Suppliers will often complain it is hard to get ideas and plans heard by retailers, who hold so many of the keys to success.
There are several reasons for this. Buyers may not be convinced that a proposal made to them is truly in their interests. They are overloaded with suggestions and recommendations from competitors, which are often conflicting. And even if they do think your idea has potential, there is a limit to the number of initiatives they can throw their weight behind.
So how can you maximise your chances of getting a buyer’s support for your ideas? Here are three ways.
First, be credible. This means your key people demonstrating robust understanding of the category, the history of what has and has not worked in which stores, and the needs of the consumer.
Data and analytical expertise is important. Companies who bend data out of shape to make selfish recommendations get found out in the long term, and buyers stop believing them. A big part of credibility is having a track record of success. Don’t become the boy who cried wolf – full of promises for the future, but short of successes in the past.
Second, be positive. Life as a buyer is tough. So bring positivity, enthusiasm and a sense of possibility to your meetings. This is how startups often outshine long-established fmcgs.
Companies such as Graze and Lucky Saint owe much of their success to infecting retailers with their heartfelt belief in what their brands can do, for themselves and for the category. Often, longer-established organisations have the skills to develop good products and manage the category, but lack this “oomph”. Buyers are people, and most people respond to something exciting and energetic.
Third, be consistent in what you say. Suppliers who tell a different story every time they are in front of a buyer will quickly lose respect. Instead, carefully consider and agree with the buyer a strategy for growing the brand and the category. Then religiously follow that strategy through.
Each time you see the retailer, recite the agreed strategy, and then position your latest proposal or innovation within the strategy. All your people – across function and from top to bottom – must understand, believe and competently express the strategy. Consistency and repetition build your reputation. It’s a big mistake for suppliers to think they need to be saying something new and different every time. PepsiCo used to talk about having an “ongoing narrative of category growth” and I like these words.
It’s not easy to get heard by retailers. But it’s easier if you demonstrate your credibility, bring positivity and be consistent. That’s the way to fertilise your ideas, and make something good happen in stores.