PILLAR ONE: For years I’ve talked about the need for sales reps to create value for their retailers by aligning the benefits of their products/services with the needs/objectives of their retailers. I believe this is a basic responsibility of all sales reps.

PILLAR TWO: In addition, I’ve always felt sales reps should make it as easy as possible for retailers to say ‘yes’ to their proposals. By that I mean, sales reps should be looking to take as much work off the table as they can for their retail clients. That can mean filling out forms, providing communication to the stores, helping get products into a warehouse, and any number of things. etc. etc.

So yes, I believe whole-heartedly that providing value and making it as easy as possible for the retailer to say yes, are both major pillars of a sales rep’s selling philosophy, … but over the last few months, a third pillar has become apparent to me, and I need to mention it here. And, in fact, one of the most interesting points about this pillar is that it wasn’t much of a concern 10-15 years ago, but it certainly is today. This THIRD PILLAR I’m talking about is the ability for sales reps to uncomplicate things, especially the buying decision-making process. Let me explain.

Retailing, and especially food retailing, is becoming a very complicated business. It used to be fairly simple. As retailers we marketed and launched merchandising programs to get as many people as we could to visit our stores, and then, while they were there, we put up signs, demos, displays, etc., all in an attempt to get our customers to buy more. It was pretty much a “how do I get more customers” and “how do I get them to buy more” business. Now these same two objectives, “how do I get more customers” and “how do I get them to buy more,” are still the drivers behind the retail business, the only difference today is that there are so many more options (numerous food channels, pick-up and delivery methods, e-commerce, technology, etc.) available to today’s consumer and that in-turn, complicates the total process.

Food retailers today are all fighting to stay alive as retailing in general is experiencing a total upheaval. Many regional chains are filing for bankruptcy. European-born discounters are expanding, forcing competitors to keep their own prices low. And Kroger, Ahold, and Walmart, three of the largest grocers in the U.S., are investing in technology and expanding delivery as they try to fend off an incursion by Amazon.

So how does this affect the buyer vs. sales rep selling interactions that take place on a day-to-day basis? Well truthfully, the whole process has become much more complicated because so much more seems to be involved. Each decision appears to have so many more implications and as a result, the whole process can at times really get bogged down.

And, that’s why I’m saying one of the biggest services sales reps can provide to their retail clients is to uncomplicate the buying process. By that I mean, being able to isolate a particular area for the retailer, (examples could include a particular snack section, … or the milk section of the Dairy case, … or the men’s grooming area of the center stores, etc.), and then concentrate on just improving that one particular area. It’s being able to say to the retailer, “I know you’re having to deal with so many different areas and so many different options, but let’s just concentrate on this one particular area, and let me help take this off your worry list by …

• bringing you the relevant consumer information that applies to your demographics and customer base

• helping identify problems or inconsistencies in the current situation

• leading a discussion on reviewing possible solutions and analyzing which ones you feel will produce the best results

• helping you implement the concepts you feel will maximize your efforts.”

The key here is everything has to be presented from the retailer’s point of view, not the sales rep’s. In other words the whole process must be based on what’s best for that retailer, … it’s the consumer data that applies to that specific retailer, … it’s options that apply directly to that retailer. It’s working with your retailer, providing the information and data THEY want to see, … reviewing concepts THEY could use, … and then working with them to implement the concept THEY feel is best. In short, the total process must be from a complete retailer driven perspective.

Look at it this way, … yes, both the retailer and supplier businesses are much more complicated today than in the past. There are many more options for the consumer, which makes the retailer’s business much more complicated, … and that in turn, makes the supplier’s business even more complicated. And ‘yes,’ as a sales person you can concentrate on your own organization’s complications, but I’m suggesting a more prudent move. Don’t get caught up in your own company’s complications, instead, help your retailer uncomplicated theirs. Do that and you’ll be amazed how well things work out. Just remember, to do this successfully, you must focus on what’s best for your particular retailer. In reality, it’s being retailer focused in the truest sense of the word.