Are Vendors the Good Guys or the Bad Guys?

Having been in business for many years and worked hundreds of trade shows and negotiated with both large and small vendors and sales reps of every stripe, I can say that when it comes to vendors, sometimes it’s hard to determine whose side the vendor is on!

In reality, both vendor and retailer stand in the same bathtub. They can materially help one another and effectively augment the others’ business. All to often, unfortunately, vendor and retailer appear to be at odds with one another to the point of negatively affecting their sales and growth potential.

Many years ago, I discovered the single question that, when I posed it to the vendor, the response was quick, encouraging and welcomed. This single question also served to jack up sales, improve my relationship with the vendor and opened other opportunities with that vendor for years to come.

So, what was this miraculous question? I asked, “Mr. Vendor, what can I do to increase our business with you?” The usual response was a bonified smile, a pause and then a well thought out response. My question was serious and the usual vendor response was equally serious. Vendors wanted to know from my perspective, what I needed in order to increase our usage.

Thus, began our dialog with the vendors. We discussed what they could do for us and equally what we could do for the vendor. We explored adding or deleting items, exercising joint promotions and advertising, having unique specials, participating in reciprocal training sessions for our sales people and their reps and other endeavors equally beneficial for both parties.

These efforts led to special makeups, deals and other promotions. I can say with great honesty, much of our growth was the result of our reaching out to the vendors and asking how we could increase our business with them.

There was also a very pleasant and productive attitudinal change between our buyers and the vendors representatives. Instead of a good guy, bad guy relationship, we built growth synergies which served both of us well for many years.

Will this work every time with every vendor? No, but it will work most of the time with most of the vendors. It is important to keep in mind, that if the vendor works on your behave to increase sales, then there must be a concomitant effort on the retailer’s part in increase the vendors presence on the sales floor and their sales. This is called a quid pro quo.

This approach is effective, provided you are speaking with vendor management level personnel . . . those persons who can appreciate the potential and make pricing and other decisions. Just speaking with your rep but not getting the buy in from management will not be effectual.

The register begins to ring when both vendor and retailer listen in earnest to the other and are willing to respond accordingly to the other party’s needs. When buyers and vendors are working in consort in a sustained manner, then mutual growth becomes a reality.

So, I say to the retailers, if you want to grow, invite your reps to help augment the process by responding to the retailer’s needs. But by the same token, the retailer must equally respond to the needs of the vendor. This might require a realignment of your vendor representation and a consolidation of purchases into fewer similar vendors.

Remember, this simple question “What can I do to sell more of your products?” may open the doors wide for improved vendor relations, sales and profits. Go for it!