Retailer partnerships are built on trust. And while few would dispute that fact, many CPG/Manufacturing/Distributor representatives forget a critical detail: trust is built over time by doing what’s best for the retailer. When your retailer contacts realize you consistently make proposals from their point of view and focus on core retailer KPIs, they know two things for sure. First, they can count on you to create mutually beneficial proposals. Second, they should take your proposals seriously because you provide clear recommendations that they can easily explain to their leadership.
Unfortunately, representatives often lose sight of this relationship and try to stack the deck in their favor for a short-term internal sales lift. Depending on their industry or product lines, some representatives use positive weather events, holidays, or promotions to push as much product to the retailer as possible with no regard for their strategy’s long-term impact.
The move may result in impressive initial sales, but if the product is pushed into low selling stores, it may decrease the retailer’s inventory turn objective. In turn, they may limit their orders in the coming months. Many times, this leads to fewer replenishment orders from the primary stores that drive topline sales. While missed sales objectives have an immediate effect on the distributor’s bottom line, the long-term damage to the retailer relationship can have repercussions that extend far beyond a single sales cycle.
Rather than trying to make a big score by pushing massive amounts of product upfront, savvy representatives play the long game and build trust by focusing on practices that benefit their company and their retailers alike. If you’re looking to create productive relationships with your retailers that will last for years to come, the following suggestions provide a proven path to success.
Trust is built over time by doing what’s best for the retailer. ”
5 Tips for Writing Proposals That Build Retailer Trust
1. Initiate proactive communication.
Don’t present proposals and push for decisions in a timeframe that makes the entire process feel like a fire drill. Proposal reviews and leadership approvals take time. Sometimes even the best ideas are declined due to time constraints. You can increase your chances of success by introducing your ideas far enough in advance to give your retailer sufficient time to ask questions and make sound decisions. When you follow this approach, you will set yourself apart from the competition and earn your retailer’s confidence.
2. Write for leadership two levels above your contact.
If your proposal process consists of throwing massive amounts of data at your contact, you have to hope they know how to synthesize your data and present it to their leadership in a way that tells a compelling story. Some may be able to do that. Many will not. Rather than leaving the results in the hands of the first-level contact, you can increase your conversion rates by writing the proposal for the top-level leadership who will make the final decision.
For the best results, include the following details in your proposal:
- Executive summary
- Projected impact on retailer KPIs
- Actions steps
- Analytics summary
- Success metrics that will be measured and tracked
By creating high-level proposals that outline how you can positively impact their business, you not only streamline the decision-making process but also earn your contact’s trust by making them look good in front of their management.
3. Avoid data overload.
As critical as data may be, well-intentioned proposals packed with details like store KPIs and item KPIs may be declined because you have overwhelmed your retail partner with information. Retailer contacts don’t want to be overwhelmed with facts and figures — that takes too much time and effort to sort through.
Retail partners like higher level analytics focused on impact. When you create your proposals, take the time to understand your retailer’s needs and goals. Then, use your proposal to tell your sales story with high-level data. If you know that your contact or their leadership will want the additional details, you can always add them in the appendix or provide them upon request.
4. Plan for retailer’s common objections.
Anticipating your contact’s potential questions and objections is an essential sales skill. In many cases, buyers and replenishment managers — especially those new to their industry — are afraid to take risks. By answering objections before they’re raised, you can ease those fears and establish yourself as a trusted business partner.
What does this look like in practice? One example would be to craft your proposal around the retailer’s concern of “How long will this inventory be in the stores?” By taking the time to segment the stores and displaying your projections for growth and how long it will take for the inventory to need replenishing, you can help your buyer plan with confidence. You could even focus your reports and projections further by segmenting the stores and only sending inventory to higher performing stores. With that approach detailed in your proposal, your buyer would know that their leading stores will have the inventory they need, and the low-performing stores won’t be stuck with stale inventory. Either way, you’ve addressed their potential concerns and paved the way for continued partnership.
5. Track weekly performance and send a summary to the retailer.
After you’ve invested the time and effort to sell your initial proposal, you have many of the details necessary for future proposals. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel each time. By showing your buyer how successful the last proposal was, you can make subsequent ones much easier to sell. To do this, however, you need to know what’s most important to your retailer.
If you take the initiative to understand your retailer’s primary objectives and track the weekly sales performance that shows how you helped them accomplish those objectives, you can deliver these updates in a clear report that your contact can present to their leadership. Since this involves a little extra work, many will miss the opportunity. However, when you take the time to keep your retailer up to date, you create a track record of success, a strategic step that makes it much easier for your recommendations to be approved in the future.
The beauty of these practices lies in the fact that they apply to all retailer interactions — from first-time sales proposals to longstanding replenishment proposals. At their core, all purchasing decisions rely on an effective analysis of retail data. By leveraging the power of your retailer’s data and following the steps listed above, you can demonstrate your expertise, increase your value to their operation, and secure a mutually beneficial relationship for years to come. If you’re looking for an innovative solution that can help you automate your data management process and strengthen your retailer relationships, Spotlight retail analytics software provides the in-depth tools you need to provide actionable insights for your retail clients.