Partnership for Success

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Our favorite type of project is one that we help from start to finish. Our team identifies an opportunity for a client, guides the company through implementation, and celebrates the launch before we analyze results.

This month, we are pleased to highlight a partnership that we created between our partner, Petco, and Canadian Tire. You can read about the collaboration between these well-known retailers here.

Below you will find additional details about our role featured in the Pittsburgh Business Times.

"Pittsburgh startup helps Petco enter Canada"

How to Get Noticed on the Shelf

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Congratulations! You have a great product, and you have interest from retailers. In fact, they want to put your product in their stores. Many brands believe “getting on the shelf” is the ultimate goal. They believe securing placement and distribution is the end-game for a product. In actuality, it’s  just the beginning.

If your product is on the shelf and customers don’t notice it – they don’t buy it. If customers don’t buy your product, you’ll be off the shelf in no time and back to where you began – but with one less opportunity. Follow these steps to ensure your product gets noticed and that getting on shelf is only the beginning of your success.

1)  Why buy? What motivates a customer to buy your product? What is the “reason to believe” your product will solve their problem? If you can’t answer the question of why a customer should buy your product in a clear and succinct way - they won’t. The reason for customers to believe in your product – the value proposition – must be easily understood and clearly articulated. Know exactly who your ideal customer is and why they need your product.

2) Tell your story; communicate the message. Once you have identified the value proposition, and you have identified the ideal customer for your product – you need to communicate the solution. The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is incredibly relevant in this situation. Your product will be next to many other products, on a crowded shelf, in an unknown retail setting. If you try to communicate your message to the customer through too many words on a package, or a sign, you’ll get lost in the shuffle. Figure out a way to effectively communicate your message and grab your ideal customer’s attention with minimal text and compelling imagery. You’ll have a much better chance of “standing out” from the crowd.

 3) Get prime real-estate. Whether on an end-cap or at eye-height on the shelf, improving the physical positioning of your product in stores will encourage customer interaction. Identify opportunities in the physical store space that will call attention to your product and engage customers. Can you setup in the middle of an aisle? Is there a place near the check-out? Perhaps there’s a front window to the store that can showcase your brand? More “facings” for your product means more opportunity for customers to see, and, hopefully, buy your product. And, don’t forget about cross-merchandising. Can your product be merchandised, along with other complimentary products, in addition to the category listing?

 Follow these suggestions when working with retail partners and you’ll be sure to optimize the placement you have worked so hard to achieve. Remember, getting on the shelf is only half the battle. Your product needs to sell and for that to happen – your product needs to be noticed by customers first.

For more advice on how to strategically place your products in the right retail outlets, or build an impactful Sales Process, contact Castus via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or visit our website: http://www.castusglobal.com/

Using Features and Benefits to Bridge the Gap with Customers

Believe it or not, most Salespeople don’t understand the fundamental difference between Features and Benefits , as they relate to the sales process. The good news is that if you grasp the concept, you’ll be able to clearly articulate the value of your product or service to a potential customer. But before we share three keys to leveraging features and benefits, we must ensure you have a solid definition of the terms and can tell the difference between Features and Benefits.

Features are the attributes of a product, program, or service. Features are numerous and will almost always outnumber the benefits. For example, a parachute has many features. It can be lightweight, quick-deploy, high strength, and colorful.

Benefits are the reasons a customer will care or buy. Benefits can be intangible “feelings” and are often connected to a deeper meaning. Continuing the parachute example above, the benefits of the parachute are simple, but important – it will save your life when falling to the ground.

Now that we have established clear definitions, we’ll share three key concepts to keep in mind when focusing on the features of your product and how they benefit the customer.

1)    Resist Your Training. Most salespeople love to talk about features because they have only been taught (or learned) the details of their product.  Features, are easy to remember, and often allow you to physically engage the customer by demonstrating your product or service directly. Finally, features are objective. A new car is either black or blue in color. It either has four-wheel drive or it doesn’t.  As a result, explaining the features of a product is generally a “safe place” for the salesperson. But you must resist your training to simply list a number of features for the customer. Move forward in the process and explain HOW the features are relevant to the customer and WHY they should care.

