By Vanessa Ting
Avoid these pitfalls during buyer appointments and you’ll be better off than 99% of your peers.
Tip 1: Not walking through the store one last time and doing a quick homework refresher. When I was a buyer for Target, nothing turned me off more than a vendor who showed up to meetings without having done their homework or step foot in my section of the store. It was plainly obvious when vendors failed to know the brands I currently had on that shelf. If you are trying to unseat a current vendor, you better know who they are, what their retail price is, how many facings and SKUs they have and why you are better! So before you meet with your buyer, study and cram like this is the biggest final exam of your life! In a prior blog, I give homework tips.
Tip 2: (SUPER IMPORTANT) Do not try to push more units to the retailer than they need. It is dangerous to not understand the fine line between selling (shipping) as many units as possible versus shipping as many units as the store will sell. When you’re pitching to a retailer, your first inclination is to sell as many units you can to lighten the load in your warehouse. The buyer asks you for an order of 10,000 units and you jump for joy because it will clear out your old inventory. Before you get too excited, think about the implications.
For ease of math, let’s assume this retailer only has one store. If this retailer is buying inventory for a 20 week program, and your average sales is 100 units per week. It will take 100 weeks to sell through that purchase order. That is 80 weeks longer than the 20-week program. That is a lot of inventory that will go unsold and will either get returned to you or incur storage and holding costs making this product less profitable for the retailer.
As a result, 1 of 2 things will happen: 1) Because the order didn’t turnover for an ideal sell-through of 85% to 90%, the buyer will assume shoppers dislike your product and that it’s a dud – and will never order it again. 2) Or, because you let the buyer place an order of 10k units without warning them it would not sell within the 20-week period of time, this buyer now thinks you lack credibility and are a poor business partner – and will not order from you ever again.
Note: For purchase orders not for a limited time program but for an ongoing basis, build your suggested order quantity by taking into account the retailer’s Weeks of Supply (WOS) targets and in-store lead times in addition to their sales velocity (Sales Per Store Per Week).
Much of this also answers the question of how to stay on shelf once you get there. But is just as important to know the first time you meet with the buyer and present your *accurate* volume forecast for how you think your product will perform in their store.
Tip 3: Failing to address how your products will benefit the retailers’ business. It was always a turn off to talk to potential vendors and hear, “Target is perfect for my product!” Great. Glad to hear. But what is in it for me? Don’t forget to answer this question within the first 10 minutes of your meeting. Revisit this point from an old blog.
Tip 4: Do not misuse the buyer’s time. If you have been given 30 minutes, then make sure your presentation can be delivered in 20 minutes with 10 minutes to spare for questions and discussion. Get the important stuff out in the first 10 minutes. Don’t waste time giving the buyer the history of your company and its background. We get that you’re proud of what you’ve built, but this is not a point relevant to why your product will drive sales. Leave this background information in the appendix of your presentation deck and let the buyer read it on their own. Use the time saved to explain information that drives decision-making – how the product works and why it is different than competition, the sales history, proposals for marketing programs, etc.
Tip 5: Bring enough samples! We like to open the package, feel the product, play with and take it apart – and keep a few unopened samples to later play with at our desks or in the planogram (POG) room.
Do you have any wisdom to share based on your experiences meeting with buyers?