Before & After your Meetings: Tips for Suppliers  8/21/2015

Andrea Leiser, in her column posted earlier this week, offered some excellent advice on points that suppliers should try and touch on during their 10- and 20-minute meetings at ECRM’s events. I wanted to add to her discussion with some tips on what you should be doing before and after these meetings to make sure these events deliver the greatest benefits to you. The following items are based on conversations I’ve had with buyers over the past year, and are relevant regardless of what category your company focuses on.

Here they are:

  • Do your research. Preparation is key – especially for new vendors looking to get an item on the shelf (or on the menu, in the case of restaurants). Check out buyer’s profile on Marketgate, then check out their website, particularly any press releases, if they are available, as they may help give you insights into the company’s go-to-market strategy. You can also search relevant trade media for recent stories about their company. In addition, don’t be afraid to reach out to buyers in advance of the meeting to learn more about their specific needs, as this will help you better prepare for your meeting and optimize your time in person. 
  • Don’t discount smaller retailers. Most vendors have a priority list of who they want to see at the event, with the national retail chains at the top of the list. But smaller chains may have immediate opportunities that they can act on faster than some larger chains. Don’t be lax on your preparation for these smaller retailers just because they have less than 1,000 stores, or you will miss out on some of these opportunities.
  • Engage brokers early. For those vendors who have brokers, find out what has worked and what hasn’t worked for the buyer’s company in advance of the event.
  • Bring relevant reps to the event. If you are meeting with a grocer, for example, make sure you either have a grocery rep who knows the business, or at least someone who has expertise in the channel. 
  • Customize your presentation. Put in an effort to customize your presentation, and tailor your discussion to the buyer; don’t use the same presentation for each one. It’s the buyer’s job to source those products and develop programs that differentiate themselves from competitors. The vendor’s job is to help them to accomplish that, and the meetings are where you demonstrate just how. And when it comes to presentations during the meeting, keep them short. The rule of thumb should be, less presentation, more conversation
  • Use your time wisely! This almost goes without saying. You have 10 or 20 minutes, so you want to make them count. Discuss only what is relevant to the buyer’s business. Andrea Leiser, President of RSVP Solutions Group and a veteran of more than 30 events, has developed a handy checklist for items that you should cover during your 10- or 20-minute meetings.
  • Listen, and act on feedback. The EPPS meetings shouldn’t be a one-time thing; you want to establish a relationship with the buyer and develop solutions for them, and that sometimes takes time. Of course, you might hit a home run the first time out, but if you don’t then use the meeting as a learning experience. Most buyers would rather have a vendor come to a show to get feedback on an item in development, then come back next year and knock it out of the park. Many buyers I’ve spoken with at our events love being part of the development process by providing feedback during meetings at the show. And if their feedback helps shape your offering, how can they not love it when you present it at the next meeting?
  • Follow up. Everything is in the follow-up. It’s amazing how many suppliers miss out on opportunities by not following up with buyers. The best vendors are those who listen to the retailer’s expectations, provide visibility into their product pipeline, and keep buyers tuned into what is happening by communicating with them regularly – not just at the event. Leverage ECRM’s Marketgate platform and work with your account manager to make sure you leave no stone unturned as far as opportunities go.

Joseph Tarnowski

VP Content

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