The Tragedy of Sh*tty Buyer Pitches

I should admit, first of all, that I’ve only been inside one retail buyer ‘pitch’ while consulting for a significant multinational food company years ago. It was painful for reasons that don’t concern you. Actually, no. There was one thing these boneheads did that still haunts me.

They didn’t listen well.

They pitched a rehearsed pitch. Argh.

They didn’t know how to lead a sales conversation….at all.

I recently interviewed Jeremy Smith of Launchpad, a Costco consultancy. More on that in December, where our discussion goes live.  

The biggest tragedy I see founders make approaching buyers is the act of pitching. Pitching is what you do on Shark Tank, folks. Because the latter is NOT a serious business discussion, it’s reality TV entertainment. (I’m not even sure all the Sharks grasp this). 

What founders need to be doing with retail buyers is building relationships…before the meeting, during the session, and after the meeting. You want the buyer to develop a friendly tickle feeling when they see your e-mail. You need to show you care about their desk. 

In any meeting, the goal is to partner with them to boost their premium brands portfolio and demonstrate that you’re ten times more professional than the losers that showed up before you. 

So, please rehearse the conversation, not your pitch

What questions will you get asked? 

How will you answer them? 

Think through the scenarios and get your broker or an accounting expert to help pressure test your performance. Study the retailer’s merchandising culture. Study the buyer. Do your homework. 

As an early-stage business, you are selling trust in you, the unknown founder, not your products per se. Most buyers have no reason to trust you can even deliver pallets on time, let alone that you can support the brand outside of their stores. So, make your case. Conversationally. Emotionally connect with them, if at all possible. 

You have to negotiate with a buyer to be taken seriously. Then they may surprise you.

As I’ve said privately to many clients, you NEED to read Never Split the Difference by former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss. The buyer holds significant power in the conversation, but you have the ability of language to negotiate advantage for your brand. Learn to master negotiation, and you can abandon pitching buyers (or anyone else) forever.

Dr. James Richardson

[email protected]