You're better off with an empty shelf than a shelf full of items that won't sell. Who wants to tie up money in slow-moving inventory?
This is one reason it's a good idea to develop tight relationships with one or two customer service representatives (CSRs) at your flag and warehouse distributor. Those people can be key to your success in selecting the right products and the right number of products. Don't think of the CSRs as just order takers. Build rapport with them. As they get to know you and your buying patterns, they can also offer advice and help you sort through their lines.
"When you look at 500 manufacturers, it can be overwhelming. But that's why our sales team members are there to help," says Scott Pilkenton, national sales manager for Integrated Supply Network Inc. (ISN). "They can tell you what's hot and point out what's just arrived," Pilkenton says. "If we get in something today, it will be on our website by 12 a.m. tomorrow."
Your CSR can tell you what is selling well nationwide and in your particular area and can help you gauge what to buy and how much. The good CSR is there to help you increase your turns, not just stock your shelves. The more you sell, the more they sell. It's a win-win.
"What we don't want to do is overstock somebody," explains Pilkenton. "We know that we want them to turn their inventory, so they're keeping really fresh products. When we have other hot new products come in, we don't want their 'open to buy' to be totally obliterated. We want to make sure we're working with them to stock the correct items."
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