Merchants: do you want to be better at sales?
The pressure is on for merchants, with challenges like volatile materials pricing, availability issues and even recruitment shortages making every day a bit more uncertain.
In an ideal world, you’ll be overrun by customers and your biggest issue will be how to process so many sales transactions. But in reality, the challenges are far more complex, especially with the rapidly shifting landscape of pricing and availability that merchants are currently working with.
There’s more than one type of sales role in merchanting – some are more focused on managing existing customer transactions and upselling to them, while others are more concerned with making new customer sales and attracting new business. There is likely to be overlap with other departments like marketing, stock control, finance and logistics, so having the right information to hand is critical no matter which side of the farmer/hunter sales equation you’re on.
So how can merchant sales people meet these challenges, and make more sales?
3 step sales process
In any sales process there are, ultimately, three main phases: pre-sale, sale and post-sale.
The ultimate aim of any sales person should be to make every part of those three stages as positive an experience as possible for the customer. Whether that’s about the price, the convenience, the speed of transaction or the service received at delivery, there are opportunities at every point for your business to impress your customers and make them more likely to return.
What do you need to make a good sale?
The right information – customer history and previous quotes; product detail and availability; certification and safety info where relevant; customer contact details and accurate knowledge of lead times and delivery options.
The right stock – what do you have, where is it, and how fast can you get it? Having an accurate view of availability and lead times is absolutely critical for customer satisfaction and your information needs to be reliable. If you don’t have it and can’t get it, what could you offer instead?
The right price – knowing what customers have paid for similar products before is helpful, but with today’s market volatility you need to know what constitutes a fair price without compromising too much margin for your business.
The right relationship – if you have a proven track record with a customer, they’re far more likely to come back to you time after time. And how do you build that track record? Through reliable service, good communication and fair and honest dealing. It takes time to build but remembering to treat customers as people, to be polite, helpful and friendly, and to keep them updated with where you’re at will go a long way.
The right business intelligence - One of the most important things that the sales information in a good ERP system can give you is a way to spot gaps and opportunities faster so you can focus your efforts in the right places. Knowing exactly how you're performing across a range of metrics helps guide the decision-making to drive new approaches, attract new customers, upsell to existing customers or inform pricing strategies and promotions - to name but a few.
The right customers – that may sound counter-intuitive but not every sale is a good sale. If it’s losing your business money overall, either in terms of actual loss of margin or in terms of compound cost to serve thanks to difficult customers, repeated returns or continual late payment, then maybe more is not always better. Either way, it’s vital that you have the right information to hand to let you know which customers are good for business and which are a drain on your resources.
If repeat custom is your biggest revenue stream then sales managers need to be proactive in pushing for ways to encourage customers to buy again – and to buy more. Whether that’s reminding customers that a particular product they’ve bought before is on offer, or going the extra mile to suggest linked or complementary products to boost the initial sale, there are plenty of ways for a sales rep to add value throughout the process.
Understanding how your stock is selling and how profitable it is can be enormously powerful in helping you to determine the offers you should be pushing, and your sales people are the ones who can help deliver those incremental sales so it’s vital to work together.
The big point is - if you don't know what's happening in the business, you can't focus on the right things, and that means everyone's efforts end up being spread too thin, or are directed in the wrong places.
What about eCommerce?
If you’re selling online as well as in-branch, it may be tempting to think that sales will just handle themselves. While the challenges of selling online may differ in some ways to the more traditional, face-to-face sales approach, many of the underlying principles remain the same.
Your eCommerce team needs to be just as aware of the principles of selling as your in-branch team, and the reliance on accurate information that can be accessed quickly is, if anything, even more important. All of it relies on excellent underlying infrastructure – and that means a top notch ERP system.
So how does Merchanter help?
When it comes to selling, confidence is key
It’s all about confidence: the confidence your sales people have in the products, the numbers and the service, and the confidence your customers have in your business.
And confidence can be created.
