Calling on Commercial
A technique for increasing your commercial business
We are always looking for ways
to increase our sales. In today's economy, maintaining our position
will not work. Rising costs of doing business, declining margins
of many items, and the warehouse stores that are looking for ways
to decrease our sales for us, are three strong reasons for our continued look for growth. Like any other retailer, we look for
ways to bring in new customers from our advertising. And once
we have the customer in the store, we work to find ways to sell
more merchandise. No longer can we settle for just letting the
customer come into the store and selling him what he needs to
solve his problem. And to sell more merchandise to those customers,
we are making strides to have our end caps sell more merchandise for us.
We also tell all of our team
members that empty peg board space will not make any profit for
any of us. What we need them to do is constantly search our wholesalers'
catalogs to find new items to stock.
We also have several incentives
for our team members. There are a number of products, that when
suggested, lend themselves to an add on sale. These products now
carry a cash bonus for their sale.
In addition to showing our team
members our daily gross sales, we now show our average sales ticket
to our team members. There is a new incentive program for increasing
our average ticket just $1.00 for each month.
While these types
of sales and inventory efforts, and incentives are constantly being
performed by many stores, we have now added a new dimension to our
search for new customers, and our search for more business from
our existing customers.
We started on this task as we
noticed that some of our commercial house charge accounts were listing
us as a trade reference as they applied for credit at some of the
specialty suppliers. While we would not expect to receive all of
this customer's business, we saw this as an opportunity to expand
our value to these customers.
We now spend several hours each
week making face to face visits to our commercial accounts. By way
of our computer, we have a printed list of these accounts, their
credit limits, contact person, and total purchases.
We supply our "on the
road" representative with a number of tools to make the most
of his time and to help him make a good impression on the customer.
The rep carries a letter of introduction which tells our customer
that we appreciate their business, and that the purpose of our
call is to make their job easier by attempting to stock additional
products that they are having to search for.
We remind the account
that our stocking more of the items that they need will cut down
on the number of stops that their maintenance people have to make.
We even tell them that we provide free coffee, soft drinks, and
popcorn to their people so that they won't stop at a convenience
store on their way back to the job.
The bottom of the letter
is a coupon which can be redeemed for a quart of an all purpose
cleaner which is a private label item. We think that the $4.00
coupon makes our letter worth reading.
The second tool which
our representative carries is an offer to sample six quarts of
products from our cleaning supply department. If the customer
will charge the six quarts to his account and try them for 30
days, we will give a full refund to the customer when he returns
a product evaluation sheet to our store.
The third tool is a
list of products which are items which we would believe to be
most frequently used - 4' fluorescent bulbs, brooms, mops, and
floor waxes. When we call on these customers, we do not have any
prices, only information. It has been our experience that these
customers are more so looking for availability and convenience.
We have so far, not had to get into a bidding war with a warehouse
store or lumber yard for someone's business. And, we probably
won't, if we are invited to do so.
We ask the customer to give
our sales representative a tour of his facilities. Not only do
we want to show our interest in his business, but we want to look
about for items that we aren't selling to this customer. We will
ask our customer where he is buying the product and with what
frequency is he using the item.
It is important to take notes,
ask for questions, and make sure to get back to the customer with
answers within a few days. In addition to visiting with the maintenance
staff, there are occasion when a visit to the individual responsible
for processing the invoices is helpful. Even if the account has
a history of being slow to pay, this visit can be helpful in getting
their attention to process our statements promptly.
have been helpful when we have identified accounts whose purchases
have recently dropped, or when we find multiple location accounts
where one location's purchases are lagging far behind. Another
of our objectives that we hope to accomplish is getting the attention
of schools, hospitals, and churches.
Finally, most every store
can relate to the situation of having received a request from
one of these groups for gifts, prizes, cash donation, or buying
an ad in their publication. We are now taking the opportunity
to stop this organization while making their pitch to ask what
we need to do to get more of their business.
With one of the
local colleges we reminded them that it would be of no value to
us if we were unable to capitalize on receiving the business of
the school or the students. Their sales representative left without
a firm commitment of advertising from us, but also with an assignment
of opening some doors for us at the college.
In the movie Field of Dreams, the saying about a baseball field was, "If you build it,
they will come." In today's market the saying is not true
for most of us about our hardware store. And with thought in mind,
we go about our job of calling on our existing accounts and eventually,
we will call on potential accounts as we look for more sales.