Suppliers must make the effort to walk the store, if nothing else

Account managers know they should do store visits, but once they are listed it’s the first routine they drop. Higher up the organisation it gets worse; sales directors are too important. Wandering around shops is job of the retail bosses, right? Yes, but that makes it your job, too. The point of purchase is the shopper’s window to your products. It is the objective and result of everything sales are doing. 

I was in a store at 9.15pm last night as they were filling shelves and it’s plain to see what’s out of stock, what is selling, and what is new. In conversation the staff were so much more helpful than on a Saturday afternoon. A fresh insight just by changing the time of a visit. Here are some reasons to etch visits into your week.

Monitor what’s happening and what’s working for you and your competitors. What products stand out, and why? What’s on promotion and doesn’t need replenishing?

See things from your shoppers’ viewpoint and listen to them deliberate shopping the fixture. It’s so interesting how many turn away. 

See opportunities. Look for the ‘white space’. Gaps in the market are usually discovered by market research, but this information is free.

Know if your customer has implemented your ranging, merchandising and promotional plans. Lord knows you paid for them.

Talk to staff and discover what people like. Even managers love a moan about head office. They will tell you what will and won’t work.

Resolve issues before they hit you from a Friday CEO walk-round. Scanning errors or poor shelf fit, for example. If you see markdown stickers on short-life products, look for sales blockers and take action on waste. 

The whole journey gives insight into the retailer strategy. From parking the car to driving out, or entrance to checkout. What mechanics are being employed and which could you utilise? See range reviews implemented on other categories and get a head-start on yours.

Build all this into your selling stories. Innovation based on store insights is much more likely to land, and customers love feedback but they don’t always invite it. 

So don’t let ‘your job’ get in the way. This is your job.

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