This cannot be left alone to the retailers. You have a responsibility to help make shopping easy, pleasant, and convenient. Take responsibility for your success. Remember that if your name is on the package. Any missed selling opportunity, out-of-stock, product issue, etc. reflects poorly on you and embarrasses the retailer.    

Here’s my secret recipe.

6 simple solutions to grow sales

 

  1. Become an expert in your category, your shoppers, your competition, and the retailer.
    • Few brands go out of their way to truly become experts in every aspect of their product, the category, the competition, the shoppers who buy their products, and the retailers they serve. This is a huge missed opportunity!  Knowledge truly is power – especially in this hyper competitive environment. 
    • Having an innovative product with a interesting slogan, a compelling mission, and great packaging is not enough to guarantee success today.
    • Becoming a category leader helps you stand out in a crowded category. A category leader is any brand willing and able to commit to becoming a value-added resource to support their retail partners. It does not mean that you need to spend billions of dollars. On the contrary, it requires you to provide insights beyond those of your competitors – actionable insights that help your retail partner achieve their objectives.
    • Know who your shoppers are, what they look like, where they live, their preferences, and what items they purchase along with your products. Also become an expert in your competition. Know why they choose your competitor’s product over yours and vice versa. Become an expert in the retailer and their competition. Become your retail partners eyes and ears. Share with them best practice strategies you learn about in other markets including in other categories.
    • The category leader also goes out of their way to make it easy for the retail partner to say “yes” to every new item introduction and recommendation they make. This is something I cover in-depth on my podcast, in my courses, in my articles, and in all my talks. 
    • These strategies are equally important online and in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
  1. Become a valued resource
    • Become a value added resource to the retailer. Here’s what I mean by that. Most brands when they show up at a retail appointment, bring their checkbook and their completed deal sheets. They then they hope and pray that the retailer puts their product on the shelf someplace where the consumers can find it. This is a huge mistake! If you want to compete against the big brands, you need to be at their level. You need be better than your competition. Let me explain. 
      • Retailers need your help! Retailers can not possibly be experts on every item they sell, in every category, and on every shopper who comes into their stores. Retailers need insights – actionable insights that they can’t get on their own. This is where you come in. Retailers don’t need a generic top-line ranking report. They need to know how your loyal customers shop their stores and which other items they purchase along with your products. They want and need to know everything about your loyal shoppers. They need you to step up and become a category leader. 
      • Savvy retailers want and need you to become a value added resource. They want your to help increase shopper traffic and they want to standout from their competition.   
  1. Improve your merchandising 
    • Merchandising consists of two key things; distribution and product shelf placement.
      • Distribution
        • Make certain that your products can be found easily by your current and future customers.
        • Ensure that your products are being sold in stores that align with your customer base.
          • Don’t accept distribution for items in stores you cannot properly support or in stores that don’t align with where your core customers live.
    • Product shelf placement
      • Make shopping easy and convenient. Don’t force your customers to go on a scavenger hunt to find your products. Help guide the retailer to make your products easy to find.
      • Merchandise or showcase your products on retailer shelves where they stand out from the competition. Help guide the retailer to properly merchandise your products to help them drive sales in their category.
  1. Increase conversions
    • The most overlooked strategy by most every brand is increasing sales in the stores you’re currently in. 
      • If your brand represents 10% of the category sales, strategies to increase your share of the category are where you need to begin. In the example I share at the end of this episode I highlight how I was able to gain incremental merchandising and promotional opportunities by consistently being a nose better then my competition. 
      • If you prove that you can consistently increase sales and shopper traffic while growing market basket size, then savvy retailers will gladly give you every opportunity to help them stand out from their competition.
      • Most brands overlook the power and the potential of an effective social media program. Don’t simply talk at your shoppers like the big brands do. Develop a relationship with them and then invite them to become part of your community – your tribe.
      • Leverage all of your assets including your ability to drive shoppers into the retail store through your social media to help you stand out as a category leader.
    • Increasing the number of shoppers buying your products to 20% doubles your sales.
  1. Maximize every selling situation
    • Always put your best foot forward. Most brands follow the tired old strategy of wash, rinse, and repeat. This is their achilles’ heel. Always do more and be more than your competition. This should be the mantra of every brand. The good news is that your competition doesn’t do this on a regular basis. This provides a unique opportunity for you to outperform them and become a category leader.
    • Always be prepared to sell and share your story at a moments notice. Most of the most effective selling I’ve done has taken place outside the retailer’s office in airports and in other unplanned encounters.
    • Every formal sales presentation should include a mini category review including analysis that goes beyond top-line reports.  It should include shopper insights, schematic recommendations with suggested products to discontinue, merchandising recommendations, your promotional schedule/commitments, and a quantitative analysis highlighting the impact your recommendation will have on their category and in their overall sales. In other words, what can the retailer expect if they implement your recommendation? Few brands do this including the big brands. This is something I cover in depth in my podcast, my courses, my articles and in my talks.
    • Remember, everything is negotiable. As you will learn in the example below, savvy retailers will gladly trade slotting and promotional fees for more shoppers, more sales, and happy loyal repeat customers.
  1. Have a unified voice
    • Have you ever played the game where you share a story with someone and they then share the story with someone else? By the time that story gets to the 10th person it’s usually unrecognizable. This is, in my opinion, the biggest failing of literally every brand – including the big brands. Every selling story needs to be told with the same passion, enthusiasm, and commitment as told by the founder. Anything less is a missed opportunity. This includes ensuring that everyone in your sales team is unified and in lockstep including and especially your outside sales team (your broker, distributor, etc).

