Commentary by Tom Columbia
Selling Your Competitors Product Is Not A Strategy.
Let's begin with the premise that every link in a supply chain has to be profitable, or it falls apart. This is a familiar chain analogy, yet it remains worth noting why each linkage is reliant on the others success. Appreciation of every partner for their contribution and investment should be equal for the relationship to be consummated. Without a commonly formed strategy it can unintentionally be fractured at its inception. Everyone’s intent is usually genuine, yet when product does not sell on its own merit and without leadership the devotion to the original plan deteriorates.
Marketing envisions a products value, whether it is a durable, or a permeable plan it originates from the wholesaler. It is paramount their strategy is effectively implemented when choosing dealers. The matchup of a product to each vendor in their network is a reciprocal interview that requires mutual agreements on ideologies, not only price. Distributors care about potential vendors previous experience and why they are interested in representing their product. With equal diligence the vendor must inquire about being provided support and to have an opportunity to meet with active accounts. Any unwillingness of either party to share real data should be enough to end the negotiations. A straightforward exchange of business plans avoids the likelihood of either party being drawn into a well-meaning agreement that could be based on vague information or unsupportable ambition.
Experienced wholesalers guide new vendors to sustain inventory levels that match their ability to accomplish a reasonable sales goal. Minimum initial buy ins and reorders of products are clear signals that confirm a vendor’s commitment. Purchasing guidelines immediately filter out the contenders whose intention is to represent a scissor brand only for the use of its name. Ordering an occasional scissor every few months does not justify your name on the company website as a preferred vendor alongside of bona fide representatives of that brand.
In order to enable the product to navigate smoothly through the sales funnel, it is essential that one link invest in a substantial inventory. This is the Primary Distributor (PD) that will supply regional vendors that in turn sell the scissors directly to stylist. The PD is the diverse connection working directly with the manufacturer to select the various scissor designs, sizes, and the volume of inventory required to supply numerous vendors. Additionally, they decide the product quality, provide marketing, and determine the pricing that matches a specific buyer. When these decisions are well thought out the brand is a winner; purposefully separating itself from the plethora of products which would be indistinguishable if not for a unique logo.
Inventory according to the Internal Revenue Service is a taxable asset equivalent to other property. Do not view inventory as a financial burden, but a necessary expense. Businesses with good accounting practices can control the amount of inventory to have available in stock based on actual turnover.
The objective is to develop like-minded vendors in regions allowing them the opportunity for growth without predatory intrusion. They can only be profitable when their vendors succeed, mutual cooperation is vital for growth, and this requires commitments from both parties.
Nonetheless, there are scissor brands that deliberately place multiple vendors with overlapping territories, there is no negotiations for any mutual assurances except terms of payment. Companies that lack a strategy, devoid of criteria to qualify their vendors, are seeking interactions with entities brandishing similar standards. Purposely intermingling vendors with a sales philosophy of buy low and sell at any price to obtain a sale is what facilitates a self-destructive selling environment. Despite the myth that the lowest price wins, stylist respect prices that are stable, it reflects a similar value to their viewpoint on what they charge for services. Scissor brands promoting head-to-head selling are continually on the prowl to replace their vendors that are discontent with diluted profits and inventory that no one respects. Sporadic discounts to turnover products do not encourage customer loyalty, it exaggerates uncertainty about a products quality, and deprives the profits necessary to sustain a business. Countless products have met an unnecessary loss of reputation or an unwarranted demise because of ineffective representation. Eventually the lowest of prices becomes the objection that you attempted to avoid.
When the momentum of my sales became noticed by the competition they sought to jump in on its popularity. The scissors that I sold were not trendy or a well-known brand at the outset of presenting them. The truth is that I avoided selling product that had become commonplace and tainted by underpricing and had lost their panache. My unconventional approach was to ignore the assumed dominance of any of the current brands in the salons. Rather than attempting to resurrect existing products which had misconstrued images I chose to launch scissor brands with an unblemished background. Opting instead to resetting the stylist view of a scissors role in creating the perfect haircut. This strategy turned out to be not only worthwhile for the haircutter, but also rewarding for anyone involved. Conceptual selling made buying a comfortable natural process for the stylist, it focused on how to allow scissors to function effortlessly every day.
