So you’ve invented the next great gadget, and you’re sure it’ll be a hit. In fact, you’ve got cartons of inventory stored in every room of your house that you’re itching to sell, sell, sell. Your test market said they love it, but how can you reach the legions of consumers you’re sure will want to buy it?
Welcome to Sales 101. While there are countless books you can read about sales and marketing, here’s a relatively simple, proven strategy that’ll teach you how to market a product and grow your sales.
Create a Sales Plan
First, define your market as accurately as possible so you have a deeper understanding of exactly who you’re selling to. For example, instead of all women, it may be working women with above-average incomes and kids under age 5. Instead of all men, it may be divorced men in their 40s with six-figure salaries. The more specific you get, the more accurately you’ll be able to target your sales and marketing efforts, choosing the sales channels most receptive to your product.
Next, you’ll need to develop a sales plan. Before you groan, “Another plan,” understand this can be a simple document for your eyes only that’ll help you organize and think through your sales strategy. Write it in a way that makes sense for you. Typically, it should include the following:
- Sales goals: These goals should be specific and measurable, not something like selling a million units. Base them on the nature of your product and try to break them down into manageable parts. For example, sell 50 units to end-users in 30 days and sell 100 units to local independent retailers in six months.
- Sales activities: These are your tactics–how you plan to make the sale. You may say you’ll sell direct-to-consumer through a website or via craft shows, for instance. Or this part of the plan may include activities like developing a sell sheet to send to independent retail stores.
- Target accounts: Your sales plan should also include the accounts you want to sell to. If it’s end-users, for example, plan how you’re going to reach them through eBay, classified ads or your website.
- Timelines: Put dates to all of the above elements so you can define your steps within a realistic timeline. Don’t forget that your timelines should be fluid–if you’re underachieving, your sales plan can help you figure out why and define the corrective steps you need to take.
Finally, follow a proven process for growing sales over time. While it would be fabulous to have Wal-Mart carry your product right out of the gate, it may not be realistic. Most large retailers want to see a track record of successful sales before agreeing to take on a new product.