Our industry likes to believe we are “retail focused” and “love working directly with retailers” but in reality we are terrible at understanding the gate keeper to our success. Retail buyers are incredibly busy and their performance is incredibly visible – every day the whole company can see how they are performing against budget and last year. Not performing? You won’t last long. The level of stress and workload the buyers undertake is way beyond what the licensing industry understands. Business is about people and customers are ten times more likely to buy from you if they like, trust and respect you. In general buyers will detest most of their suppliers so these are my top tips to get buyers to like you. Most of this is not pretty but it’s effective.
1. Be nice
Sounds obvious but buyers have incredibly stressful jobs and unless you have a friendly tone you will be ignored. Never get angry / short / abusive with a buyer – it will never work regardless of how much they have over promised and under delivered. Never expect them to be nice in return.
2. Be creative
Buyers get a huge number of suppliers contacting them with the next big thing, over 100 new approaches a week in most cases. To stand out think of something original. One of the best approaches I had at John Lewis was the Caterpillar luggage catalogue that was always sent with a KitKat and a tea bag with the message – take a break and review our catalogue. I never bought the range but at least they got a response each season!
3. Be responsive
If a buyer asks a question, any question, answer it immediately. Always keep on top of emails and have their numbers stored in your phone. They will only call when they need something urgently.
4. Don’t be afraid of exclusives
Amazon sell everything and undercut everyone. Retail is a bloodbath and has been for many years. Exclusivity is incredibly important for retailers to maintain their stupidly low net margins. Timed exclusives allow your product to get a great launch partner and work out which products will be the best sellers for when you roll out market wide.
5. Don’t Bullshit
Never say you can deliver something unless you can 100% deliver it. You have one chance to get your product listed. Once a buyer wants something they will want it immediately.
6. Don’t nag / hound / hassle / chase
Not an easy one – your product will make them millions! However, constant hassling is the easiest way of getting junk mailed. Try to vary your approach – start with an engaging email, follow up with a call, try targeting the Assistant Buyer. Your aim is purely to get 5 minutes of their time to review the opportunity. If you get the review you are in the top 5% of approaches.
7. Accept rejection
If you are lucky enough to get a not interested from a buyer then you are one of the lucky failures. Most ‘no’s’ are delivered with silence. If you get a no then just bide your time. Buyers move very frequently, in most cases far too frequently. When a new buyer is in place, try again.
8. Be the buyers bitch
The best way of securing any listing of any product at any retailer? Always do exactly what the buyer wants, in the format they want it, and on the timescales they want it. Simple.