It makes sense that PDs would be reluctant to allocate additional salespeople in territories that would impede existing responsible and profitable vendors. Enduring strategies between PDs and dealers are open to all topics, there can be no secret alliances. Both have to realize that modifying or reaffirming commitments are necessary as demand for the product increases. Adapting to changes in business growth requires a team plan that solidifies everybody’s defined role. Ignoring the consequence of normal expansion leaves a void for competitors to fill. Bear in mind though that absolute exclusivity of a product is a utopian illusion, any extraordinary sales record can stalemate into complacency when the PD or regional vendor are not attentive to growth. Stability for one partner can be viewed as a lack of enthusiasm by the other. Competition is the motivation that implements the diligence required to step up and do your part, as your rivals are always ready and waiting for the opportunity to take your place.
Except for the individuals investing in private label scissors, as they are striving to become a PD, there appears to be two separate paths that vendors choose to follow when seeking product to resell. One of the vendor types shares comparable beliefs to the PDs marketing strategy, product quality, and pricing policies and they would be the ideal candidate. They are more predisposed to accept guidance that identifies the buyers most likely to respond to the product. Sincere allies with a similar ideology can build a trusting bond that builds a strong and profitable relationship.
In addition, visionary vendors willingly accept maintaining reasonable inventory that match their sales goal. Having samples to present and product to deliver at the time of the sale is a decisive advantage over competitors. PDs in the search of commitments from vendors generally offer multiple incentives that support growth. I would assume that one enticement would be minimum interference from overlapping sales territories. It would be reckless for a PD not to uphold an alliance with a productive team member.
There are everyday practices that challenge the perceived value of scissors that at the surface seem innocuous. Let's start by uncovering the roots to see where it receives some of its nourishment. Vendors that are uncommitted to their own scissor brands willingly bypass conventional channels and scoop-up sales. This is when a stylist expresses an interest in a certain scissor the vendor does not sell. Then they search for an outlet that is eager to sell that one specific item. This exemplifies a windfall of a winning lottery ticket, take a deposit, hunt for the scissors, deliver them, and make a quick profit. Wait just a moment though, there is usually a genuine dealer in the region that represents that brand. Why would the stylist want to go outside the normal buying network to make this purchase? Let me speculate, this scissor is being offered at a below market price to incentivize the buyer. Everyone enjoys a quick fix of easy cash, right? This occurs all the time, apparently each person has agreed to the transaction, even some PDs or a supposably “legitimate” vendor are eager participants.
All appears fine except this type of transaction weakens the scissors business in several ways. Let me clarify. Representing a scissor brand means you feel it is compatible or superior to competing products, or why bother selling them. A stylist requesting one specific scissor is centering their belief on familiarity, a common place objection that has revealed an opening to start a conversation. Despite the buyer’s bond with a special scissor, they are most likely unaware of what else is available that will satisfy this explicitly stated need. This is clearly an appeal for you to defend your product. All my previous articles on salesmanship have led us to this exact buying situation. Your task is to confirm the buyers need, explore the available solutions, and enable the stylist to select a scissor (solution) from your own product line. Close the sale and preserve your status as a preferred vendor. Succumbing to a basic objection and reaching out to a competitor’s product as a solution renders your brand impotent in the eyes of the buyer. Selling your competitors product is not a substitute for a genuine business strategy. This underscores the significance of linking up with a reliable PD that offers a full assortment of products and the guidance to be competitive.
There is more to follow in the next chapter as I discuss the challenging relationships that can develop between stylist, their vendors, and even the Primary Distributors when there are exploitable weaknesses in the supply chain. Do lower PDs prices allow their vendor network greater profits, or does it encourage them to seek out an abundance of new dealers in an attempt to preserve their own profits? When searching for additional revenue would the PDs accelerate selling directly to your customer base? Intentionally circumventing the typical supply chain on any level initiates mixed messages on who handles product support; perhaps even deliberately avoiding it.