2)    Why Should They Care? If you cannot articulate why a feature matters to a potential customer, then it doesn’t. And if a feature isn’t relevant then it shouldn’t be part of your sales process. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes for a moment and imagine listening to a long list of product features that don’t matter to you. You would not only refuse to buy the product, but you would be annoyed as well! If you have done your homework ahead of meeting with a potential customer and you clearly understand their need, you should be able to connect specific features to their need and ultimately demonstrate value.

Photo by  Willie Fineberg  on  Unsplash

3)    Bridge the Gap. All customer problems (needs) are connected to a finite list of universal benefits. These benefits typically relate to money, power, time, prestige, self-understanding, and fear. But the benefits of your product are not always easily interpreted by a potential customer. They need help understanding how the feature(s) of your product will satisfy their need and, in turn, provide some of the universal benefits mentioned above. When “bridging the gap” you should focus on a specific feature, support it with evidence and/or data, and walk the customer directly to the realization of how it will benefit them by addressing the problem they are trying to solve. Make the connection from feature to benefit and you’re more likely to make the sale as well!

Not all customer needs are the same, so you’ll need to spend the appropriate time understanding what needs you are addressing with your product. But by keeping the above concepts in mind, and by following a measured approach you’ll be able to strategically and methodically move through your product features in a way that will resonate with your potential customers. This will, in turn, make your sales process more engaging and less chaotic!

For more advice on how to explain features and benefits to a potential customer, or build an impactful Sales Process, contact Castus via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or visit our website: http://www.castusglobal.com/

Six Steps for Dealing with Customer Objections

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No one likes rejection. And rejection can be especially painful when you are deep in the sales process. While the Castus team has successfully launched hundreds of products in markets all around the world, we have faced our fair share of challenges along the way. In our experience as International Business Consultants, by following these six steps you’ll be more equipped to deal with customer objections and more likely to close the sale.

1)    Pause. When a customer objects to your solution, your first instinct might be to immediately rebut their objection without giving proper thought to their concern. Don’t panic. Take a deep breath and think critically about what they are saying before you formulate a response. Often, this brief pause will allow you to interpret a deeper meaning.

2)    Restate the objection. After the customer has finished sharing their concern, take a moment to digest it and restate it in your own words. This will ensure you are fully understanding their thoughts and it will allow you to put a positive outlook on the situation. For example, if your customer says, “I have heard your service is terrible” you might try restating their objection as, “It sounds like you have concerns about the quality of our work?” The goal is to keep the conversation moving in a positive direction.

3)    Clarify. After you and the customer have identified their objection, you can now spend time probing for deeper meaning. Often, customers are unable to articulate the full reasoning behind their objection. As a result, you’ll need to dig a little deeper with questions like, “What specifically concerns you?” or “Do you have any data you can share regarding your concerns?” This will allow you to address the core of the objection and ensure you aren’t missing a bigger issue.

4)    Answer the Objection. It can certainly be intimidating when a customer objects to your solution, but it is critical to fully acknowledge and address the objection to the best of your ability. Attempting to dismiss a customer’s concerns sets the entire sales process, and ultimately your partnership, up for failure. By leaning into the customer’s objection you’ll demonstrate that you value their thoughts and you care about finding the right solution to their problem. It can be incredibly impactful to offer real-world examples of how you have addressed similar problems with previous customers. You can even offer to provide references if you have the ability to do so.

5)    Confirm. If you feel you have fully addressed your customer’s objections, then you should be able to confidently ask them to confirm as much. Don’t over think this step. By simply asking, “Have I adequately addressed your concern?” you should get a direct answer that will tell you whether you have more work to do, or if its time to move on to closing the sale.

