November 21, 2011

Wave Sales System with Food Retailers

Ocean Morning Amelia IslandSelling the world’s largest food retailers is best managed through the lens of a wave process with predictable stages and methods. It is amazing how similar the sales process is from retailer to retailer in the world of food. The basic stages of a major sale are Contact, Interview, Present, Negotiate, and Buy. Each stage reflects a certain need and position of the retailer prior to moving onto the next stage. The penalty for not following the process is failure and removal from the sales cycle and category review. How you approach, communicate value, and respond to requests will carry the day for your waves of success in this process.

Trust must be an ingredient in your initial approach to working with food retailers. If you do not have a trusting relationship prior to the initial sales call, get someone on your side that engenders this trust, or a third-party that is trusted by the category manager, your position and success with the retail category buyer will be hampered, slowed, and probably stopped without trust. Do not think your product potential out ranks this issue of trust. You must be in a trusting position or you will pay the price for authorization within the account.
Timing at this stage is paramount to your activity. The category manager will have no interest in meeting with you if the category review is being executed at retail and they do this action on a yearly basis. Insure your timing is near perfect or be prepared for a long sales period to gain authorization in the account. There are a few products that will demand action and success on their own timetable and this is a costly method of growth.
If you make it past the initial contact phase, you will enter into the interview and fact finding area of your relationship with the retailer. The retailer will begin to understand the aspects of your company and what qualities that you bring to bear onto his pertinent food category. He wants to know if you will assist his plans for success in the coming years. He will quickly give you a passing grade or a fail based on limited information and limited time invested in your opportunity. If this is your first sku and you are hoping for distribution in a major retailer- think again. They can promote a category #1 item one additional week and possibly increase sales volume by as much as your company will yield in their first year of sales with the retailer. How are you going to bring category leadership with your product offering and how will you quickly convey this message to the buyer?
Once you have made it past the interview stage, you will begin to enter into the presentation of your product attributes, benefits, purchase facts, and expected success with the retailers consumers. How are you going to prepare yourself to present in the best possible light against the other entrenched players with literally 100’s of items and decasdes of success with the specific retailer? What about your product will make the category manager sit up and take notice, think about showing to his new item committee and get the your product authorized and placed into a shelf planogram?
After you have presented your product and program, the negotiation will begin for your support of the retailer and the trading area along with a discussion of special pricing and needed measures for success. Are you prepared with the details of this negotiation? Will you have the answers before approaching the buyer and on top of your responses to the chains demands? If they were to offer you 24 hours to answer a request to purchase your item, would you pass the contest? What will you say when they compare your pricing to several other vendors with similar offerings? Understand, they will interview and organize your offering on a spreadsheet in comparison to other similar manufacturing and distributing vendors in your category. Grocery Chains well understand the power of this negotiation and will only meet with all the major vendors at the same time of year to aid in this competitive situation.
At some point, you will win and receive the purchase order for your product. This is when the work really begins with the retailer. You must keep accurate pricing records in their system and yours. Your company must service their purchase orders with almost a perfect fill rate to maintain and grow the business. Everything will be slow and you will desire much to happen much more quickly and then when the order is complete and the reorders begin happening their will be no slow speed or limit to the communication you will receive from the retailers. They have people organized to demand their product for resale and to see to it that the trucks are received in a timely and guaranteed method. You miss supplying their needs, when requested, your company will be a prior supplier finding it difficult to ever sell to the chain again.
Selling the largest retailers can be very easy from a certain perspective considering they buy in a very similar format and with predictable methods. Generally, there is not much difference from one retailer to the next and with this insight you can plan accordingly. This planning provides consistency to your approach and occasionally predictable results over the course of business action planning. This process has assisted me and my clients in the millions for sales success. Also, this summer we will be reviewing this process in my weekend Food Growth Seminar.
My Wave Selling System based on this approach can be found at this link.
Since 1987 Tim Forrest has served the food industry and the world’s largest food brands. Sign-up for Tim's insights, upcoming videos, and free reports.
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