Confidence requires proven reliability, relevant, regular communication and a mutually respectful relationship. The more a sales rep can trust the numbers in front of them on the system, the more confidently they will be able to handle customer questions and produce the relevant quotes.
Merchanter helps build that confidence on both sides. Let’s take a closer look at some of the features of the system which help sales teams do their jobs better.
We have literally built a metric called Stock Confidence, which is an instant gauge of the accuracy of the stock levels on the system at any one time, meaning sales reps can have more confidence that what they’re selling is actually available. If stock confidence is low on the system, attention is immediately drawn to products where verification is needed so no false promises are made.
In addition, features like Stock Turn help ensure the right products are kept in stock and more available. In general, the fact that the system is used by the whole workforce from yard to MD’s office ensures that information is accurate and up to date at all time.
We’ve also built in some nifty catalogue features which enable access to the products you might sell, not just the ones you already do, meaning you can offer customers a wider choice at all times.
Result: faster answers, better availability, greater reliability, smarter replenishment
Convenient, flexible metrics
It’s easier to quote and order products using the metrics your customer uses. You can easily switch between metric and imperial measurements but also you can do it by length, weight, volume, pack or unit, to keep things accurate and in line with customer expectations.
Result: happier customers who are able to buy in the way they want to, and you keep on top of the figures quickly and easily
Easier ordering and processing
Add milling or processing instructions straight from the sales or purchase order, saving time, effort and room for error.
Result: time-saving internally, fewer errors, more accurate fulfilment of orders, less waste
Credit and margin controls
Give sales people more freedom and flexibility to give the best deals with built-in credit and margin controls. Thanks to our advanced pricing options, you can set margin levels by customer but also build in exceptions in granular detail, down to category, sub-group or even product level. That means less red tape internally and a much slicker sales experience for your customers, as sales reps are empowered to make decisions then and there without needing approvals every time. And you still have the safety net of credit or margin limits so you know you’re always trading profitably.
Result: remain profitable at all times; speed up negotiation and selling timelines; empower sales team
Being able to keep an eye on pricing is so important; and not just the prices a particular customer has been offered before. With market tracking, you can see the prices in the market too so you know whether your quotes are in line with the market, avoiding either over- or under-pricing stock despite wildly fluctuating market pricing.
Result: Defensible, safe pricing at all times that stays in line with market expectations, with the flexibility to make exceptions where needed.
Automations throughout the system save huge amounts of administrative time. Auto-sending of quotes / estimates and invoices; reports; faster access to certification and customer notes; process automations and more. Integrated ERP systems ensure that the information held across the business is up to date and accurate so everyone has a real-time picture of stock and operational movements.
Result: faster resolution to customer queries; better auditing of certification; massive time savings on standard admin processes; less room for human error.
OK so this one isn’t strictly for an individual sales rep but it’s worth noting that because Merchanter is highly interoperable, we can link up your back office system with your front end eCommerce site, ensuring that the information your online customers have access to is up to date and accurate, and that online sales are recorded instantly on the system so that stock allocation can’t be duplicated accidentally.
Result: Fewer errors, better stock control, better availability, more sales.
Clear targets and progress
The right information available more easily
Customised dashboards on the system mean that every member of the team has the information they need at their fingertips to help them do their job more easily.
In sales, for example, each rep will have clear targets visible with progress tracked so they can quickly see the opportunities and gaps. That means they can flag up issues sooner and know exactly where they stand; plus, clear visibility of targets with tracked progress is proven to drive performance and motivate teams when managed correctly.
Critically, Merchanter gives you the numbers you need to help you know where to focus your efforts for the biggest impact.
Find out more
Merchanter is designed to help every member of your merchant business to do their job more easily. We design it to be easy to use so that every member of the team can be confident using it, which means better information on the system which helps it to help you drive better business across the board.
GIVE IT A TRY: REGISTER FOR OUR ONLINE DEMO SYSTEM AND TRY FOR YOURSELF!