Mar 22

What Is Your Fashion Brands Unique Selling Proposition?

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion

Do you know what your unique selling proposition is or as some people call it your USP?  Your USP is what makes your business different from your competition. According to Theodore Levitt, author and professor at Harvard Business School. “Differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which companies must constantly engage.”

The reality of the fashion industry is it is not really growing.  The market doesn’t need another brand.  So if you are going to start a company the first thing you must ask yourself is…what makes your business different?  Why should someone do business with you instead of one of your competitors? You should ask yourself this at the very beginning of planning your company.  And you should be asking it again at every stage of your business.  This will help you create the story of your business.  It of course needs to be compelling.

There are 3 key steps to determining what your USP is.

1.   What is your company good at?  Or as expert marketer Seth Godin asks “What is your superpower”?

 

2. Does your product look unique?  It doesn’t have to be strange but it has to have it’s own identity.  It should stand out from the competition.

 

3. What emotional need does your product meet?

By developing your unique selling proposition you not only have a reason to exist but it goes a long way in helping you with your marketing message.  Whenever I speak to a new client the first question I ask is what make makes their company special.  Being able to answer this is the first step in starting a business.

 

Mar 20

Why Telling Your Story Is Important For Your Fashion Business

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion

I was at a trade show one day shopping for product to sell in my shoe and accessory store.  Passing by a booth I saw belts that looked interesting.  The salesperson gave me the information about the belts and I was ready to leave.  Then the owner of the company came over and told me the story of the company and the belts.  The story was so compelling that I sat right down and wrote an order.

Stories have the power to inform and educate, entice and engage a customer. Stories can capture the imagination and influence decisions. When you are marketing and selling, telling your story will create an emotional connection.  This is how you begin to create a brand.

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What are the elements of a good brand story?

Start with the reason your company came to be.  What was the vision behind your product, the inspiration that was the catalyst in creating your business?  I love the story about Spanx.  Sara Blakely founder of Spanx was going to a party one day and had white pants she wanted to wear.  She wanted to make sure she had no lines or bulges.  At the time there were no undergarments that did the trick.  So she bought control top pantyhose and cut the feet off.  After wearing it all night she realized this was something women needed and her company was born.

The next chapter should explain your USP (unique selling proposition). What makes your product fabulous and unique and why a customer should by it.  Remember to discuss benefits as opposed to features.

The story needs to have a hero.  Just as Sara Blakely was the hero of the Spanx story who is the hero of yours.  Is it you?  Then tell the story of you and how you came to the business.

Telling your story with passion, honesty  and excitement will make your story powerful.  Sharing your business story builds a sense of trust and familiarity and people are more likely to buy from those they relate to, understand, and most all, they trust.

Mar 19

Making Effective Sales Calls

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion

With the advent of emails many salespeople have given up on calling prospects.  Let’s face it, calling is hard.  It’s one thing if someone rejects you by not answering your emails.  It is another thing if they reject you over the phone.  However, it is a great way to reach out to someone.  There is nothing more effective as having a conversation with a buyer about your product.  This way you can have a give and take where you can counter objections or answer questions the buyer may have.   The question then becomes, what do you have to do to make sure you have effective calls?

Give yourself a goal of making a certain number of sales calls a day.  And I don’t mean 5.  It should be more like 20, 30, or 50 if you can manage it.  The more you reach out the more results you will have.  When you speak to a buyer know in advance what you are going to say.  You should introduce yourself and your company and ask if they are available to speak.  If not ask when would be a better time to call .  Then make an make an appointment with them for that time.  If they are available  you should be prepared to tell them the story about your company.  A well honed founding story that includes your USP (unique selling proposition) will help you connect with your customer.

Don’t just call anyone.  Make sure you do your due diligence  on your potential customer.  You want to determine if your product is right for them.  Otherwise it is a waste of your time and theirs.

Most times you will not get someone on the phone.  Don’t give up.  Keep calling till you get them.  Ideally phone calls plus a mailer and/or email are the most effective way to reach out to a prospect.  This way you are getting in front of them with pictures and information and the phone call cinches the deal.