6)    Transition. It’s important to address customer concerns, but it’s just as critical to keep moving through the sales process and towards closing the sale. Before jumping straight to “the close,” make a smooth transition. Take a moment to thank your customer for openly sharing their concern(s) and acknowledge that you appreciate their transparency. By taking a thoughtful approach, you will again demonstrate the fact that you value your customer’s input, which will ultimately build trust in your partnership.

The above steps assume that your customer is being honest in their responses and not providing “false” or “phony” objections. False objections can be incredibly frustrating, because they are not based in reality or fact. The good news is that by following the same steps outlined above, you will eventually identify the fact that your customer doesn’t actually have an objection, they are simply unwilling to purchase your solution – which actually means they aren’t a qualified customer to begin with!

For more advice on how to navigate objections, identify false objections, or build an impactful Sales Process, contact Castus via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or visit our website: http://www.castusglobal.com/

Three Critical Areas to Consider When Looking for a Distribution Partner

Leveraging distribution partners to accelerate your international expansion can be both an efficient and explosive way to accomplish growth goals. But it’s important to consider all aspects of distributor relationships and how they will impact not only your growth, but also your brand.

Consider these three critical areas when vetting current or potential distribution partners and you will likely save time and money.

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1)    Are they capable? This seems like an obvious question to ask when considering a distribution partnership. But too often brands are chasing a purchase order, or the opportunity to enter a new market, and they forget to consider the fundamentals. Can the distribution partner buy, warehouse, distribute, promote, and service your products?

This question should be approached from two angles. Financially speaking, it is important to confirm that any potential partner can fund not only an initial order, but follow-up orders as well. The last thing you want is to have a successful product in market, without the ability to capitalize on demand.

Separate from the financial aspect of a partnership is whether a partner has the physical means to support your business. Do they have enough warehouse space? Can they store products in a safe and clean environment? Do they have delivery AND reverse logistics procedures for your products?

Again, these questions seem obvious, but I have seen many partnerships initiated without site visits, which means you should be very deliberate with your questions regarding the physical logistics of a potential relationship. 

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2)    Do they have the proper connections? One of the main values of partnering with a distributor is their ability to enter a market quickly and professionally. There can sometimes be a miss-conception that distribution partners are nothing more than sales reps with a warehouse. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Many distributors may employ sales reps, but they themselves are not the sales reps. Rather, an effective distribution partner will have strong relations with key channels throughout their market – at the corporate level. 

There is still a critical need for an effective sales team to sell your brand, but having established relationships at a higher level, means your distribution partner will likely be able to speed the sales process for their team and build support for your products throughout (retail) organizations in the form of favorable terms and / or funding. A well-rounded, and effective, distribution partner will not only have resources in key businesses areas, they will know how to leverage them for your mutual success.

3)    Do they have a unique skill set? By definition, all distributors are businesses. And generally speaking, they follow a similar construct of buying, selling, and promoting products in their local markets. But not all distributors approach business the same way. Some potential partners are focused on high-velocity, quick turns, and big numbers in order to make their business work. Other distributors may work with a limited number of brands, but invest more time and energy in the “brand building” aspect of their products. Neither strategy wrong, but each offer different approaches to how you will structure your partnership, and ultimately your growth in new markets.

unique skill set

One of my personal experiences was with a distributor that did not operate in the same product category as my company's brand. But the distributor was masterful at handling innovative technology and building foreign brands in their home market. We chose to work with this partner instead of others who were in the same product category and we were thrilled with the results. Our partner was not the obvious choice, but because of a unique skill set, they were the perfect choice for us.

Ultimately, the saying “nothing replaces hard work” holds true when considering a distribution partner. If you are diligent with your process, deliberate with your questioning, and you exercise good judgement while considering the questions above - you will be on the path to finding the right partner for your brand.

For more advice on how to maximize your distribution selection process or build an effective International Business Development strategy, contact Castus via email (hello@castusglobal.com). For ongoing tips, trends, and news - visit our website: http://www.castusglobal.com.