You will be amazed when you have a relationship with customers built on trust
Trust is a word we do not hear often enough in the food and beverage industry. We hear mis-trust more often than trust. This is unfortunate because when individuals trust each other they can get past the trivial things and focus on mutually beneficial opportunities.
Trust is an individual thing. I cannot tell you how to define trust, you must figure that out yourself. What I can share is how I would have developed trusting relationships with suppliers.
In our C.A.R.T. process T stands for Trust. My experience has been suppliers want to invest their time and efforts on consumers and customers but lose sight of how important it is to develop trust. The Trust column includes the question; How do you define trust?
Building trust with your customers
When I was at Loblaw, there were certain suppliers I believed I could trust and others with whom I did not have that relationship. The trusted suppliers would get the opportunities and the others would have to pay more for the chance or just not even have the chance offered to them. Trust was not just keeping a secret or treating me better than other retailers. It was supplier’s commitment to execute and deliver what was needed at the right time, at the right cost in the right place.
Trust is built over time
Suppliers and retailers are two businesses that interact but it is people who really interact, not the business. For people to trust each other it takes time and reinforcing consistent behaviour from both people. It is rarely “love at first sight” in this industry. Taking an approach of finding mutually beneficial solutions and then delivering them works best. This also takes time.
When you have a new category manager you usually have to start right back at the beginning. Make sure they understand your business but it is not all about your business. You also need to make sure they understand you understand their business. This will help you more than you will ever know.
Communication is important but execution is what builds trust
Yes, you have to communicate and you would have heard me say that many times. Sharing what is happening and why definitely is integral to your customer relationships. The communication will lead to trust when you do what you say you will do.
Unfortunately, many suppliers who came before you did not execute so category managers take a cynical view. Many assume you will not execute which is unfortunate but that is reality so prove them wrong. This is one of the biggest challenges for small to medium sized producers and processors to overcome. Don’t take it personally, just do what you say you will do and earn their trust.
As we have discussed before:
1. Develop a plan,
2. Make sure you and your customer agree on the plan
4. Follow up to remind them you did execute.
This is a formula to develop trust.
Maintain a level playing field but make them feel special
Retailers understand you have to sell to other customers. It is the reality in a market. They do not always like and they can be leery of what you offer to the other retailers. Again, you must overcome what others have done before you.
Review what each customer is doing and find the right program to deliver the best results in their store. Right now, loyalty programs are one area where retailers see your participation as supporting their formats. There are many other examples you need to find and build a unique program for each customer. This builds trust.
Trust is built in good times and bad times
It is never perfect…producing, processing, packaging and delivering food and beverage is a challenge. There will be issues. You need to be proactive when there are issues and provide solutions. You can enhance the level of trust in your customer relationship when problems do arise. Honesty and integrity in the middle of a crisis or even a shorted order or rejection will pay dividends in the long run.
Remember to celebrate the wins. This does not have to include champagne. When you do meet or exceed targets take the time to send a note or call. We know category managers are working 8 weeks out on ads and do not always take the time to notice your 100% service level or 95% sell through on a seasonal program.
When I was sitting in the chair, there were certain suppliers I believed I could trust. People are people and they will work much more effectively with the people they trust.
If you have any questions or help figuring out how to get your product 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.
We are adding more industry updates and interesting ideas to your SKUFood newsletter. If you see things happening let us know so we can share them with our community. We also want to hear if you find this helpful and benefits your food and beverage business!
Categories are changing
When you see the big players buying smaller businesses in categories you know they believe the market is changing. Recently Saputo announced they were spending $187 million to acquire two non-dairy cheese processors. They are making these investments to ensure they provide solutions to consumers looking for cheese, whether they are made from cow’s milk or other ingredients.
Sustainability continues to be important
Last week we talked about Babybel and a recycling program. This week we will show you some new Ziploc bags. An item in millions of lunch boxes and fridges is being changed to be more sustainable. Ziploc bags are introducing resealable paper bags with stickers. It will be interesting to see how these are accepted by consumers.
Coca Cola in the beverage alcohol market
Every summer we see many new product introductions in the beverage alcohol categories. Cider, fruit infused beer, pre-mixed drinks and hard seltzer. Coca Cola and Molson Coors are launching a new hard seltzer into the market this year. In many U.S. markets these items can be sold in traditional grocery stores where Coca Cola has a significant presence in many other beverage categories. It is not a Coca Cola branded product; it is the Topo Chico brand acquired 4-5 years ago.