negotiating with a UK Supermarket Buyer

Negotiating with a UK supermarket buyer requires the National Account Manager to be the very best version of their ‘negotiating selves’ for two reasons; 1. Because if they are not, a lot of money can be lost for the supplier and 2. The supermarket buyers are very well-trained in the art of negotiation.

On our negotiation skills training course, using our unique ‘Sticky Learning ®‘ method, we always advocate win:win because any other alternative is not conducive to a long term mutually beneficial relationship. Here are ‘5 Questions to Ask When Negotiating with a UK Supermarket Buyer’ that will help you to achieve win:win outcomes:

Two businessmen discussing what are their important assets

Assets: Money and People

Image courtesy of our cartoonist friend Mike Flanagan

1. “Under what circumstances would you accept…?”

This question helps to understand the boundaries of what is possible. By asking this question you may get back from the supermarket buyer, ‘Well, if you gave us £50,000, we’d do it’. At least you understand that money is the motivator to solve this particular issue and you also have an idea of how much.

2. Questions starting with either; Who, When, How, What, Which, and Why,

You’ll know these as ‘Open Questions’ (Any question that cannot be answered yes or no). In our experience of learners on our negotiation skills training course, everyone has heard of open questions, yet very few actually use them. An open question will get to the 80% of the 80:20 rule. A closed question will get to the 20%.

3. ‘Of the things that you have asked for – Which ones are most important to you?’

Like any good negotiator, a UK supermarket buyer will have a list of shopping items that they want. By asking this question you can begin to understand which items are more important than the others and address those first.

4. Clarifying question, ‘Does that include?’.

Closed questions have their place. Normally in the ‘Closing’ stage of the negotiation. A clarifying question seeks to find out if you have understood the agreement correctly by checking the details. For example, ‘For the listing of that range of sku’s, does that include local stores?’.

5. ‘How does our agreement change, if x is not implemented in-store?’

This is a conditional question that explores the ‘what if?’. If x, y or z, do not happen, as we have agreed, then you are wanting to understand how the agreement is adjusted accordingly. For example, if launching a new range of skus is important to you for this financial year, and the range is delayed due to the retailer, what condition can you put in place to safeguard against this?

To find out more about how we can support your team to be the best negotiating version of themselves please contact us.

What’s you favourite negotiating question? Please share your view by commenting below.

Darren A. Smith

About Darren A. Smith

Darren has been working in the world of UK Supermarkets & Suppliers for over 25 years. He began his career as a buyer at big 4 UK supermarkets and after 13 years he decided to leave to set-up Making Business Matter because he wanted to help suppliers and supermarkets to work better together.


  • Sam Cook says:

    I think one of the most important questions, is the one regarding the circumstances required to accept whatever the deal is about, question number one. Other questions can follow this and can be also very important but to know what they are willing to give (/up) and what the motivators are, is key to any negotiation. Very good article here! ++++

  • Andre Brown says:

    Very applicable detailed step by step guide to, what I imagine to be, a large audience. Great work.

  • Archie Neale says:

    Negotiations are so important, and this article has highlighted the 5 main questions to ask. These will give you so much essential information so that the negotiation can go in a desired way.

Leave a Reply