Notes from the other side of the desk…

Part 6: So what?

I have had the pleasure of being a Retail Food Buyer for two years in the Convenience sector in the UK. As a result of the global financial downturn I noticed a dramatic difference in the size of businesses that were coming to see me; the big boys got bigger, the small got smaller and more niche and the middle got squeezed out. This meant that I had the pleasure of meeting with and, in some cases, working with some very young businesses and I really felt like part of their journey. I must admit some of them did a great job, others…not so much! So I thought I’d pull together a short series of blogs based on my experience and, if you’re a young business wanting to crack mainstream retail, I hope this might be a useful read.

This blog considers the most important question of the whole process: so what? You can argue that there are much more pertinent questions in the meeting like ‘so when do you want your first order to arrive?’ However I believe ‘so what?’ is the one question that you should always have in your mind. Everything you discuss, present or ask should be working towards your desired objective so make sure anything you do is always proceeded by an internal ‘so what?’ Play your own Devil’s Advocate.

A bolshy Buyer will make this tip very easy and pose this question out loud each time they think you’ve stumbled across a pointless point. So prepare and pre-empt by asking the question yourself. You need to be constantly aware of what it means to the Buyer, how it will make their job better or easier and why it’s important that they continue to engage. I have experienced too many presentations with reams and reams of category information that only serves to act as a white noise and filler. I didn’t want to see it. Or may be I did but I was led to the right conclusion by an inept seller. There’s nothing worse than a boring presentation where you’re just watching the slide count drip away and the enthusiasm sneak out of the room in search of better things to do!

Pointless presentations: please please please avoid adding slides to your deck just to ‘add meat’ or ‘context’. It’s irrelevant. You might find that your Buyer takes a paper copy of your presentation as notes from the meeting and they’re going to re-visit it in a couple of months – will it still make sense when you’re not there to explain what the point of each slide was? Make it emphatic!

Questionable questions: think about your questions. You won’t be able to write a script because that’s not real life but you will be able to ensure that there’s always an answer to ‘so what?’ when you’ve uncovered a gem of information.

Confusion conclusion: never ever let your Buyer leave the meeting still thinking ‘so what?’ You want your Buyer being absolutely crystal clear on what you were there to achieve, what the key discussion points were and what the key action points are. Doubt and confusion can be like seagulls at the seaside: the first time you look there might just be a few white specks around a discarded tray of chips but in a short amount of time there will be a sea of white and the whole landscape is coloured with doubt and confusion. Chase those pesky seagulls away and don’t let the swarms get near your Buyer.

The next section of this series will assume you’ve got the listing and ask what next?

Northern Munkee.