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Sunday Soundbite

6 reasons retailers won’t buy from you next year

Chris Field
Chris Field

Have you noticed how many tech vendors are not really looking forward to 2018? Put it down to end-of-year blues if you like, and we hope everyone returns in January refreshed. But we sense a growing weariness with just how hard it is to get found, seen and chosen by retailers.

Face it, retailers have always been difficult to sell to, but now they are worse than ever. Given what they themselves are up against, you can hardly blame them. For 2018, all the pressures on retailers – Brexit, rent and rates, workplace compliance, currency costs, inflation, more rapid change – remain, so the tech purse strings are not going suddenly to loosen.

In 2017, some vendors had high hopes but by mid-year, they were already well behind, while others had more modest ambitions but have steamed ahead. Anecdotally, and we spoke to 57 different vendors this year, 2017 was tough and 2018 will be at least as tough.

A closer look reveals some interesting insights. The so-called future of tech around infrastructure – AI, IoT, hybrid cloud and edge computing – did not arrive and the hype is still running way ahead of adoption. Perhaps it was always thus, but contrast this with vendors who focused on pain, solution and product within well-established and well-defined areas of tech enablement, and they by and large hit or exceeded their numbers.

This is possibly down to simple good sales practice, but pity the poor vendor caught between the need to sell a dream to retailers who know damn well they need to get transformed more quickly, but have no allocated budget, and the need to sell to retailers that bargain like they are dealing with any other supplier, trying to commoditise prices down into the floor and adding a contract compliance process that would fell an ox.

Cheer up! We all love retail and we all love selling to retailers, right? Here’s 6 things we think you need to know about selling to retailers in 2018 that we hope will help you smash your targets.

Sell in higher and broader up the chain

If you are selling something for which there is currently no budget and for which therefore money will have to be found, chances are you are selling to the guy who doesn’t have the money. So, you need to sell in higher and broader up the chain and that’s not easy. But it can be done, it just means that all box-ticking marketing techniques are redundant.

Consider selling in with a partner

If you sell in with a partner, you are close on 100% more likely to win than if you go in alone. Relationships count with retailers and now that they are trying to manage more of those than ever, they probably don’t want to make too many more. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to make new friends or that they have not outgrown many of their current friends, it just means new friends tend not to make it through. Harsh fact.

Focus on solving their problems

You may believe your own hype and you may have a soul mate within your target accounts who agrees with you, but the real decision maker thinks you’re full of crap. If you spent less time looking in the mirror and more time focused on your prospects’ problems, you are more likely to end up having a useful conversation. And that means using language that is plain, direct and practical; and relevant to that particular persona.

Hammer home your unique values

Who you are, what you’ve done, what you stand for and the value you deliver, all count. They always did of course, but now more than ever in a crowded market where no one has time to even notice you. You need to assert these values and you need to spend more time working out what they are, because with many vendors, they are simply not clear. There is probably a very good reason that you are the retail tech industry’s best-kept secret.

Be crystal clear about what you do

Retailers will waste your time. Shocker. They no more have all the answers than you or an army of consultants, analysts, industry pundits, or me. We are all dancing in the dark, which is why most predictions on the future of retailing are rubbish, and if you build your sales targets on them, you will probably fail. The only answer is to qualify harder, spend more time finding the right people to talk to, and be much clearer about what you do.

Show your true colours

Ignore everything I just said and trust that your natural charm, energy, intuition and tendency to be lucky will see you through. I want to sell you a marketing plan, but I want to make sure that what is unique and special about your business will always shine through. With retailers, their final decision may well come down to the fact that they like you, and you take the time to listen to their problems.

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