By Lisbeth Calandrino Manufacturers spend much of their time competing for their share of business from retailers through product and price. While those key factors will always be part of the equation, they also need to take an additional step to cement this retail relationship. A supplier should focus more on providing training for retailers if it wants to remain the vendor of choice.
When I was in the retail flooring businesses, we loved the suppliers who brought donuts and coffee; I’m sure that had an impact on building relationships with our suppliers. There was also a manufacturer that did more than teach product knowledge or bring goodies; they showed us how to drive customers to our business. They understood trends, were business savvy and wanted us to succeed. Throughout the years, I have never forgotten what they gave us. The more success we obtained, the more loyalty we demonstrated.
The retail chain to the customer continues to change and has never been more complicated. The more sophisticated the channels have become, the more people need to stay in touch with the illusive customer. Truth is, most retailers are not set up to connect with all these channels. Staying connected to the customer takes more time and effort—the smart manufacturers are not leaving retailers on their own. They’ve been taking an active part in driving the customers to their retail partners.
Why is this training aspect of the manufacturer-retailer relationship so important? The more connections manufacturers can make to the consumer and help them find products through their retailer partnerships, the more effective it will be for retailers to sell their consumers. The better the consumer relationship and customer experience, the greater the amount of testimonials and referrals retailers will likely receive. In this era of social media, we know referrals are the lifeblood of many businesses.
Manufacturers need to take the training lead and improve their retailers’ ability to attract and sell today’s consumers. Manufacturers that provide training on up-to-date consumer trends help their customers become more competitive. Manufacturers partnering with retailers and showing consistent brand synergy can increase revenue for both parties. These partnerships set the pathway for trustworthy relationships, which is important for both parties. Another benefit: Through their interactions with dealers, manufacturers can collect data about customer concerns. Utilizing these findings, suppliers can ensure their retailers remain knowledgeable about the issue end users face.
Associations count, too
This concept and practice of quality training is not limited to individual manufacturers. Leading industry associations are also building partnerships between their members and their customers via training tools—especially video.
One group that comes to mind is The Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI). The organization has created a professional training video in support of a new category awareness campaign, “Beautifully Responsible.”
We all know selling can be a grind—all the more reason to utilize training in all its forms to help your salespeople stay sharp, motivated and energized.
Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at email@example.com.