Tip 1: Regularly update your buyer on your sales performance.
Provide monthly recaps. Buyers don’t have the time to dig into individual SKU sales regularly so your regular analysis is much appreciated. This also allows you to own the analysis and control the story you are telling. Influencing how the buyer perceives your brand performance is important.
Obviously, you should not craft a story that is not believable or a misrepresentation of the facts. But you are the only person in position to craft an optimistic story.
Tip 2: Supplement your monthly sales recaps with observations and recommendations.
The first few months in store is a lab experiment. You can “test and learn” which marketing tactics work, which in-store promotion yields the greatest ROI, the ideal price point, which items are most popular, and collect feedback about merchandise placement and display. With this information, you can make recommendations on how to improve execution (on both your end and the store’s side). Your retail buyer will appreciate your problem-solution thinking, proactiveness and your “co-piloting” of her business. This elevates you from “just another vendor” to “business partner” quickly.
How I have applied Tip #1 and Tip #2 with brands: With one client who currently sells to Target, we provided monthly sales recaps and recommendations. Through these recaps, we get to control our messaging. We focused on what was working well, reinforced how we would repeat these successes and provided a plan for how we would course-correct what was not working. We referenced our own historical data to explain the seasonality of sales patterns which gave the buyer confidence that our sales would be stronger in the 2nd half of the year. This information not only helped our buyer see the future opportunities but it enables her to defend and champion our brand during internal discussions.
Tip 3: Openly communicate with your retail buyer.
Many brands are afraid to complain or ask questions of their buyer. Don’t be. There is a right way to do the above. Openly communicating, during a problem for example, allows the buyer to understand the entire situation and make decisions that takes your interest into account too. Yes, they absolutely want to make decisions that are mutually beneficial! Don’t be afraid to ask questions too. Buyers may be short on time, but they understand that you are only as successful as your information allows. So ask questions to help you make decisions. They will respect your desire to make good decisions. After all, your good decisions are good for their business too.
How we applied Tip #3 with brands: Continuing the story of the client from my previous example, Target made a huge process change mid-stream – with just 2 weeks until our meetings. This meant that the $5,000+ project my client had been working on for Target had to be trashed. And she had less than two weeks to pull together something new for the “new” process.
She was deflated and shaken by this. She was conflicted on whether she should communicate to her buyer her disappointment and $5,000 lost investment. She was also being asked to spend more money on the “new” process and she wanted to challenge Target on the merit of moving ahead with it.
While most vendors might shy away from “upsetting the apple cart”, we crafted a carefully worded email to express our disappointment, concerns and delicately posed our questions to help us decide if we would move forward with the new process.
The response we received surpassed our expectations. Not only did they give a genuine apology, they offered to compensate her for the lost investment! AND offered Target resources to help her repurpose that $5,000 project! AND gave her information to help her make an informed decision about how she would move forward. Definitely a win-win for all.