You’ve worked so hard to get to this point. Make the most of that “big” meeting: the successful buyer presentation.
Cutting to the chase, there is a very good chance you are not going to walk into this meeting and 10 minutes later have your product listed. There are literally hundreds of things that need to be communicated for a successful buyer presentation. In order to narrow it down to 3 things, we are going to assume that you are ready, willing and more than able to talk about your product line(s) specs: price, margins, case pack, shipping and distribution logistics, production facilities, and all the other important details associated selling your products.
I know this because that is what I see in 90% of the 1st draft presentations I see. It’s natural that you would want to talk about the things you know best. Plus, the retail food buyer does not know anything about your product lines or brand. You need to educate him, right?
Is it all about YOU?
It is…and it isn’t. Yes, you need to be an expert at your product line but even if you are a completely unique and new-to-the-world product, the buyer still needs to see how your brand fits in the Plan-O-Gram (POG) and will need a very compelling reason to displace another product to list yours. To do that you need to be an expert in the category!
But don’t take if from me. Here is an excerpt from my book, Moving Your Brand Up the Food Chain for the question we asked buyers:
Question 10: How much of the job requires food manufacturers to be experts in their category, and how do the best manufacturers show their expertise?
Buyer answers to the first question were unanimous and absolute: 100 percent of the responsibility is on the food manufacturers to be experts in their category.
The fact is, the more you are an expert in your category—from the target market, the planogram, the competition, and trends to your product’s differentiation and packaging—the more you position yourself and your company as an excellent resource to the buyer.
Gaining expertise and leveraging it are among the key concepts driving this book, and buyers and retailers believe that there’s no reason to even be in business with them if you aren’t an expert.
Buyers don’t want to educate you on your category, which might sound like an obvious requirement. However, several buyers told me it was laughable how many suppliers simply don’t know their own business—an issue that seems to happen more often as supplier sales teams change and become more inexperienced with each passing year.
Here is how you use that expertise:
As far as showing expertise, a good game plan is to package your buyer presentations so that they accentuate your category expertise. This means you must prove to them that you have a firm grasp on all the data, trend information, and any consumer feedback. In short, be prepared to back up your product presentation with a convincing argument.
Along with knowing your product, there are three areas you need to look at to make this work:
- The retailer: you need to know everything you can about their business, goals, priorities and most important, the POG you are competing to get into.
- Trends: Dig in and find how they fit into the retailer’s priorities vs their competition
- Competition: you’re in the retailer’s POG, but also the retailer’s competition’s POG as well. Insights will be uncovered when you complete the big picture
1. Global and Category Trends
The good news is that keeping tabs on global, food industry and category trends has never been easier. In fact, trends are one of the most written about topic in food. Here are a few of my go-to resources for trend research:
- Food Marketing Institute
- Grocery Manufacturers Association
- Supermarket News
- Progressive Grocer
- Food Business News
- Food Processing
- also useful – your industry association(s) for trends that are specific to your products
Knowing the trends is only half the battle. You need to sync them up (a term I’ll use for every all 3 keys) with your business and the retailer’s business.
An example to spell out in your presentation…a hot global trend is that Millennials spending more money eating out, less time preparing food at home. Look at the retailer’s plans and I bet they include more service-oriented meal prep programs. Find a way for your product to support their efforts.
Another example to spell out in your presentation – local food is still growing as a macro trend. You are probably a locally produced food and the retailer most likely has a local food initiative. Spell it out in your materials.
2. Strategies & Priorities Alignment
Leveraging everything you can find about the business, goals, priorities of the retailer is very important. Look for annual reports, C-Level interviews in trade and consumer media. Find out what causes the support or how they choose and implement product giveaways. The goal here is to align, and spell out how your company, brand values and priorities fit with the retailer.
Does the retailer have a commitment to community development in the towns they have stores? Can you do the same or offer to support a community giveaway they do annually? Or are they launching a remote ordering, curbside grocery pickup service? What can you do with your products or case packs to help make this work better?
3. Brand and Sales Support
Most retailers are looking for partnerships. which is one big reason I opened this post with “you are not going to walk into this meeting and 10 minutes later have your product listed.” The buyer wants to know what you plan to do to support that partnership. Here is another excerpt from my book, Moving Your Brand Up the Food Chain for the question we asked buyers:
Question 7: How much of the responsibility of moving their product off the shelf, into the cart, and ultimately through the checkout is on food manufacturers to support retails sales? What support methods do you prefer?
This question came directly from a conversation I had with a buyer several years ago. He told me point-blank that it was my job, and not his job, to move products off the shelf, into the cart, and through the checkout. This buyer expressed frustration at what he perceived as a long line of supplier partners whose only concern seemed to be getting the product into his planogram.
The responses I received from the buyers and retailers I interviewed for this book were not nearly so extreme. At most, buyers thought the job was a 50:50 proposition. However, buyers clearly believe that manufacturers and suppliers should take some ownership over end-line sales. This sentiment stems from the spirit of partnership that many buyers and retailers are looking for. Since small companies like yours ought to be thinking about building their power base and expanding product offerings with key retail partners anyway, it makes sense that they take some ownership as a way of showing support for their partners
There is a lot more to it than I was able to get there in this post – every company and retailer is different. These 3 Keys will hopefully get you in the mindset to start a relationship. At NewPoint, we are typically asked to do the legwork and help companies develop successful buyer presentation. We look at our job to turn the “All About You” presentation into the “All About Our Partnership” presentation.