What do suppliers want when they’re looking for partnerships with retailers? Armera’s sales director Dean Pamphilon breaks down what’s important to him…
I, like many others, listened to The kbbreview Podcast episode with Paul Crow and Tony Robson discussing the relationship between suppliers and retailers, and I thought it would be good to put forward a supplier’s view.
Tony and Paul made some really interesting and thought-provoking points.
For me any relationship I, or the sales team, form has to be a partnership. Admittedly, we have a fairly unique view on how many retailers we wish to enter into a partnership with, but to my mind that only enhances the statement above.
In some of my previous roles, we would have trading relationships with over 1,000 retailers and strive to call some partners. However, I do not believe this is what makes a partnership, we just named them as such because they were the biggest spenders. That is not partnership, it is just a league table of accounts.
So why is it a partnership and what makes it so? Before we open an account with a retailer, we have to feel that it will work for both of us and we consider all the following questions…
• Do the brands the retailer has complement our offer?
• How many brands do they have in each category?
• Do they compete with an existing Armera partner?
• Are they an independent bricks-and-mortar only retailer?
• Where do they feel we will fit in for them and what do they want from us?
• Do we feel that they have the right personalities to gel with ours?
I, and my sales team, have to understand all of the above. I believe that you can only call a customer a partner if you truly understand their business. I want to weave myself and Armera into the fabric of their business. Only if I truly understand them and have empathy for their challenges can I put myself and Armera into a position to help them and to ultimately grow my business with them.
The podcast refers to 10 partnership points that Paul Crow devised many years ago. I realise not all suppliers are the same, but I believe the points listed by Paul are a check list of supplier performance. If they are not meeting these points why deal with them?
As a supplier, it is my responsibility to ensure I fulfil Paul’s 10 service points. Point seven was retained margin. To do that I have to be confident that my partner is not going to do a stack of work into specifying Armera products into a bathroom only to find they have to discount it due to alternative supply routes, either online or a close competitor.
I want to look my retailer in the eye and say, ‘specify Armera as the product will not let you down’ and neither will I allow it to become available on every street corner.
Furthermore, it will be the easiest job they carry out, maximising their retained margin, because we have good stock (usually 100%!), good investment in the business, good service, available information, available and ‘can-do’ attitude people and reliable products. The partner is just an extension of our sales team. We want to do everything possible to support them.
Therefore, if my partner is not specifying Armera products regularly when they feel they suit a design or a client, what have we missed? We, being both of us. Are my products wrong for the type of client the retailer is selling to? Are my products too expensive for the type of client the retailer is selling to? Have I missed something in the product training? Do they not understand the value rather than the price?
I believe that if a partner is not using our products on a significant proportion of the jobs, then it is because I have missed something. It is my job to find that missing part and rectify it for our mutual benefit.
So, yes, I believe partnership is achievable and I don’t think businesses that are not built on a partnership have any longevity. I’ve been a retailer and on trade installation, so I totally get it and have felt the pain when a supplier lets you down. Anything we can do to support and make life easier for them we will.