Getting on the same page with your customers is one of the best things you can do. You might not always like the page they are on, but you need to be there. I cannot tell you how many times suppliers think they are doing a great job and retailers perceive something different. It will never work and it is more frustrating for both parties.
This is one of my favourite segments of our C.A.R.T. process for a few reasons:
1. You learn so much when you ask your customer how they define success
2. The question adds to the relationship
3. You will be surprised what is important to them
4. The answer is the content for your next meeting
5. Within your business you really can be customer focused as opposed to what you think they might want
In the alignment column in our C.A.R.T. process we ask the question; What is the definition of success you and your customer have?
You learn so much about your customer
Pay close attention to how they answer the question about success. Usually, the first part of the answer is the most important thing to them. So, if you ask them how they define success and they talk about service level or sales or giving them credit in social media for carrying your product, you know what is most important. Often the answer is sales because that is easy to define and if products don’t sell, they will not stay on the shelf.
It is so important to understand what they are looking for when it comes to sales. They ultimately decide if a product stays, gets more opportunities to grow or goes. You need to know the benchmark they will use to judge your performance. So many times, I have experienced suppliers who believe 100 cases per month is great when the customer is thinking we need 200 to justify the space. The only way you can build a plan to deliver the sales you need is when you know the sales you need to achieve. Same philosophy applies to service level or other metrics they might bring up.
The question adds to the relationship
Retailers are surprised when you want to know how they define success. So many suppliers see retailers as an intermediary between their great product and consumers. It does help you build your relationship and it can lead to opportunities with the retailer.
If they tell you sell through is a key metric, you will need to get this valuable number from them. Ask if the assistant category manager could share this each month so you can track results and make sure you meet or exceed the target. This is a valuable door to open. Assistant category managers can be a great connection for you and often they become category managers someday.
You will be surprised what is important to them
We assume we know what retailers are looking to accomplish and how they define success. When you ask the question about success try to get a few different topics or areas to succeed. Sales are so important but there are other factors too. Try to get past sales to other issues so you get really understand what is on their mind.
I have been in many of these meetings and the answers will still surprise me. You never know what is important to them. In a fresh department it could be something like a start date or smooth transition from another growing area.
You also need to ask the question every time your category manager changes. They are people and they will have different opinions of what defines success. This is where it helps to get beyond the sales question.
The answer is the content for your next meeting
When you know how your customer defines success you can make this the agenda for your next meeting. Report on the topics and talk about what you did within your organization to achieve the results. This is also an interesting way to compare priorities from one customer to another. You would have heard me say many times, “do not take the same presentation from one customer to another”. They are all different and this will help you create those unique presentations.
You might not want to wait until the next meeting to give them some updates. Never hurts to report on sales, service level etc. You will probably not get a response but that is fine, your message was delivered. Without saying it you are telling them you were listening.
Within your business you really can be customer focused as opposed to what you think they might want
I guarantee many suppliers would say they are customer focused. The question is are they customer focused from their version or the customer’s version of success.
It is also a benefit when you might need to make change within your organization. If service level is part of the definition of success you will need to get more than the sales and marketing group engaged. This might need to be a rallying cry across the organization and celebrate the success.
There are so many benefits to asking your customer, every customer how they define success. It is a great way to end a meeting and make sure you are on the same page. To be honest I do it now in SKUFood as well. When we work with a client or speak at an event it is important to understand the customer’s definition of success.
Recently FCC released their Food and Beverage Report 2021. This is a great source of information about our industry. You can use it to benchmark against how you are doing within your category. FCC are a great resource for Food and Beverage processors.
If you have any questions about how to get your local products on the shelf or in the shopping cart you can always call me at (902) 489-2900 or send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.