Developing A Sales Strategy – Bikes Case Study


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English: A guy on a bike wearing spandex

We get a lot of interest in our articles on sales strategy. It’s a topic people want to know something about. That’s why we’ve dedicated a whole section in Reengineering Sales Management to the what, why, and how of sales strategy. We’ve even included a template readers can use as a starting point for developing something of their own, to suit their particular business.

Templates are very useful for getting all the thoughts in the right places, but sometimes a real life example can bring the subject to life. So here’s one from our own businesses. This is work in progress, right now.

We’ve decided we want a business in bikes. Why bikes? We’re fervent believers in the benefits of cycling. We love the machines. We really like cyclists. And we think there’s a successful business to be built, provided we get it right of course. So how do we do that?

Well, we obviously have to walk our own talk.

A fundamental element of any business plan is the sales strategy, and that needs to clearly explain our unique value proposition, who will buy it, why they’ll buy it, and how they’ll buy it. Once we’ve figured that out, we can go on to worry about resources and organisation, and then add up the numbers.

Here’s an outline of how we’re developing that strategy.

First of all we need to explain the market, the competition, and any barriers to entry. Luckily we don’t have to do too much research, since we spend far too much time in bike shops already.

The advantages of cycling are easily understood. It’s fantastic exercise, in the outdoors, and often in great company. It’s a lot of fun. It’s accessible – anybody from 8 to 88 can do it, provided they have the right stuff. It can work wonders for people suffering with obesity, diabetes, depression, and lots of other health concerns. Its healthy for the environment too. And whilst it can be expensive, it needn’t – especially when compared with most other leisure pursuits.

As more people get to understand those benefits, the market for bikes and associated gear is growing, fast. With excitement created by the pro sports teams, and examples set by people cruising the lanes, a new demographic has emerged – Middle Age Men In Lycra – MAMILS for short.

There was a time when building, supplying, and servicing bikes was a skilled trade offered by professional craftsmen. But that’s changed, more’s the pity. Since the market exploded, the supply side has been driven down to commodity status. Manufacturers spend a fortune on marketing, and discount heavily for the trade – all chasing volume. The biggest and best known suppliers are Internet businesses. They’ll sell anything, at very low prices. The bike stores have been driven in the same direction. Quality service, with valuable advice, and the long term relationships of the past, have been been forsaken in favour of volume, at discount.

Between these two dynamics lies the paradox, and our business opportunity.

At precisely the time when cycling has transformed from merely a cheap mode of transport to a lifestyle, the services which actually enable that lifestyle have disappeared. Cycling only gets to be healthy friendly fun with the right bike and equipment, properly fitted and maintained, and as part of a community. Anybody buying a bike, based on the marketing and from a discount retailer, is making a mistake. Without the insight and support of an expert, that cheap bike will be awfully expensive when it stays in the garage, because riding it just isn’t fun, or it doesn’t work properly, or both.

We could, of course, pick out a position as a full service bike shop, but lots of businesses went bust doing that. It just isn’t possible to compete on range, availability and price with the discounters. So that’s a non starter.

We’ve decided to do something scary and counter intuitive. We don’t want to sell bikes. We want people to buy their shiny new bike from the discounter, at the lowest possible price, then bring it to us. We’ll make sure its got all the right bits, we’ll make sure it fits, we’ll make sure it works, and we’ll make sure it works at what the customer wants it for. And we’ll get paid handsomely for doing it, of course. More than we’d make selling the bike.

Our unique value proposition is we’ll evangelise cycling, helping people understand all the benefits on offer. We’ll make sure they get what they want – being healthy, feeling and looking good, having fun on their bike. We’ll promote and maintain communities so they always have somebody to ride with. And we’ll provide locations where they can hang out, drink coffee, eat pies, buy fashion, play games to compete with friends old and new.

We’ll turn the promise of cycling into reality, and do our bit to save the planet in the process.

That’s the unique value proposition. It’s all about the experience.

Who will buy it? The MAMILS, their families and friends. They aren’t buying because they want a bike. They’re buying because they want a lifestyle! And they want to enjoy the experience of buying it.

Why will they buy it? Because we fill the gap between the discounters and the promise. We make cycling work, for you Mr. Customer.

How will they buy it. They’ll come to our destinations in search of the answers. What could cycling do for them, how, and how much? Our experts will help them understand their capabilities, their objectives, their constraints, and help refine their aspirations. Then offer to make it all work.

Is this rocket science? No, of course not. The answer is obvious. Fill the gap between what the customer wants and what the market offers.

That’s a sales strategy surely anybody can understand. It’s all about the aspiration – what customers want for themselves.

Why doesn’t the traditional approach to selling and sales management work so well any more? What can the modern sales professional do to stay relevant in today’s customer driven markets? Check out our eBook Reengineering Sales Management for ideas on how to embrace the new order of customer driven buyer/seller relationships.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Reeves
Consultant, author, software entrepreneur, business development professional, aspiring saxophonist, busy publishing insight and ideas. Boomer turned Zoomer - thirty year sales professional with experience selling everything from debt collection to outsourcing and milking machines to mainframes. Blogger at Successful Sales Management. Head cook and bottle washer at Front Office Box.


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