Suppliers, If You Think You Know Who Your Customers Are, Think Again
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Suppliers, If You Think You Know Who Your Customers Are, Think Again

Do you know who your customers really are?

It may surprise you that many suppliers don’t. In fact, if you’re like most businesses that sell products to e-commerce and storefront retailers, you probably think your customers are everyday consumers. That is, the people buying your product off of store shelves.

It’s a common misconception. In reality, retailers are your customers, and the retailers’ customers are your end consumers. If you frame your strategy around this premise, your sales approach will be safe.

While your consumer data and localized insights are important, retailers probably won’t appreciate you making assumptions about their customers. Retailers work hard to get and keep consumers by researching and gathering data about them through loyalty programs, social media, surveys, etc. If you insist you know better, you risk offending retailers – that is, your actual customers.

On the other hand, in my experience, many suppliers are in the dark about what their own sales and marketing initiatives should be to support retailers. Methods like tailoring the in-store environment, having promotions and creating web-to-store tie-ins are effective ways that suppliers can appeal to their retail customers.

Developing your sales plan can play a critical role in showing retailers that you know what you’re doing and who you’re selling to, making them much more likely to want to work with you and buy your products.

These two ways of thinking will help you approach and sell to your retail customers right.

Recognize the Retail World is Changing

What’s really going on inside the minds of those frazzled retailers that causes them to stick to the status quo by keeping you at a distance, brushing you off, dismissing you entirely or otherwise not buy your products?

There are several things at play, but once you recognize how retailers think, you can change your strategy so they pay attention to you.

Take a moment to think about what’s going on in the retail world and the current economy. In the past five years, consumer behaviour and the definition of value has shifted permanently. Retailers have adjusted to today’s empowered consumers who expect more value for less cost.

Consider why modern retailers buy your products. Ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” Provide them with insights and information that will make a great case about how you and your products will add value to their business.

Rethink Your Relationship

To sell effectively to modern retailers, it’s essential to drop the aggressive sales mentality. Start working with your prospective retail customers as if they’re already buying from you.

What would you do for current customers that you’d never think about doing for prospective ones?

For example, share your ideas with your prospective customers instead of holding them back. So many suppliers are afraid to give away their ideas before a purchase is made or a contract is signed. But often that’s the best way to win businesses over. Focus on how you can help the retailers first.

For many suppliers, this is a new concept. Think about how you can be more forthcoming with information and ideas – even before you start working together – to help the retailer create, engage and keep their customers. It’s worth it.

Learn More

Are you taking advantage of Small Business BC’s wide selection of seminars for entrepreneurs and small to medium-sized business owners? Space is limited, so don’t miss your chance to register today.

And if you want specific questions answered for your business, make an appointment to meet with a Small Business BC Business Advisor or Small Business BC Business Plan Advisor now.

About Gerry Spitzner

Gerry Spitzner is a business management consultant who works with retailers and suppliers on their business model/concept to create a competitive advantage.  He draws from his experience as an executive in regional retail operations, multi-store ownership, as a supplier in the wholesale supply-chain and as consultant.  His practical advice for leadership, management, marketing and business innovation creates clear and compelling value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability.

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