By Kevin McGirl
The global flooring market is large – according to Global Market Insights, it was worth more than $270 billion in 2016, and its value is only set to increase further. Opportunities for market share are abundant, but competition is fierce.
Opportunities to acquire new customers are disproportionately swept up by larger flooring companies. These companies are more easily able to undercut smaller competitors on price, and they have the resources to experiment with thousands of new product lines and solutions. This increases commoditization at the expense of differentiation. Larger companies also have larger budgets, and can, therefore, make more substantial improvements to operational efficiency – giving them the time and resources they need to target larger audiences.
Accordingly, smaller flooring organizations often find it difficult to achieve market share. So, what can their sales and marketing teams do to gain ground on larger competitors?
If you’re working for a flooring company, here are three key roadblocks to sales that are most likely holding you back – and some advice on how you can remove them.
1. Unclear pricing rules
Let’s say you need to make your product or service more appealing to customers, and quickly. How would you go about that?
If you answered ‘lowering prices,’ you’d be wrong. Lowering prices does nothing to improve your offering – it simply indicates what you think it’s worth. By undercutting your competitors, you further encourage commoditization, receiving a short-term sales spike at the cost of long-term profitability, brand integrity, and customer relationships. Besides which, larger companies can always undercut you right back. If you get into an escalating game of pricing chicken, you will eventually lose.
To tackle this challenge, you need to set clearly defined pricing rules. The first of these rules should be that no single person – whether they’re CEO, head of finance, or head of sales – has unilateral authority over the cost of your product. They will all have the best intentions for the business, but they may have different ideas of what is and is not a reasonable price.
Another key rule is simply that prices should always be customer-centric, and accurately reflect the value of what you’re offering. How does your product or service improve your target market’s businesses? How is it different from whatever your competitors are offering? Are customers highly price-sensitive, or are they willing to pay a higher price for a better product? Most importantly, what are they looking for beyond the simple transaction?
If you consider your customers’ larger business needs, instead of thinking about how to sell them a specific item or solution, you’ll be able to create better value and identify key up- and cross-selling opportunities. A lower price for one item won’t be as attractive to them as a package deal that combines two or more items that their company desperately needs.
When you discount products, you risk becoming a discount brand. Always look to compete on value rather than price.
2. Lack of differentiation
Understanding your customers means understanding why they might prefer a competitor’s product or service over yours. The relative lack of differentiation in the flooring industry can make commoditization seem inevitable, but it isn’t. You can diversify your offering – you just need to figure out how.
The first thing to do is check your offering against the other offerings on the market. What need can you fulfill that your competitors can’t? What unticked boxes could you conceivably check? If you can’t notice any meaningful difference, then you need to create some. Smaller firms can’t easily stand out on price, and they can’t over rely on established relationships. They need to innovate to survive.
Modify your existing product lines or create new ones that speak to your customers’ specific needs. Look into selling value-add services such as routine maintenance and consultations. Think about what you can offer beyond the single transaction – what can be rolled into a package deal or a longer-term business arrangement.
Generic products and services don’t make a significant impact on the market. Meaningful ones do. Don’t imitate when you can innovate.
3. No agility, no insight
What keeps a salesperson from selling?
More often than not, it isn’t lack of ability. It’s that their job entails more than just selling. If you’re spending time cold-calling prospects, preparing for meetings, compiling reports, or conducting various other energy- and resource-draining administrative activities, you will have less time for sales. The biggest roadblocks for salespeople may well be those that face them when sitting at their desks. Anything that keeps you stationary instead of out courting new business is a distraction: a lack of agility and mobility can be lethal to your company’s chances of engaging new prospects.
Fortunately, technology can do much to lighten this burden. Automation tools can take care of tasks like data entry, compiling reports, and meeting preparation – freeing up time to research clients, refine proposals, or develop a more compelling pitch. Customer data analysis software can reveal preferences such as their previous purchase history with your company and when they prefer to be contacted – preventing you from finding out what they like and dislike the hard way.
The technology adoption process should always start with determining what keeps the team from performing and then finding appropriate tools to eliminate these problems. A business that can streamline effectively – doing more of what matters and less of what doesn’t – is always better placed to capture market share. Your larger competitors may have more money than you, but cash is only one resource. Make the most of your time and your customer information; if you do, you’ll start to gain ground on the industry’s major players.
Kevin McGirl is the President of sales-i. To learn more about sales-i, visit sales-i.com.