Mar 16

Sales Management and The Fashion Business

By Maria Pesin | Fashion , Productivity

 

“In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”, Laurence J. Peter from the book “The Peter Principle”. Good salespeople become good sales managers.  Is that true?  Not according to Laurence J. Peter.  Just because you were good at sales doesn’t necessarily mean you will be a good manager.  Yet many heads of companies think so.  Their hope is that the new manager will teach the salespeople how to be good at sales.  The idea is sound but the execution usually is not there.  And why?  Because we don’t train our managers to be good managers.  Many industries have comprehensive training programs for different kinds of employees.  They don’t throw them in the pool and expect them to be able to swim.  So why does the fashion industry do that?  Just as we should be teaching our salespeople to be the best they can be, we should be teaching our sale managers.

According to Vantagepointperformance.com “Most sales manager training is simply re-purposed sales person training, and sales leadership programs are often focused on generalized leadership skills. But sales leaders need more than better selling skills and an executive presence – They need targeted education on how to guide their salespeople to higher performance.”

So what are some of the things we should be teaching our sales managers?

  • How to communicate the companies vision.
  • How to coach salespeople for maximum results.
  • How to set performance standards.
  • How to be proactive rather than reactive when handling customer related issues.
  • How to go from being a super salesperson to a super sales manager.
  • How to lead instead of just managing.

Ironically we don’t train our sales managers because we think we don’t have the time or the money to invest in training.  Keep in mind, that there is no investment that you can make that will do more to improve productivity in your company. Therefore if you really think about it finding the time and money to train is really an investment in you business.

 

Mar 03

How To Grow Your Fashion Business Quickly.

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion

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This is going to sound really simplistic but the number one way to grow your business quickly is to spend most of your time on sales.  As a business owner I know how easy it is to get bogged down in the minutia of running your business.  Answering emails, working on your product, developing your website and so on.  These are important tasks no doubt.  But, nothing is more important than sales.  If you don’t have sales you don’t have a business.

I work with many entrepreneurs.   They are passionate and excited about their companies.  They work hard on developing their product, which they should.  But many work on their product to the exclusion of marketing and selling.   The most successful business people I know are the ones  that put daily consistent effort into building their sales.   The least successful, are the ones that let days go by without doing anything to move the needle forward.

In Siimon Reynolds article for Forbes “The Fastest Way To Grow Your Business”, Mr. Reynolds suggests that if you are running a new business you should devote at least 80% of your day to sales and if you’re an established business you should spend at least 30% of your day on the sales process or connecting with customers.

Now you might have sales staff working for you so you think you are covered.  Well, actually, no.  Salespeople find it just as easy to get distracted as business owners.  It looks like they are working hard all day and they themselves feel like they are working hard.  But many times it is busy work and does nothing to build sales.  I have a good friend Linda that built an $80 million knit business in 5 years.  She was so focused on sales that she took all her paperwork  home so that the time she spent at the office was dedicated to sales and sales management.  If your salespeople are doing paperwork they are not selling.  Hire an assistant for them  so that they can stay focused on what you hired them for…selling!

As owners we also need to be the face of the company.  Spending time with your sales peoples accounts can only help increase sales.  When you are there opportunities come up that may have not have been noticed otherwise.  You also are building relationships with the buyers.  We all know that relationships are the foundation of the selling process.

“I’m a hustler, baby; I sell water to a well!”
― Jay-Z

Are you a hustler?  Are you alway out there getting in front of customers?  Maximize the time you spend on sales and you will quickly build your business.

 

 

 

 

Feb 11

5 Questions To Ask When Hiring a Fashion Sales Rep.

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion

 

 

Hiring the right sales reps can make the difference between success and little to no business booked.   Like hiring anyone there is a right way and a wrong way.  Finding someone takes time and you should meet with several before making a decision.  Here are 5 things to consider before signing someone on.

