Communication is evolving - SKUFood
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Communication is evolving

Each week we are exploring one of our 10 trends to focus on this year. We approach this a bit differently as our trends are developed for suppliers in the food and beverage industry. They are based on what we learn talking to different retailers, suppliers and stakeholders in the industry.

Our ninth trend is Communication is evolving. We have all had to adapt to new methods of communication over the last few years. Our industry used to rely on in person meetings and we had to change quickly to continue doing business during the pandemic. Some retailers are still doing most meetings virtually and others are wanting to meet in person.

Every retailer operates differently and suppliers need to spend more efforts trying to understand how to communicate effectively.

Every retailer has their own way of doing business

If you have heard me speak, I will often use the analogy of relating the retailers to my 3 children. My 3 kids are all went through the same schools and grew up in the same community. They are all my kids, but they are very different. One might do very well in one subject in school and another might find that class a challenge. Two are more involved in sports than the other, she would prefer to read. Retailers are just the same. They are all selling food and beverage, but they have their own way of doing it. They also have their own way of communicating with suppliers. Even within retailers, some category managers want to meet in person and others would prefer to meet virtually.

The priority is to communicate and develop the relationship

The most important thing to remember is you do need to communicate with your customers and continue to improve the relationships you have. This is done over 52 weeks per year, not in one face to face meeting. I find it interesting with some suppliers who believe they can solve everything in one meeting then hope their customers do not call the rest of the quarter or the year.

Relationships evolve over time and different forms of communication will help you get there. We are advocates of using as many different forms of communication to interact with your customers as you can. We also believe you should plan for this to happen, not just ‘occur’. You have options such as:

  • Phone
  • Email
  • Text
  • In person meetings
  • Virtual meetings
  • Platforms like Linked in
  • Trade shows
  • Charity events
  • Social media

Consider what works best with each category manager. Our experience has been your most effective plan will be a different list for each person.

Ask a few questions

Don’t assume you know how or when they want to communicate. Ask them, they should let you know. This accomplishes two things for you:

1) Gives you some important information about the best time to call or email them.

2) If they don’t respond (which happens…), it gives you permission to say on your next call or email, “You suggested I call Tuesday mornings before 9”. A gentle reminder to them that they opened the door and should respond.

Virtual meetings can be more frequent and shorter. If you are paying the expenses to travel and meet in person, many people will try to ‘make it worth their while’. This can lead to a meeting that is too long or not focused on your priorities. We would say quarterly meetings on-line for 30 minutes are usually more productive than one in person meeting for an hour.

Everyone has their own style. They are the customer so try to find out their preferences which should lead to more messages returned and more productive time together.

If you have any questions about our SKUFood trends, you can always send me an email or call me at (902) 489-2900.


Sobeys celebrates International Women’s Day

Wednesday, March 8th is International Women’s Day and Sobeys featured a number of women behind some of their favourite local brands. We know many of these people and you would find their products in our cupboard and fridge. Great to see Sobeys celebrate these people and the products they work with.

Shivani’s Kitchen selling prepared meals

Congratulations to Shivani Dhamija for launching her prepared Indian meals in Sobeys deli. It has been a journey for her as she has worked so hard to introduce Indian spices and Indian foods to Atlantic Canada and other markets. I remember sitting in the Seaport market, where there was no heat talking to Shivani about the work she would have to do to get her products selling at retail.

It is a privilege to work with people who listen and implement the suggestions we give them. They might not always like every task but they understand it is important and to be successful it needs to happen. I need to stop into Sobeys to try these products!

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