There are no two-day courses to ensure buyer collaboration

How to sell? Well, that rather depends : on what you are selling. There’s the ‘technical sell’ in engineering, the ‘pity sell’ if you are door-to-door, the ‘pressure sell’ for double glazing or, of course, the ‘mis-sell’ if you’re in banking! In grocery we generally have suppliers wondering why they struggle to get the ‘visionary relationship sell’ instead of their workaday ‘transactional sell’.

Suppliers see their inability to maintain a cordial relationship as a flaw in their selling ability. It’s not — it’s a flaw in their selling, negotiating, planning and financial capability. I am often asked for a sales course to transform clients’ relationships or some similar pipe dream. There is no magic wand; you have to behave your way into it through all facets of your work.

But suppliers instead play commercial rock, paper, scissors: negotiation ruins sell, sell negates plan and plan undermines negotiation. Slick presentation of a sales pitch means nothing if the commercial argument within it is financially unsound. Equally, a collaborative mood in negotiation will never happen without a believable long-term plan. But that can’t gain traction unless there is capability to control the default tactical behaviours of negotiation.

People have perhaps accepted that great negotiation requires the ability to act a part. But many still believe selling is fundamentally soft and cuddly. Selling and planning have a spectrum of styles, but in grocery it is mostly pressurised and needs to be focused. We therefore have to show the judgement to use the appropriately positive techniques in the moment. There is no standalone discipline. If a customer wants to play hard in a negotiation, the first thing they do is cancel your joint planning meeting. Have you cracked the code yet?

The visionary relationship you want will be underpinned not just BY a selling or negotiation capability. Don’t look for a sales course — the collaboration you crave will be underpinned by suite-consistent capabilities across all areas, complemented by the ability to constantly transition customers towards the best behaviour.

Move to a world where rock sharpens scissors, scissors shape paper, and paper becomes the perfect packaging for rock.

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