By Patrick Culhane10/5/2020

Selling to Retailers is Never About You

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For over 12 years, I helped sales teams from the strongest challenger brands to the world’s most recognizable brand names sell their products to retailers of all sizes. After sitting through hundreds of B2B sales presentations, the number one piece of advice that I can offer is that it is never about your brand.

Far too often, I watched as the salesperson fired up their well-designed presentation and then spent the next 20 minutes solely focused on demonstrating their brand’s success, influence and unique qualitities. Then, without skipping a beat or a moment to pull their audience in, the seller would move into the ‘how we want to work with you’ section, where they’d present a series of fully completed ideas without room for dialogue on how and if the concept can easily be adopted by the retailer. With every minute passed, the buyer looked increasingly disengaged and is left wondering about the sales team’s definition of, “working together.”

This is why I always start my consulting conversations with B2B sales teams by saying, “it is never about your brand.” Retail buyers see hundreds of ‘look at my brand’ presentations every year. The fact is, most buyers do not care about your brand. They only care about their brand and how you can help them. So why spend 20 minutes talking about something they don’t care about?

Here is a structure of an effective B2B retail sales presentation:

  • Put yourself in the retailers’ situation. What are their pain points, their needs, the new news, and where can sales and profits come from? Once you have answered these questions, it then creates a checklist for the rest of your presentation. A structure that will help the buyer see that you understand their world and have answers to their problems.
  • Tell a single partnership story. No, not your brand story, and stay away from empty partnership clichés. Instead, find a unique angle that aligns your brand with the retailer’s needs. For example, are you more flexible and responsive than other brand’s in your category? Can you be nimble and therefore, can work more easily with the buyer’s needs? Get this right, and it will be the thing the buyer remembers most once you’ve left the room.
  • Have a logical flow. Every story has a set-up, a catalyst for change, a middle, and an end. Set the buyer’s expectations by sharing the presentation’s journey upfront. An example narrative can go as follows, “trend research shows your customers want more connected experiences. Through this transition, your sales will decline. However, we have several ideas that we could develop together to overcome declining sales and still exceed customer expectations. Here’s the idea. As a result, you can expect to bring more customers in-store, delivering profitable cross-category sales.” Get this right and you’ll have buyers nodding along.
  • Look the part. Remember, this is not about your brand. Reflect that in both what you say and how you say it. Don’t just put the retailer logo on the front page of your presentation. Use their brand colors, their iconography, incorporate their lexicon, and use images of their customers. Get this right, and it’ll be easier for the buyer to share your ideas internally to gain buy-in.

It will feel counter-intuitive at first, but based on 12 years of experience, the moment your sales team starts talking less about your brand is the moment retailers will start talking about you more.

If you would like a free assessment of your current sales presentation, or if you would like to know more about how to create retailer-specific solutions, contact Patrick Culhane, Director of Strategy.

Phone: (850) 445-0278

Email: [email protected]