10 guidelines for calling on retailers

by Ron Pelger

How do produce decision makers and buyers perceive sales reps?

The buying power of major retailers today is stronger than ever before. The same old ways of selling won’t work anymore. Most of those time-worn formats will simply bore a produce director in 2020. It’s time to change old methods to new.

What levels of trust do retails have with suppliers?

There are four levels that most retail decision makers have trust in when dealing with companies wanting to sell to them. It all starts from the bottom with low trust and moves up to the highest level of trust.

The Street Vendor — Onetime purchase to fill in daily store orders. Low level of trust.

The Wholesale Supplier — On and off non-scheduled purchasing. Basically, they manage to get in the address book. Fair amount of trust.

The Distributor — Repeat purchasing. Medium level of trust.

The Partnership Supplier — Regular ongoing purchases. Working together in a “Partners in Growth” program. High level of trust.

Do you have a sales department with reps that call on retailers?

Which are your top performers? Who always seems to surpass their budgeted sales quotas? Who sells the most product for you?

Why do your top two or three sales reps outpace the rest of the sales team and generally deliver the most orders for the company year after year? Why does your bottom level sales rep always fail to meet their quotas?  

The simple answer to those questions is because 2020 is a different sales environment. Sales reps of other companies are far more competitive today and the retail buying operators are a whole lot tenacious.

Here are 10 rules for calling on retailers:

Make an Advance Contact — Send samples with a short introduction.

Set an Appointment — Call and keep calling. It takes time, but keep doing it.

Be Prepared — Do your homework. Plan your strategy. Know your product.

Easy on the Material — Don’t overwhelm with brochures and a bunch of papers.

Focus on Selling — Stick with the product and a programs for the retailer.

Never be Overpowering — No more than two sales reps. Speak up but do not shout.

Speak Properly — Don’t ramble. No “uh” – “umm” – “you know” etc.

Dress for Success — Be clean, fresh, neat. No loud shirts or mobster sunglasses.

Be On Time — Being late is a bad impression. Be in the lobby an hour before.

Don’t Brag or Criticize  — Prevent over-boasting. Avoid knocking your competition.

Always sell retailers more than just the product. Offer them a program that will help generate volume sales. The program can be in the form of a cost discount if they reach a certain quota level. It could be some free corrugated designer bins for merchandising impulse sales. Even some cool styles of signage to accommodate the product is attractive. Any type of tools that will aid in moving more product is always beneficial to the retailer. 

Once a sales rep finally reaches a produce director or buyer by phone, they should express thanks and schedule a meeting. Do not try to sell over the phone. Always meet “face-to-face.”

Never ask, “When can we meet?” The sales rep should always offer the buyer an odd time to meet such as 10:15, 1:45, 3:20. Those times sends the message that the rep is productive and dependable.

At FreshXperts, we have the expertise of having been retail decision makers. We sat in meetings and met with sales reps across the table. Our buying methods and negotiating experiences are something we teach company sales department employees. We can instantly develop salespeople to move up to improved up-to-date methods to call on retailers.

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Jennifer Lawson

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