My patent attorney told me that well over 90% of patented products never make it to market. This blog is about my recent experiences with trying to help a company sell its products.
- If expect something to sell it better be better than what is out there.
- If it is better but requires a different process to install it will be harder to sell.
- If it cost more than the product you are trying to replace then it will be tough to sell.
- There is always the concern that this is nothing new. It does the same thing only looks different.
- If it is new you are going to have a lot of explaining to do.
Even if your company is well established with a long line of products, selling a new or different product is still like starting over, but at least you have the infrastructure. If this is your only product, no matter how great it is you are going to have to travel a rough road.
Selling is hard work….LIKE GOING BACK IN TIME WHEN DOOR TO DOOR SALES PEOPLE WENT AROUND NEIGHBORHOODS.
For the past couple of years I have been going on the road promoting a manufacturers product line a every few months.. The regional rep makes the arrangements and I show up for a lunch and learn event. Generally there are over 20 attendees, which out of that there are typically 4 or 5 contractors that would be considered quality leads. In addition we educate the staff at the yard about the products. The sales rep tries to get some leads on other contractors in the area and tries to set up a visit at their office or jobsite. While we are in the area we will also visit other yards and maybe pick up some contractor leads on the way to the next day’s event. I have even gone to mini trade shows put on by the lumber or drywall yard that may even offer a free dinner to the invited guests. It is not unusual to travel a couple of hundred miles in two days. Basically we go over the features and benefits of the products. The main reason I am there is to show how to work with and install the products speaking as one contractor to another. I often relate better than a person who is strictly a salesperson because I actually use the products on my drywall jobs and I can answer technical questions as the product is being installed.
We show the different products as well as offer some free samples. If we find some real promising prospects we may even offer a jobsite visit and product demo on the job site. Names and addresses are taken for possible feedback later or to send more free samples. After all this work which is going on in all regions of the country we are still just reaching just a small portion of the contractors. It is hoped that when some of these contractors use the product and sales staff get repeat sales they will talk about it and word of mouth will help increase sales. It will be years in most cases before repeat sales and actual orders start. Repeat sales and customers asking for the products is the goal.
Who do you focus on? The behind the counter sales people are often the easiest because they are easy to find. The end users are often harder to find and are resistant to change. Sales want customers to ask for it while end users need to find out about it.
Is it about the money only? I was really surprised about how much cost of the product is a factor in making the decision. Even after I give a demo on how the product is faster and easier to install, the final results are better than what they are using, and usually even more resistant to problems down the road. The question most often asked is how it compares in price to what they have been using. Keep in mind we are only talking pennies per ft in most cases. Are you kidding me? Doesn’t anyone understand that time is money, not having callbacks is money, and a satisfied customer is money?
On top of all this the competition was just there last week bragging about their stuff and maybe putting ours down.
I would guess that most small or one product companies fail or make next to nothing, unless they sell the rights to a larger company which does all the work but also takes majority of the profits.
A larger company with established sales department can bring on a new product and just push it when they are pushing their line. But if that company has 600 different products then these little job site or lumber yard visits only allow enough time to focus on a few at best.
Yard sales staff are busy, often don’t work on commission, may not understand benefits, and have their own opinion already. Do they want to take a chance and have more inventory on hand that may not sell or may take a long time to sell?
It is easier to learn and find out about new stuff today but how many contractors read and study? They are busy working and it most cases aren’t looking for change because what they are using is working and they are used to working with it. I like new products that solve problems but sometimes the end user doesn’t realize there is a problem until it is pointed out.
The product I am talking about here is vinyl corner bead for drywall made by Trim-Tex, www.trim-tex.com . It has been around for quite a while but in most instances it is still considered different. The standard metal nail on corner bead is simple to understand. You just nail it on. And what is stronger than metal? It has been around forever and it does the job. I have never been on a job where a customer has questioned my using a metal bead but when I first started using vinyl I got a lot of questions. Honestly I have not installed a piece of metal nail on bead in 15 years. Why? Because I believe there are better options. I found out about these options by talking to sales people at by supply yard, by talking to exhibitors at trade shows, by reading trade magazines and by being open minded. A lot of sales people put in a lot of time convincing me to use their products. All in all when I like a product I use it and I tell other people about it as well. I guess that is how it all works.
BRINGING A PRODUCT TO MARKET AND THEN SELLING IS A LOT OF HARD WORK.