Buyer Relationship

We’ve talked about content.  We’ve talked about promotions.  And now we need to talk about interactions with the buyer, because without a strong relationship all the rest is pretty meaningless.  As professional sales people we work hard to develop and maintain a relationship with the buyer that fosters open communication and mutual respect.

I was telling one of our new employees this week about how tough it can be to even get a buyer on the phone.  They are universally overworked; often managing hundreds of vendors and thousands of SKUs and ultimately millions of dollars of business.  One buyer we know manages 400 vendors and 17,000 SKUs.  He gets several hundred emails each day and deletes all of the ones he cannot respond to each day; figuring that if it is important enough, you’ll email again.

Many buyers, this one included, spend time on the top 20% of vendors that create 80% of their sales.  The rest of the vendors get very little time.  Knowing this means you have to be smart about your communications with buyers.  For this reason, we often think about the following types of things to manage the interactions.

Communication Style

Keep email and phone communications brief and to the point.  It is important to make sure to incorporate all the relevant data into one email, which clearly defines responsibilities and timelines.  If you are asking the buyer to look at multiple emails and data points your communication failed.  Everything they need to be able to say “yes” to should be in one concise communication.

Annual Calendar

Create an annual promotional or marketing calendar for the buyer so they can see the year at a glance.  The idea is to develop a tool that lets them quickly understand how the manufacturer plans to help drive the business.  Take care to highlight activities that the manufacturer plans to accomplish nationally and work to integrate those with the promotion offerings available via that online retailer.

Coordinate with their Team

This can be tricky and depends on how much the buyer trusts or requests your help.  However, working with the replenishment buyer and inventory control buyer when appropriate can help facilitate sales growth.  The idea is to try and find ways to help drive the business without involving the buyer.


Ask for face-to-face meetings only when you really have something important to discuss.  The buyer is pressed for time and typically not interested in glad-handing or superfluous meetings – they have a ton of people asking for their time.  Focus on how you can help them increase sales.

Building trust with the buyer can lead to significant gains.  In one case this year, we increased the annual volume for a client by working strategically with the buyer.  Together we identified opportunities in the selection, content enhancements, a different mix for stocking vs dropship, and an annual promotion schedule.  This multimillion-dollar business is up over 340% YTD.

We welcome your input and look forward to the conversation; click here to leave a comment. For an overview of the purpose of this blog take a look at the initial post here.


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