Before you set up that appointment know that it may be your only shot with that buyer so make sure it is on point. Buyer’s lives are so hectic that they prioritize their time giving the majority of it to their biggest suppliers; this makes a lot of sense to them since the biggest suppliers tend to have the biggest impact on their business. This leaves little time for small suppliers and potential suppliers and with their new initiative to reduce suppliers; it makes more sense for them to ignore potential suppliers all together. So what’s my point, if you do get that rare appointment prepare to make it the best, most focused presentation you have ever given because it may well be your last!
Assuming you know your own products and company very well the question becomes how well you know your competitors and Wal-Mart. Unbelievably there have been suppliers who have presented to Wal-Mart buyers without ever walking through the door of a Wal-Mart store, bad idea! It is vital that you know how Wal-Mart is currently positioned in the categories you are presenting. Who are they currently buying from, what is their pricing strategies, how is the product laid out, where is it located in the store, how much promotional space is available and most importantly how will your product improve their current offering.
Build your presentation to Wal-Mart around how your products will improve the lives of their customers. You should know that Wal-Mart’s mission is to save their customers money and allow them to live better lives. “Save Money. Live Better.” Will your product offering help them to live up to their mission statement, if not you had better work on it. The best way to approach this is by understanding where the Wal-Mart customer and your product’s customer intersect. How does your product address this specific customer’s needs better than what is already in the market.
Buyers at Wal-Mart like to get right to the point; remember they do not have the luxury of time. Briefly introduce yourself and your team. Only bring members of your team that will add substantial value to the meeting; large entourages do not impress Wal-Mart buyers. Quickly highlight your company’s key attributes especially if they involve sustainability or human rights. Do not allow the above to take more than 5 minutes of your presentation; leave handouts with more detailed information for review later. Start by talking about the problems your targeted Wal-Mart customer faces then present the solution; your product. Go into the details of how your product offers the customer a better solution for their real problem better than what Wal-Mart currently carries today. Do not take this opportunity to bash your competitors, you will immediately be seen as an untrustworthy sales representative. Focus on your product; why is it a better solution. During this part of the presentation, you should have handed over the sample to the buyer. If all goes well the buyer will touch it and explore its functions and design. If your sample is a mock up or prototype, explain this up front before handing it over to the buyer. It is always suspicious when this is pointed out only after the sample breaks or fails to operate correctly.
Finish with how the product is a winner for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. In the past Wal-Mart buyers liked to be the first to market with new items but today for the most part they are interested only in proven items. They want details on how the item is performing at other retailers; what type of demand your company has proactively created for the item. If you do not have grand numbers here then be prepared to discuss guaranteed sales and targeted launches versus company wide launch.
Buyers who are interested in your product will ask questions about cost, materials, product capacity, sustainability and distribution. Do not mistake product improvement suggestions as interest. Many times buyers like to insert their opinions on an item but would still not buy the item even if the improvements were made. Therefore, before you go out and spend thousands redesigning your product based on their comments ask, “If we were to make those changes would you be interested in launching the item to x number of stores”. If the answer is, no, you just avoided a lot of headaches and costs; if it is, yes, you have forced the buyer to commit.
Determining what costs to present to Wal-Mart will determine success and failure and we are not just talking about the presentation. Suppliers will present cost based on the idea that the Wal-Mart will launch the item to all 3,600 U.S. stores at one time. When usually what happens is they buy much lower volumes for targeted stores, which they believe, will target the product’s customer the best. The best way to address the unknown volume issue to present cost with volume breaks listed. This allows the buyer to see at what volumes the cost will go down and at what percent; it protects the supplier from discounting cost on volumes they anticipated but did not receive. It is also important to understand Wal-Mart’s discounts and distribution expectations before committing to cost. If you do not have a good understanding of these expectations before your meeting at least note on the cost sheet that the costs are based on 0% discounts and FOB distribution. Dating the cost sheet can also be important if a large percent of your product is made of highly consumable materials; you don’t want them to come back in six months expecting the same price when the material cost have sky rocketed.
When leaving print material and samples make sure everything is labeled with your company’s name and your contact information. With buyer’s hectic schedules, one business card handed to them at the beginning of the meeting is not enough. Follow up with an email; include all your contact information and a review of the meeting. Thank them for their time and professional input.
We have participated in thousand of Wal-Mart suppliers meetings, let Insight Consulting LLC help you prepare the best Wal-Mart presentation. Contact us today; we are always here to help.