retailers want to buy a program over just buying the product

FreshXpertise by Ron Pelger

“Any customer can have any price they want as long as it’s our price.”

That’s what a sales rep once told me during a meeting when I was the director of produce for a major supermarket chain and he meant every word of it. He wasn’t being disrespectful or nasty about it. The statement was implied because he felt he had already added a value to the product rather than just a price.

Besides showing me his company’s fresh-cut salad line, he included a quota program which lowered case costs immensely when and if we purchased and reached certain quantity levels. The program was also combined with a quarterly advertising deal of a few dollars off each case for running an ad with their brand logo inserted.

I wound up accepting the offer. That sales rep sold me a plan over just selling me the product. I felt the program plan would help us with our gross profit. It may have helped in a small way, but all the small ways add up in accomplishing our profit goals.

When I was promoted to director of merchandising and procurement, our divisional president said to me, “Young man, you have to learn one thing as you work your way up in this business —— never be afraid to say NO.”

It took me 10 years to understand what he really meant and for me to have the guts to actually say it. But as the head of the produce operation, I learned how to say “no” in the same way that sales rep said it to me. He never used the word “no.” He told me no when he ended with, ” . . . . as long as it’s our price.” It was when he added that valued program that sold me.

Most produce directors and buyers will usually have price at the top of their list when being visited by a sales rep. It’s just a normal part of the activity. Retail people are expected to negotiate for the lowest cost. Both parties have to know their bottom line. If the director and the sales rep can’t make a deal above their bottom lines, that’s the time to walk away.

Walking away from selling and buying items is not the answer. The one big thing that will suffer the most by walking away from a deal is that both companies will lose —— and it’s not wise to sacrifice all the sales and profit.

The strategy is selling product and making money. But nowadays, it’s selling the program first and the product will follow it after the deal closes.

Every company sales rep boasts that they have the best quality product in the marketplace. However, the standards are much higher these days and usually most suppliers have good product. Retailers seek more in the way of creative ideas and plans on how to help them make that gross profit.

If you’re a supplier with a sales force that calls on retail produce directors and buyers, make sure you teach them to start selling a valued program other than just the product. When you are able to help retailers meet their gross profit through those diverse programs, it will be much easier to sell your entire product line.

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Jennifer Lawson

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