  1. Are the lines the rep carries compatible with yours?  You want your collection to be surrounded by lines that would sell to the same customer you sell to.  If you have high end contemporary apparel than you want to be in a showroom that focuses on high end contemporary stores.  It does you no good to have your line seen by stores who could not sell your product.
  2. Does this sales rep have lines that compete with yours?  If you make cotton shirts and the rep you are talking to already has a line making cotton shirts than this is not the place for you.  There is enough competition out there, you don’t need to have your own rep splitting his efforts.
  3. Is the image of the salesperson appropriate?  Whether the rep is traveling the road or has a showroom, the whole package should  be right.  If you are selling children clothes it doesn’t  make sense to be positioned with someone who’s image is of a black leather biker.  You also want someone who is professional and has polish no matter what the market is.
  4. Does the rep want your line?  Salespeople must really believe that what they are selling has merit and is a good product.  If you have to convince someone to take a line they don’t want chances are they won’t do any business.  The best rep for you is the one who is excited about your product.
  5. Is the rep a hard worker?   Are they there if you call first thing in the morning and at the end of the day.  How long till they return your calls?  Do they travel to see stores?  This is a harder thing to determine from talking to someone.  Get references and speak to the references.  Have your questions written down so you won’t forget what to ask.

While getting the right answer to these questions is no guarantee that you will have good business not having the right answers will guarantee you won’t.  Remember you have to work with this person or people so you should like interacting with them.  Having a good feeling about them goes a long way.  If your gut tells you they aren’t right than trust yourself.   Keep interviewing till you find the one that is the right fit.

 

Dec 08

Why a Startup Venture Needs a Business Plan

By Maria Pesin | Business , Fashion

It’s true not everyone puts together a business plan before they start a business. I have a good friend who is also a very successful businesswomen and she doesn’t believe in them. She feels that you cannot really know what your first year sales are going to be until you are actuallyin business. Is she right? While I agree with this reasoning that you cannot really know I still strongly believe a business plan is essential. Maybe she was lucky in that she didn’t need one. However most entrepreneurs do. Business plans are a map that you put together to figure out what steps you need to take in order to be successful in your journey. Would you start a trip without directions on how to get there? So why would you undertake a new business without a plan on how to achieve your goals? As a new business wouldn’t it make sense to do everything you could to raise the odds for success? One of the great things about putting together a business plan is that it forces you to answer questions that flesh out your business concept. If you look at a template for a good plan it will ask you questions about your vision, your customer, expenses, mission statement, product, and more. I work with many startups who find that the process of making a plan clarifies their concept and gives them a clear cut guide on how to proceed. They find that they save time and money and reduce mistakes. This is why making a business plan so valuable. Don’t take short cuts. Make a business plan and increase your chances of success.

Dec 03

The Fallacy of Multi-Tasking

By Maria Pesin | Productivity

 

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As a business owner and single mom life is pretty complicated. So in order to get as much accomplished as possible in the shortest amount of time I bought into the whole concept of multitasking. I proudly tackled projects and chores while taking calls, answering emails, keeping an open door policy for staff, and spending time with my children. Generally multitasking to the Nth degree. But am I really getting more done or in fact less?

 Gloria Mark PHD and Professor in UCI’s Department of information was quoted saying “we found (in her research) about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task

Would I be better off letting calls go to voice mail, emails not being read and closing the door in order to have uninterrupted time to concentrate on the job before me?

According to John J. Medina Author of Brain Rules and a developmental molecular biologist. “Multitasking, when it comes to paying attention, is a myth. The brain naturally focuses on concepts sequentially, one at a time. At first that might sound confusing; at one level the brain does multitask. You can walk and talk at the same time. Your brain controls your heartbeat while you read a book. A pianist can play a piece with left hand and right hand simultaneously. Surely this is multitasking. But I am talking about the brain’s ability to pay attention… To put it bluntly, research shows that we can’t multitask. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously”.

Probably doing laundry when you are with your children is a good way to multitask as laundry is a low concentration activity and you can spend quality time with your son or daughter talking. They don’t need to be entertained all the time. What I do now is block out time and actually use my phone timer to where I allow uninterrupted time to focus on a particular job at a time. It is working for me and I accomplish more in a shorter time.  Think about working smart rather than working hard.