A supplier had a cracking business with most major multiples but couldn’t get a breakthrough with Asda.

I could see it had demonstrated the commercial benefit well, but on investigation Asda told me: “We ask them for a Mini and they keep bringing us a Rolls Royce!”

When we matched the proposal to the chain’s needs, the buyer’s ears pricked up. Funny, that. But for ambitious suppliers, it’s not enough. The fundamentals may get you a steady business but won’t rock any customer’s world, nor will you have medium-term momentum.

Developing a longer-term rapport means demonstrating longer-term needs. This involves highlighting a performance opportunity for your customer’s category and then outlining a vision that closes the performance gap. This raises the thinking to a higher level whereby today’s proposal becomes the start of a journey towards that vision. But knowing how much to share to get recognition of this ‘joint vision’ is tricky.

One handy hint here is to understand how the buyer views their own business. This is not your view of how they are doing, it’s their view. While some buyers might be pleased with their share or growth, given the same numbers others might be disappointed, seeing an opportunity to do better or an impending threat.

The ones who see opportunity or threat accept the need to change with minimal effort and are most likely to accept your vision as their compass. With these buyers you are halfway there.

With the others, laziness, lack of ambition or plain stupidity mean they don’t see the need to change so couldn’t care less about your offer of help. It’s important with these types to work harder to compare their category performance to a better performance and quantify the profit gap that they would fill by matching that performance. Contacts through their organisation are helpful as buyers move on.

Persuading Asda to want the Rolls Royce of your category is possible, with the right long-term argument. Know your customer’s strategy, know your buyer’s mindset and sell accordingly. Some buyers will, some buyers won’t, some buyers need a lotta sellin’ and some buyers don’t.

Did I say that out loud? Anyway, they are all different, thank goodness. A good sell needs both long-term and short-term category pay-out, yet still expect them to want more.