What Value Are Your Key Account Managers Providing Retailers
Are you, or your sales team providing the retailer any real value?
This is not a tough question for most vendors/distributors/agents/brokers to answer. The consistent answer would be; “My Key Account Managers and Reps are doing all they can for the retailers – they get up to date product offerings and we are doing the orders and managing the inventory on a regular basis. They are doing, all they can”
Since leaving my full time merchandiser role, I have had an abundance of time to meet many small and medium sized vendors at my coffee shop who are seeking some advice or guidance when it comes to getting new listings into accounts and hanging onto existing listings ( Shameless plug here. If you are ever in Vancouver – come check out www.thedrivecoffee.bar – I can generally be found there ).
I am amazed at what value vendors think they are providing to their buyer and merchandise manager partners, when in reality, they are doing what I considered then, and still consider now, as the bare minimum. These companies are struggling to understand that many of the challenges they are having either getting an appointment or subsequent appointments and/or getting and maintaining listings is due to the their lack of appreciating and understanding as to what their retail partners are looking for.
The tasks that vendors feel they do so well and are so critical to the retailer are typically the easiest things for most retailers to do. Managing of inventory and/or new listings are not that complicated. Most companies either have a layer of rebuyers/buyers or software systems in place that can generally manage inventory well enough, and listings are at the fingertip’s of retailers as the internet has made it incredible easy find the new and kool. Furthermore, if the company is able to allow buyers and merchandise managers to travel, there are countless shows in all categories where goods and services are readily available thereby making it very difficult for a rep to come to the table with anything really revolutionary.
If you want to be truly indispensable and worthy of calling yourself a valuable Key Account Manager and a true Partner, you need to do more than just show up with an order and a new product presentations.
Buyers and Merchandise Managers are swamped these days in areas that consume mass amounts of precious time with little merchandising value. What used to be a very simple and exhilarating position for a merchant, can now be extremely frustrating as you are choked by meetings with bosses, managers, finance, marketing, and human resources. Time that used to be spent watching the business and analyzing results of their merchandising efforts, both corporate and external competitive, have been eroded away into non-productive, and typically politically motivated tasks or functions.
You want to be of value as a key account manager, come to a retailer prepared to discuss how “we” can do better together. Bring information on the issues, the challenges, the successes and the opportunities that “we” are having together. Bring best of class ideas form the marketplace at large, but bring them in a meaningful way whereby both can not only see what others are doing better, but there can be a demonstrative approach as to how your retail partner can manage this in their corporate and store environment.
You really need to get to know how your retailer works before you can do the above. Ask the real questions that need to be asked; “How can I make your life a little easier so that we can grow our mutual businesses”. Better yet, do the research first and figure out what are your particular buyers or merchandise managers real challenges are, and provide a solution as to how you can help fix it or at least make it better. Understand their corporate culture. Understand where their pressure points are. Who or what is taking time away from them, can you be of assistance to them. Is it an internal political issue? Is it a coop or funding issue? Is this week’s issue margins, sales or inventory? Which one is the flavour of the day and can you assist? You want to provide aid, then firstly find out kind is needed and where it is needed!
This all sounds so simple and so much like “common sense”, and yet retailers are always complaining as to how shallow todays vendor pool is and vendors are always complaining as to how hard it is to work with retailers – specifically buyers/merchandise managers. Much of this is pretty much just a lack of understanding as to what are the hot buttons for that retailer and their buying team. Don’t be that key account manager and don’t allow yourself to be that vendor. Don’t be that order taker and perpetual presenter. Bring something more that those menial tasks to the table.
This is not rocket science and this is something that can be taught and can be coached into your people.
If looking for some advice, drop me a line and let’s chat. You never know, may be able to give you a hand.
Ciao for now,