Working to Stay Focused on all Your Product Lines
One of the major balancing acts of any multi-product line wholesale distributor is how well you are allocating proper time and marketing dollars to each of your product offerings. Now we all understand the need to prioritize your top performing products (profit producers) and focus the bulk of your time and investment there. With any luck every product you inventory makes a contribution to the bottom line (produces profit dollars) and of course every product vendor representative wants their product to be higher up on your priority list.
The solution can be as simple as giving each product its time on your annual product promotional calendar. The simple act of reviewing your product lines and placing them on your annual product promotional calendar is a key step in being sure you give each the focus needed. In most cases each product has a specific month or two when sales volumes are at its peak. This sales volume peak will help you determine the correct month or months to place it on your product promotion calendar, the best time is just prior to those peak sale increases.
Here is an example of the right months to place a product on your promotional calendar: Cabinet sales are the strongest for our company a couple months prior to the Thanksgiving holiday and again during the season when many people are receiving tax refunds in March and April. So cabinets are on our annual product promotional calendar in October and again in February. These are our best months to market the product line and get ahead of the potential historical demand for the product line.
Another practice that will help you stay focused on your product offerings is to place the expectations on each of your vendor representative that they travel with your outside sales force on a consistent basis. Simply explain to each vendor representative that with 20-plus product lines in your offering (Lavelle’s Company’s case) they need to be coordinating travel with each our your outside sales individuals to bring their product back to the forefront. It works! I have been placing the expectation on our vendor representatives to travel a minimum of twice per year with each of my outside sales force. Be sure to encourage your representative and the vendor representative to travel together in the same vehicle, this is a great time to review their products, review changes since the last time they traveled together and get to know one another better.
The most recent practice to improve product focus that has been implemented by our company is the expectation that each vendor representative/supplier send us a complete product complexion report recapping our purchases for the quarter/YTD as well as a recap complexion report of products sold in our overall region (Midwest as an example.) We review these reports with the vendor representatives on their sales calls with us; we take the time to talk about current performance, overall offering, trending and dead inventory. This time forces all parties to understand where we are, where we have been and plan where we see opportunities for growth by working together. Low performing or non-performing inventory items get talked about constructively; marketing support can get developed based on a real review of the product line. With all of this we still find ourselves loosing focus. I think it is just how it can be when you try and promote 20-plus product lines.