5 mistakes to avoid when selling into UK retailers

I started life in a department store and then moved to be a buyer first at Tesco and then Boots. I then turned gamekeeper and moved to food suppliers as a commercial director and have spent the last 10 years selling into retailers. So what are the 5 mistakes that companies make when trying to get a listing in a UK retailer?

  1. Failing to get the appointment — it is so hard to get an appointment or even a reaction from a retail buyer. On average they have over 200 emails a day and if you are someone like Selfridges most of these will be from companies wanting you to look at new product ideas. So what can you do — get the right buyer (use linked in), warm them up (find anyone you know, who knows them) and send an email. Then a letter and then call to follow up. Don’t stalk, never ring or contact on a Monday and don’t use their personal email if you find it on Linked in!!! And don’t be disheartened if they don’t respond, it may not be the time of year that they are looking at your category. Write again a month later!
  2. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail — if you get a meeting — prepare!!! Know your business, know your numbers and know the retailer you are going to meet. Make sure you have visited their stores before the meeting and if you have a linked in profile of the buyer, get to know them. And know what you want to achieve — what key selling points to you want to get across and what do you want — a listing, an increase in distribution, promotional ends?
  3. Be adaptable — I went to a presentation with Selfridges, a few weeks ago with a beautiful 12 page presentation on the market, company and products — he swept it aside (very politely) and said lets look at the products. I was delighted to do as he asked and of course having prepared the presentation, I had the key selling points in my head but could adapt them to the meeting.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask and listen to the answers — sometimes it is impossible to have all the answers and knowledge about a potential customer. If you can demonstrate that you have researched them but for example in the case of Eurostar, it is impossible to have their range detail without a trip to Paris (ok not bad thing!) but if you ask the buyer what they are looking for, listen to the answer. Think how you can adapt your product or proposal to meet their needs
  5. Being afraid to say no — if your buyer, as one did the other day to a client of mine, says I don’t like your packaging and so please change your brand design and then we will list the product ….think about it. Does the buyer have a point or is this YOUR brand design — they wouldn’t suggest that coca cola changes from red to pink spots so why would then to you?! Also don’t be afraid to say no if the deal just isn’t right — again, a client of mine was asked to reduce her prices to so low that she didn’t make money just broke even — but this would mean that the rest of her business retail prices would be compromised and of course her bottom line would be severely impacted. Its hard to walk away but I have done it a couple of times and then they have come back with a better offer!

I specialize in helping businesses to get their products onto retailer shelves and help them stay there so get in touch if you would like a FREE half hour introductory chat about your business and how I might be able to help you

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