Thinking Differently... About How To Sell


Let’s start with a question.


What are the 3 Instagram accounts with the most followers?


First is “cristiano”. Cristiano Ronaldo is way out in front. He has 349m followers. There are only 2 countries in the world with larger populations.


Second is “therock”. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has 271m followers.


Third is “arianagrande”. The pop star has 268m followers.


Anytime they post something on Instagram it has the potential to be seen by at 260m+ people.


Compare that to more traditional forms of media. The Wall Street Journal is the bestselling newspaper in the US. It has a circulation of about 2.2m.


The Sun is the bestselling newspaper in the UK. It has a circulation of about 1.25m. Down from a peak circulation of 4.3m in 1994.


Traditional media channels used to have the power. If you wanted to hear about Cristiano Ronaldo, you had to read about him in a newspaper or magazine.


Now the power is with the individual. If you want to hear about Cristiano Ronaldo, he will tell you direct. Well, you and 349m other people.


Why are we talking about this? The world of shopping is changing. Most people used to do a main shopping trip. They did it once a week. On the same day of the week. At the same time of the day. They went to their nearest store. That was the only one available.


The power was with the retailer.


There are still a lot of shoppers who do a version of this. However, there is a rapidly increasing number of shoppers who don’t. They shop multiple times a week. At different times on different days. They do so because they can. They are many options available.


The power is now with the shopper.


This makes things challenging for retailers. They are facing competition on multiple fronts. Competing with Discounters for the staples. With Meal Kit providers for meals. With Specialists for more considered purchases.


It makes it challenging for manufacturers. They are also facing competition on multiple fronts. Competition within their category. Competition for usage occasions across categories.


Selling in the way that you’ve always sold will not be enough. You will be picked off by the competition. To win you need to change the way you sell. You need to differentiate how you sell.


So, how can you do this?


Differentiated Selling WITHIN CATEGORIES. Often very different parts of a category are sold in exactly the same way. Look down most aisles or scroll down most online pages and you see little differentiation. For instance, tea is largely a wall of boxes. Standard black tea is sold in the same way as speciality black tea. Which is sold in the same way as green tea. Which is sold in the way as cold brew.


To change this, different parts of a category should be sold in different ways. Speciality black tea which is about tastes and flavours should be sold in a different way to standard black tea which is about habit. Make speciality black tea about exploration. Make standard black tea about easy replenishment. No wonder most shoppers walk down the aisle grab what they usually buy (or whatever is on deal) and move on.


This isn’t about tea. This is about most categories. Look at your category. Are you differentiating how you sell enough?


Differentiated Selling ACROSS CHANNELS. There is often a pecking order in how companies think about channels. First, is where to play. Lots of time is spent debating whether to go into Discounters. Or value stores. Or Amazon. Second, is what to sell. Lots of time debating what products to sell in a channel. This usually ends by concluding you will sell what you can currently make. Fast forward to 20 slightly different pack sizes of the same thing in different channels. A very distant third, is how to sell. Most companies are so focused on where & what that they think very little about how.


This should change. Shoppers are in very different shopping modes in different channels. Many shoppers are in exploration mode in the value channel. Many are in solution mode in the fast delivery channel. Many are in replenishment mode in online grocery. Yet most categories are sold in the very similar ways across different channels.


You can be in the right channels. You can have the right products. But if you’re not selling in the right way you have a problem. Are you differentiating how you sell enough?


Differentiated Selling OVER TIME. The way many products are being sold is changing. There are subscription models. Recurring orders of the same product. Or regular curated choices. The monthly gin/whiskey/chocolate/pasta box. You must subscribe to at least one, right?


There are sustainable selling solutions. Brands are doing it – think Cif. Retailers are doing it – think Asda and M&S refill stations. New platforms are doing it – think Loop. There is more solution selling – think Meal Kits. There are more pick n mix solutions – think Lindor Lindt Balls. There are more personalised solutions – think Tails.com. There are more experiential ways of selling – think Magnum pop up stores, think T2.


How categories are sold now is unlikely to be how they are sold in the future. Are you differentiating how you sell enough?


When people think “innovation” they think about what to sell. They think much less about how to sell.


But how you need to sell is changing fast. Faster than what you need to sell.


Are you moving fast enough?


Feel free to forward. Have good weekend. Speak to you in a fortnight.