Sales are Lagging Behind Plan? Use This Handy Tool Kit of Ideas!

by Stephen Lett

So your sales are in the toilet? Your internal expenses are based on a plan you are not meeting? Here is a handy tool kit of things to do that can help get you back on track! It is not uncommon to be missing plan. We have all been there! The question is how to react to less than desirable sales results and how soon you should take action. While there might not be any quick fixes, we have identified twelve strategies you can consider to help guard against having a disastrous year.

The daily report continues to show sales are lagging behind plan. This seems to be a trend. One day does not make a difference but looking at results for the past few weeks, we feel it is time to take action. It might be time to pull some tools out of our tool kit to fix the problem. Our column this month is about generating additional demand revenue and not about cutting expenses. It is difficult to slash your way into profitability and the long-term affect of this type of quick-fix can be devastating to your business. Here are a few ideas for you to consider getting your revenue back on track.

  1. Use a Bounce-Back Offer – This is something you can do immediately with very little lead time required. Place a coupon for “$5.00 off (or $10.00 off) your next offer” in all outgoing packages. Make certain the coupon is the first thing the customer sees when they open the carton. Hit them in the face with an offer! The offer should include an expiration date. It is difficult to state an exact date with bounce-back offers since they are inserted overtime. Therefore, simply state that the “offer expires in 30 days”. Money off bounce-back offers do not condition the customer to expect another offer the next time. Bounce-back offers are an effective way of generating repeat orders from satisfied recent buyers.
  2. Promote to Catalog Requestors – Make a “strong” offer to catalog requestors which will increase their conversion rate. There are two things you can do. First of all, you can slap a label on the cover of catalogs being used to fulfill catalog requests which states the offer. You can also make an offer to the inquiries or requestors you are re-mails as part of your normal mailings. This can be done by having your printer apply a “dot-whack” label to the front cover of the catalog.
  3. Promote to Prospects – Offer prospects a dollar amount off their first order. This does not create expectations that another offer is coming. This is an offer that is “event” driven which is the most effective type of promotional offer you can make. In this case, the event is the conversion of a prospect from an outside list to a new buyer, i.e., for new buyers only. There is a clear purpose for making the offer which makes it event driven.
  4. Maximize Merchandising Opportunities – Increase (don’t decrease) page count. Add more items and make certain the buyers have a plan to “shop”. Most often, any lag in sales is not the result of circulation but rather due to some other factor, i.e., merchandise offerings. Check the mix of price points and category breakdowns to be certain they are consistent with the past. More merchandise (resulting in more pages) will increase the rate of response and increase sales. Obviously, this requires a longer lead time.
  5. Use Your Call Center – Empower your telephone sales representative to make offers to customers. On average, more than 90% of all catalog orders result in a phone call to your call center. Authorize your call center employees to make an offer to the customer while they have them on the phone. Give the call center more than one offer from which to select and let your telephone representative select the offer they feel is most appropriate for each particular caller.  Be willing to pay a commission or a spiff for add-on sales. You will be surprised how much incremental revenue you can generate from your own call center employees.
  6. Promote to Web Buyers – They are very sensitive to promos and they expect them as well. Web buyers are an over promoted group! If you need to increase demand, consider making a stronger offer when purchasing on the Web.
  7. Add a Mailing to your “Best Buyers” – If you need to generate additional demand revenue, consider adding another mailing to your better customers. It is hard to over mail your top performing R-F-M house file segments. You can generally squeeze more revenue from these dependable customers by mailing them again (and again).
  8. Develop an Outbound Telemarketing Program if You Sell B-to-B – For you catalogers who sell business-to-business or business-to-institutional, you might want to test an outbound telemarketing program. If done right, an outbound program can be an effective way to generate additional revenue. Start by calling customers who have not purchased for awhile. Or, contact people who have requested a catalog but have not yet ordered. Have a call strategy in mind and don’t make random calls to your best house file R-F-M segments. Not everyone can make outbound calls. Therefore, avoid using your inbound department to make outbound calls. Use an outbound service or hire people with appropriate experience. Being willing to pay a 5% to 7% commission on all sales generated by our outbound representatives.
  9. Mail the Gift Recipients – Make a special offer to the recipients of gifts, a group called “giftees”. These are people who have received a gift from one of your customers but who have not actually ordered from your catalog. This group of non-buyers represents an in-house list that you can tap for additional revenue.
  10. Use Title Slugs – This is another business-to-business mailing technique where you use your own customer list as a prospect file. Simply remove the name of the customer and insert a function title, i.e., Attn.: Sales Manager or Purchasing Agent, etc., and mail to the business and address already on your file. The use of title slugs are a good way to generate additional revenue from the same businesses already doing business with you. The use of “slugs” help you reach other influential people within these companies or businesses.
  11. Post Card Mailings – A tool used to react quickly to lagging sales is a post card mailing with a quick expiration date offering a discount, i.e., dollar off or percentage off. The discount or offer would be applied to a current mailing. Customer can take advantage of this special offer On-line.
  12. E-mail Your Best Customers – Make them a offer. E-mail blasts can be done quickly and for very little cost. As with post card mailings, E-mail campaign specials should also have a quick expiration date. This will create a quicker call for action.
WHAT NOT TO DO
  Be careful NOT to promote your way out of a sales slump. This can be very dangerous for your business. After a couple of times of making strong offers to attempt to fix your sales problem, your customers will become conditioned to expect another strong offer the next time they order. Don’t condition the customer. To avoid this make certain an offer you make is “event” driven as opposed to an offer made across to board.  

As you can see, there are tools of the trade that you can use in order to generate additional demand revenue. Obviously, there is a cost/benefit relationship to each and every one of these techniques.  Lagging sales are most often not the result of a circulation issue. However, circulation programs can help generate additional revenue when needed. Don’t panic. And, don’t react too quickly. Take a longer term view and be sure you are not throwing good money after bad. While it has been said that the three most important factors are sales, sales and more sales, be careful not to have top line mentality. In the end, it is the bottom line that counts!