The great equalizer between smaller and more sophisticated CPG companies, true category management can differentiate any brand in today's highly competitive environment. Category managers can and should support sales within their retailer partners, and there are some different approaches to consider in doing so, some of which may prove more effective than others.
Retail sales support
Most natural companies rely on relationship selling. This can be extremely effective if you have good rapport with your buyers. Decisions are based primarily on emotion and gut as opposed to facts. This can also create an opportunity for sales people armed with solutions to help retailers compete more effectively. The challenge, then, comes from dealing with new buyers, strong competitive threats from more sophisticated brands and mainstream retailers who expect more support from their brands. The old way of selling is not as effective as it once was.
Another hurdle is that most companies tend to focus their message on what's important to them—their product's value from their perspective. Unfortunately, few take the time to educate their retail customers and help build the message around their needs: satisfying customers while making a profit. Retailers want support and guidance from their manufacturer partners.
Just the facts
Fact-based selling also relies on relationships but is bolstered by solid facts, such as additional information that supports the benefit to the consumer as well as to the retailer—the heart of any category management based strategy. This can include the brand's commitment and plan to support the retailer, the market, the category, consumer insights, the potential sales for the item, schematic recommendations, etc.
Fact-based selling with category management answers the questions:
- How does the product meet consumer needs?
- How can the product drive foot traffic to the retailer?
- How can the product give the retailer a competitive advantage in their market?
In answering these questions, always keep in mind the five Ps of selling: product, placement, people, pricing and promotion.
Armed with this information, your sales team will be empowered to help retailers grow in the respective categories.