You’ve met your buyer, you’ve agreed some stuff and then nothing happens. ‘7 Ways to Get Better Traction with Your Supermarket Buyer’ is about helping you to get progress on the actions that you have agreed with your supermarket buyer, because the alternative is frustrating. A frustrating circle that results in neither business making the progress that the category or its shoppers deserve.
Image courtesy of our cartoonist friend Mike Flanagan
1. “I thought you were doing that!”
The very first piece that we need to do well is to get a good understanding of who is doing what and by when. ‘Minutes’, as they were once called because the person at the parish church meetings took one minute to write each action. Minutes are not very exciting, but they are absolutely essential because without an agreement of who is doing what and by when, there are no agreed actions. To capture the actions effectively use 3 columns; ‘What’ – Because you need to know what the action is, ‘Who’ – Because you need to know who is doing the action, and ‘When’ – Because you need to know when the person is going to do the action by. Many people save so much time by not writing down the actions and then spend days later regretting it!
Action: Use these 3 simple columns on a sheet of paper at your next meeting to capture the actions effectively.
2. ‘Less is more’
The precious time that we get with a buyer must, of course, be spent very wisely. Whilst you have a list as long as your arm of things to discuss, identify the 80:20. What will deliver 80% of the results that you need from only 20% of the list? You’ll probably never achieve all of your list anyway and maybe some items can be sorted on the phone or on email. Your meeting is for those items that need to be done face-to-face and will achieve the ‘big’ results.
Action: Before your meeting identify the ‘must do’ meeting items and make sure these get done first.
3. Send an Agenda?
This is considered old school because in the fast paced world that we live in, who sends agendas? The answer is that those people know the power of an effective agenda. The agenda should not be an agenda of ‘1. Introduction, 2. Supply Chain, 3. NPD…’. For the agenda to be effective, it needs to contain the questions and the challenges that you have. Theses are the items that you want to discuss, with enough information that the buyer can either be thinking about the problem, or ideally have emailed or called someone before you meet. Maybe a buyer putting some pre-thought into the meeting off the back of your agenda, only happens 1 in 3 times – It is still worth the time.
Action: Send an effective agenda before the meeting. Ideally in the same week, 3 days before.
4. Agree the actions before you leave
Whilst time is precious with your buyer, please leave a few minutes at the end of the meeting to agree what you have agreed. At this point you should have a list of actions; What, Who and When. Read through the list filling in the gaps and ensuring that the ‘What’ is clear because this is where most ‘grey’ happens’. Seek clarity – ‘So you are looking for a 20 slide deck emailed to you showing a, b and c?’.
Action: Agree the actions at the end of the meeting.
5. Back at the office
Email a set of the agreed actions to the buyer. You may not get a response, but on the times that you do, you’ll be glad for the clarity, e.g. ‘I meant I needed it by 2 weeks Wednesday, not 4 weeks Wednesday’. Phew!
Action: Email the agreed actions to the buyer. Do not be tempted to change, or ‘adapt’ them.
6. Identify the ‘big’ actions
As you compile the list of actions through the meeting, you’ll need to be identifying which ones are more ‘valuable’ than others. One action is not worth the same to you as other actions. On these actions explore with the buyer the ‘What if?’. For example, ‘If the retailer xyz action does not happen, how should I follow-up with you?’. More than exploring what happens next, you are gaining permission of how to follow-up, if this action does not happen.
Action: Identify the most valuable actions and explore what if scenarios.
7. Resurrect the actions
At your next meeting with the buyer, take copies of the previous actions and make this the first item on the agenda because you both need to become comfortable with working in this way. Plus, reviewing actions is good business practise because whilst we all like to think we are moving at speed, we are often just going over the same ground that was not properly dug the first time.
Action: At the next meeting review the previous actions first.
You’ll find out more great tips, and much, much more, about working with buyers, categories and the big 4 UK supermarkets at the Category Management Academy. To find out more contact us and mention ‘Category Management Training.’.
How do you get traction with your buyer? Please share your view by commenting below.