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6 ways to effectively communicate with retailers

2.5 min read

Every retailer operates differently, and suppliers must understand how to communicate effectively with them.

Communication evolved over the last few years. While our industry once relied on in-person meetings, we changed quickly to continue doing business during the pandemic. Some retailers still like to do most meetings virtually, and others want to meet face-to-face.

Every retailer has their preference

Retailers are all selling food and beverage, but they each have their 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 prefer to meet virtually. There is no communication template in these kinds of a situation.

Develop the relationship

Relationships evolve, and different forms of communication will help you get there.

Remember that you need to communicate with your customers and continue improving your relationships. This is done over 52 weeks yearly, not in one face-to-face meeting. Some suppliers believe they can solve everything in one meeting and hope their customers don’t call the rest of the quarter or the year.

Relationships evolve, however, and different forms of communication will help you get there.

Here are six key points to remember about communicating with your customers:

1. Pick a channel

Use as many different forms of communication to interact with your customers as possible. In addition to traditional forms of communication like phone, email or in-person meetings, you have options such as:

  • text

  • virtual meetings

  • professional social media platforms like LinkedIn

  • trade shows

  • charity events

2. Plan to communicate

It won’t happen on its own. Set up a schedule and begin thinking about priority topics to discuss with the category manager as the meeting draws near. Finalize the list before you begin communication.

3. Individualize

Consider what works best with each category manager. Your most effective plan will be a different list of modes of communication for each person.

4. Ask questions

Don’t assume you know how or when category managers want to communicate with you. Ask them - they should let you know.

This gives you important information about the best time to call or email them. And if they don’t respond (which happens), it permits you to say in your next communication something like: “You suggested I call Tuesday mornings before 9 a.m. Please let me know a better time if this is no longer convenient.” This is a gentle reminder that they opened the door and should respond.

5. Online versus in-person

Virtual meetings can be more frequent and shorter. The connection built during an in-person meeting can be highly effective and allows you to meet others on the retail team and see what’s happening in-house.

6. Stay focused

Keep your priorities top of mind during the meeting and stay focused. There may be a tendency to carry on an in-person meeting too long to make the most of the expense of travel, but that can lead to an unclear meeting. Quarterly meetings online for 30 minutes can be more productive than one in-person meeting for an hour.

Everyone has their style and preferences for communication. Remember that category managers are the customer, so try to find out their preferences which should lead to more messages returned and more productive time together.

Article by: Peter Chapman

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