With every call, find out something new about your customer

Twenty five years ago, selling in the grocery industry it was all very relationship dependent. The old lags slapped each others’ backs and told jokes. Then powerful customers became more demanding and relationship went out the window. Smarter sales teams replaced jokes with expertise and insight, and found that they had a new reason to be friends; buyers can’t resist being shown a way to make more money. Subsequently, customers caught up on shopper insight and became demanding of margin and resource in a return to aggression but this time underpinned by sophisticated capability.

Many suppliers have not caught up with how to operate in today’s environment. It requires agility to be tough in the face of pressure while understanding the customer and providing unity though insight and category growth strategies.

Busy concentrating on data-driven insight, many have been distracted from the basics of customer understanding. While I was conducting a strategic trade interview for a client an Asda controller said to me: “Look, the supplier’s product quality is good and they are reliable. I will even admit that we make a fair margin on their product. But I keep asking them for a Mini and they keep bringing me a Rolls Royce.” Throughout the evolution of today’s interface those who have understood the workings of their customers and responded accordingly have done better than the turkeys who kept their distance.

While I normally bark on about lack of purporse causing buyer frustration, today I’m going to assume that message is received. I am not even going to mention suppliers’ inadequate ability to deal with conifict. Instead it’s this; for the new year step-change your persuasive performance in sales; in every call find out something new about your customer. Build up a knowledge that helps you get into their shoes and guide you in selecting and proposing customer initiatives. Your Christmas wish may have been to meet a friendly buyer once again. Instead of wishing, make a new year’s resolution to get under their skin and become indispensable on every level. I’m not saying ‘back to basics’. Just get them right along with all the other good stuff.

Happy new year!

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