Retail Buyers: Getting what you want AND keeping your salesperson happy!

It is no secret that retail is changing and increasing pressure to “win” is causing tension between buyers and sales teams, particularly as margin pressure hits both sides.  In addition, lower profits are causing both sides to cut their teams’ size, putting more work on their plates and less time for successful value–creating negotiations.

In this atmosphere, buyers should consider flipping the traditional model of engagement and take the lead in driving negotiations – this will help you get what you need AND even make the salesperson happy.   

Typically, buyers let sales teams drive the engagement: they set the agenda, they make the pitch, they provide the data and “reasons”, and they put the first offer on the table, anchoring discussions where they want things to go. Instead, buyers should:

1.      Write your own narrative for the conversation

Salespeople will naturally put their “spin” on things, creatively explaining why a product now costs more to produce or how missing their numbers will put them/the division/the company/the entire town out of business - all of which is designed to project a vision as to why you should invest in them. Instead, come prepared to tell the salesperson why they should disproportionally invest in you. Are you entering new markets? Do you offer marketing placement for them that others don’t? Simply put, what does your company uniquely offer, outside of sales numbers, that compels them to give you more resources, time and attention? By briefly outlining these reasons, we find salespeople more eager and willing to find a positive outcome when they see a compelling opportunity infront of them.

2.      Understand their corporate goals and strategy and how your company plays a role in it

By asking questions to understand what is motivating a supplier to push a certain product or investigating the areas in which their headquarters are investing, a buyer can see future opportunities even if they pass on current ones. Additionally, by understanding where your company fares within the supplier’s estimation and strategic vision, a buyer can align immediately to that vision – and just as importantly explain why they cannot. This frankness creates a firm baseline for future conversation, avoids miscommunications and can dissuade unrealistic goals that in the end turn into unnecessary pressures.

3.      What is your salesperson’s definition of success?

A huge sale for their new product line? Steady growth? A long-term agreement? Sales across a portfolio or one product? Understanding, on an individual level, what is motivating your salesperson is imperative to a positive and ultimately successful interaction. Too often we see buyers assume what is driving a salesperson and then are confused as to the positions they are taking, with the side-effect being a lose-lose scenario. By having a firm grasp as to how to make a salesperson successful, a buyer allows themselves the opportunity to explore many options and ultimately be successful themselves. What tradeoffs can be made to help my salesperson achieve their most important goal, so they help me with mine? If a buyer can answer this question, a win-win is usually within sight.

Try it buyers – you might get more and develop a positive and creative working relationship with a happy salesperson!

Marco Castelán