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Show Me Something New

I was talking with one of my sales reps earlier today when she reminded me of the most common phrase every salesperson hears (one I uttered several times)

“What have you got that’s new?”

Every smart vendor knows they have to be showing new stuff all the time to keep the buyers’ interests. We do that at HABA USA with new product releases at least twice a year.

It is this obsession with, “Show me something new,” that has me thinking today.

Does this obsession actually help us or hurt us?

“New” does not always mean “better”. For instance, there hasn’t been a better overall toy made than the basic wooden block. The same holds true for the LEGO block invented 70 years ago. At the end of the day, all the themes disappear into the simple bliss of imagination and constructive play.

Sure we have new ways to communicate via email, text, and social media. But building relationships with your customers has never changed. In fact, I could argue building relationships is more important now than it ever has been. (I will make that argument on the floor at the ASTRA Marketplace and Academy in June. Hope to see you there.)

“Show me something new” also takes on a different meaning based on the person asking the question. An Early Adopter wants to see something no one else has seen. An Early Majority person wants to see something that has recently been given the stamp of approval by the masses.

When I was a buyer at Toy House, I asked that question a lot; partly because I had already seen the rest of the line, partly because I didn’t have time to go over items I had already rejected, and partly because my sales reports would tell me what was and wasn’t selling of the older stuff I had bought.

As a store owner/manager, however, I had to be more careful with the “new”. Not every new marketing scheme was a winner. Not every new POS system or credit card processing offer was a worthwhile program. Not every new technique for hiring/training/managing a team was a time or money saver.

I had to have a prism through which I would I would view everything new. Once again that Early Adopter/Early Majority dichotomy came into play. (If you don’t know those terms, click the link back there for an article explaining the Diffusion of Innovation.)

I am an Early Majority type person. I don’t need the newest, latest innovation. I prefer the tried-and-true. Here is how I viewed “new”

New Products:

  • Does it have the same Play Value as what it replaces?
  • Does it meet the needs of my customers in both play value and monetary value?
  • Is it from a vendor with whom I have a relationship (or want to have a relationship)?
  • Does it fit with our Core Values as a company?

New Services:

  • Is it proven to work as or more effectively than what I am currently doing?
  • Does it save me time or money or both?
  • Is it consistent with our Core Values as a company?

If I were an Early Adopter I might look at “new” like this …

New Products:

  • Does anyone else have this or a similar product already?
  • Is it considered “cutting edge” in any way, shape, or form or simply a twist on something old?
  • Can I get an exclusivity on this product?
  • Does it fit with our Core Values as a company?

New Services:

  • Is anyone else in my category already using this service?
  • Does it enhance the company image of being “cutting edge”?
  • Is it consistent with our Core Values as a company?

“Show me something new” has been the mantra in sales long before I arrived and will still be there long after I am gone. At least now you have the questions to ask to know if something “new” is worth it to you in the long run.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There were times where I wanted to ask the sales rep, “Show me something you’re about to discontinue.” We had stretches where our best sellers from several lines were discontinued by the company because we were the only store able to sell those items. As a large store in a small, blue-collar community, I had to do a lot of volume to pay the bills. We did best with Early Majority, tried-and-true products. That knowledge helped us be better buyers for the long run.

PPS Did you ever wonder how something could be both “New” and “Improved” at the same time? Yeah, me too.

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