Make it pay while the sun shines – strategic and sensible selling

How’s the weather been for your business recently? Blustery customer rhetoric, floods of delisting threats and tidal waves of year-end demands? It’s been a winter of discontent for most of the multiples, exacerbated by truly awful Christmas trading. They’ve had year-end pressures and you have felt the rain.

But the days are getting lighter. We are in that short spring season when, for most of the big five buyers, the turmoil of year-end is over. They tend to act warmer when considering Q1, focusing on growth and nurturing their categories rather than plundering the supply base for margin.

So enjoy these few brief short weeks to get across some positive messages. Your buyers will not be staring down both barrels of year-end margin targets. They should be more receptive to consumer and category growth selling stories. Now is the time to get agreement to your side of that expensive joint business plan you so protractedly argued over at year-end.

Look at what’s in the news and relate. For example, Chris Bush, UK MD of Tesco, recently outlined Tesco’s ‘accelerated’ turnaround plan to key City investors. The seven-point plan is focused on delivering top-line sales growth, growing customer numbers and customer spend, all of which means extra volume for you. Use those elements of the plan you know your business can deliver against to focus your selling stories around these conceptual needs. This will ensure a more positive audience from your buyer.

Similarly, for the rest of the big five – look at the latest turnaround strategy presentation or a JBP mantra such as ‘an extra item in every basket’, talk to store managers, category, channel and format teams, research the investor relations sections of their websites – you will very quickly identify and better understand their trading strategy for the coming year and there are few more powerful sells than when you play back a buyer’s own company strategy and your solutions to the demands of that strategy.

Move quickly, construct powerful, focused selling stories that meet the longer-term strategic needs of their respective businesses. Plant the seeds that will deliver for your business and theirs across a three-year period. Then you’ll be better prepared for this year’s autumn gales and inevitable stormy winter.

Sentinel Management Consultants deliver sales, negotiation, planning and finance training courses for our clients worldwide.