Sales Success Tips from Valkyrie & Co’s Marina Bekker
Photos and story by Becky Yee.
For those of us on the artistic side of business, we can be as creative as we want to be, but sales (and accompanying profits) are what bring our products out to real world. So what’s it take to be successful at both sides? We sat down with sales expert and Valkyrie & Co founder, Marina Bekker to glean insight on what role sales has in the success of a product.
Marina, how long have you worked in sales?
Recently I realized that I’ve been selling in one way or another since I was a kid. I remember walking by a wholesale bag shop with my mom when I was about 16 and asking to get one. I was told you had to buy 10 and you get wholesale price. Though my mom thought I was crazy, I bought the 10, brought them to school and sold them at 100% mark up. The last one I kept for myself though, after all that was the point, right?
People that are born with a passion for sales are able to succeed in this line of work and some can further explain what it is that is innate to them. It’s the difference between knowing how to speak English and being able to explain how to use English grammar, like present perfect progressive, to someone who doesn’t. Professionally, I can say I have been in the industry for 15 years.
Looking at your success in an industry where national brands hold so much of the market what have you found to be the golden touch to succeed in such a market without a known brand name backing?
When I entered the sales field it was important for me to know who I am and the story I am telling to my team. Being a person of integrity and a strong work ethic and knowing that is the strength I bring that to the table. That is the same strategy I have to adhere to the product.
There are several key factors in my strategy but without revealing all my secrets I can name my top three.
You have to define who you are as a brand. That sounds extremely simple but it tends to be the toughest aspect for business owners to build as the foundation of your product when you are new to the game. Any big or small operation has to really focus and internal resources defining who they are. A clear perspective and idea could be the reason you climb to new heights. Knowing that in sales, in the market we are in, you are not selling a product but an idea or emotion and that is what you have to sell.
If you are not niche but you have a niche voice, or conjure an emotion – now you got something! Within that, also keeping it simple. We are done with the Rococo style of abundance in marketing and messaging.
Impatience is the killer for most of failed businesses I have seen. If you want to climb that wall and scale to the peak you will have to think of the long game. Your best interest is your customer’s best interest, you have to almost feel like you are on their team. This means having ability to take one step at a time, making the climb slow and steady as you reach the momentum you need. Keep your brand integrity and vision to align with your decisions which might conflict with easy sales. The goal is to have an honest partnership with your customers but also with your brand, which means that taking a step backwards is sometimes the best strategy so that you can really tell a true story. There are enough bad connotations and stereotypes for sales people. You need to break that title and prove that you are here for mutual success with your clients, and it has to be genuine.
Another key strategy in sales is confidence and not the full of hot air type of confidence where you smile and promise everything is ok. You need to do your leg work and supply your customers with full detailed reports, delivered with said confidence. Highlighting not only the winners but also the losers. Whether you are a buyer or a sales person, both sides of the equation feel overworked and underpaid, and are doing way too much within the time we have. But we as sales people depend on our sales for the success of our business, where as they don’t depend on you at all. You have to stand out from the competition in your absolute service, expertise and knowledge of how to keep climbing and building on what works.
Getting over that fence isn’t easy but it is a lot easier if you know who you are, why you are climbing, have a strong integrity giving you that push and choose the most simple and direct steps along the way.
What is the difference in approach for budding brands vs. established brands and private label manufacturers?
At the end of the day, sales is straight-forward. Ideally, manufacturers and wholesalers both have to have the right product, at the right price, and most importantly at the right time . If you are in a decision making role within sales then you already know your market and competitors, otherwise you shouldn’t be selling. What you layer on top of that is sensitivity to the client’s customer and if they are ready for a concept you are proposing. You constantly need to walk a fine line between unwavering determination and reluctant. How do you both be pushy and sought after? Sales strategies and approaches are the same for the US market for product whether it is a brand or manufacturer.
How do you think you help brands get over hurdles?
I help brands succeed by first knowing what makes their products so amazing, but that’s not what the real hurdle is. The real challenges are the next steps which are knowing which battles are worth fighting and which you simply have to bend the knee and make friends. It is not an easy task to service the wide array of different retailers and channels we offer in the US. Often I see brands either making too many exceptions or none at all and staying very firm on what they want to do. That is why the mapping and structure is so important. It helps to give you a vision and priority for your brand. If you can’t do something better than the competitor, what CAN you do? What do you offer the consumer that they didn’t even know they needed – and remember it’s not a product, it’s an idea.
What are the benefits for working with a consultant versus and in house team?
In house teams are incredible at knowing everything about the intricacies of the company. They know the jargon, political tones and powers, processes templates and they are extremely loyal. However, what a consultant like myself brings to the table is a new perspective. I come with a wider range of experience and a touch on the pulse of the market, fresh ideas, and a lot more to lose. As a consultant, I have to be right every time, because my next client can only come from winning for my last client. When you are in a discord with a friend, usually you both mean well but its hard to understand the other because you already have a rhythm in place. When you ask third party objective mediator to chime in, usually the key to the solution was not only simple but totally different from one point or the other. It is important to invite others into your world to offer another perspective which comes from visibility to a lot of different worlds not just one. I have come across so many different companies, each with their own structure, pace, and attitude and it has helped me be the consultant that I am today because I can reach into that pool of solutions and ideas to fine tune a strategy for each client.
Are you available to work as a consultant for brands?
I do work with brands as well as manufacturers and start up design houses. It has always helped them to get insight on what avenues they can take for the outcome they want to achieve. With so many different ways to get to where you want to go out there in the splitting alleys of the fashion industry, you don’t want to have missed the turn you needed. Or, if you do end up having taken the wrong turn you want to be sure you have a way of owning where you landed and redirecting yourself towards the road that leads to growth and domination.
As a consultant I work with brands as well as manufacturers to streamline processes, identify best routes, give perspective on what their buyers want and see the partnership through their eyes I think its important for budding brands to understand the market they are stepping into. A lot of brands out there have a beautiful product and/or message but could benefit from some expertise in what “brings the boys to the yard” = what will actually result in sales. That means a different way of communicating and presenting and even jargon used. Following the paradigm or breaking it could be the difference of success or failure