So exactly how did I do this???

I always wanted to work in the CPG (consumer package goods) industry like my uncle. So, after graduating from college I decided to leave my first big job as a financial analyst for Standard & Poor’s to start my journey. I realized that if I wanted to be exceptional, I had to learn the business from the ground up. As such, I held several different positions including grocery manager, store manager, etc. The best education I received came from being a DSD route driver selling potato chips and in the back of local retail stores.

This is a hard job and I loved every minute of it. It’s essentially commission sales so I could determine what my paycheck would look like every morning when I got up. Being new to the company, I was given the worst performing route – producing half the volume of other routes.  A whopping $12,000 in the mid 80s. Instead of complaining, I focused on improving myself which included challenging every store on my route to give me a chance and allow me to prove myself. Keep in mind the reason the sales were so poor on this route was because it was neglected, so my reputation at first was mud.

After repeatedly challenging store managers to give me an opportunity to prove myself, I started getting incremental displays. In order to do this, I had to guarantee exceptional service, no out of stocks and no excuses – period! My route was far from where I lived, about an hour drive each way, not including restocking my truck every night for the next day. 

As you can probably guess, Frito Lay was the category leader back then.  Red Seal, the company I worked for was barely a blip on their radar.

Within the first year, I more than quadrupled the sales on my route to (from $12,000 to $56,000), earning top sales person the last six months of the year. During this time, a new superstore moved into my neighborhood. I was the first person they called for a large grand opening potato chip display. The display I built held 4,200 bags of potato chips selling about 5,800 bags at the end of their first week. What makes this story even more impressive is that Frito-Lay did not have a single display that week and I did not pay one single dime for my display.

I utilized the same strategy while working as a grocery manager for Price Club (Costco), and as a category manager for both Unilever and Kimberly-Clark. In short, I’ve been pushing big brands around throughout my entire career as a result of this powerful strategy. Some of my wins include gaining exclusive distribution for a legacy brand at several retailers, dramatically increasing sales in every category and in every retailer, becoming a category captain, being routinely asked to evaluate competitor presentations, in addition to being asked to provide insights and support across other categories at the retailer. I share some of these strategic solutions in many of my 300+ articles which have been published in every leading trade publication. I’ve also used these strategies to help many of my clients identify opportunities and significantly grow sales. You can get the specific roadmap to implement these strategies in my free Turnkey Sales Story Strategies course.

Being a nose better than the competition has helped me stand out each and every time. Applying these simple strategies can help you go from being in survival mode to exceeding your sales projections. That is where this business really becomes fun and where the true innovation comes from.  

Happy selling!  

Disclaimer: While I cannot promise that you will 2x your sales (no one can), if you apply these strategies, you will grow sales. Your commitment is the key to your success. Like the tortoise and the hare, small strategic incremental steps can add up to a huge win.   

The Essential New Item Checklist – The Recipe For Success

Empowering Brands | Raising The Bar

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