The Trust Epidemic: Retailer-Manufacturer Relationships Need a Strong Foundation

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The Trust Epidemic: Retailer-Manufacturer Relationships Need a Strong Foundation

Three percent of decision makers “completely trust” sales leaders, according to a study conducted by HubSpot Research. Startling, humbling, but not surprising. Over the years, I have conducted similar research and I have discovered that many leaders in senior buying roles trust the sales person, yet have serious doubts that the company will deliver on its promises. Recently, I conducted research on the trust between a group of CPG companies and their top retail customers. There were three strong perspectives that came through loud and clear in the research:

  1. Manufacturers struggle with limited access to their top customers, hindering the depth of the relationship and overall alignment of the partnership;
  2. Manufacturers continue to struggle with reduced profitability due to an escalation in retailer demands, reducing profitability, candor and longer-term investment potential; and
  3. Both retailers and manufacturers are frustrated that the other party lacks creativity, agility and empowerment, hindering the potential for larger value creation.

Even the best brands believe their customer engagements are too transactional, fragile and, often, nonstrategic. Our research shows that the most productive partnerships mutually are aligned on the most vital strategic priorities, financial expectations, interpersonal dynamics and level of transparency, and they jointly share risks.

In a volatile, competitive world, retailers’ business needs have changed. When I ask retail executives, “What blind spots are getting in the way of growth with your top brand partners?” I was not surprised by their answers. The top five comments include:

  1. “You are not as different as you may think, and your and our epiphanies aren’t epiphanies;”
  2. “You don’t understand my problems, evolving future needs or the value of my time;”
  3. “You are not reading the room and paying attention, nor adapting to the buyer’s pressures;”
  4. “Most sales people fill the room with too much personal agenda and don’t listen well enough;” and
  5. “Each day you must earn your keep; your past success doesn’t guarantee your future status.”

Could any of these statements be your blind spot?
When I sit down and interview senior buying leaders, I quickly realize that many sales organizations are not as productive as they could be. What do senior buyers want to see in their sales partnerships? If you are up to the challenge, here are the top five behaviors senior buyers shared with me:

  1. Executives want partners who solve problems, thinking holistically about the whole business;
  2. They are looking for insatiable curiosity, intent listening, and truly uncommon, unique insights;
  3. More discovery, less speech; courageously pushing boundaries and challenging their viewpoints;
  4. Operating with a healthy obsession, questioning themselves and taking nothing for granted; and
  5. Embrace speed, simplicity, transparency and a granular understanding of customers’ needs.

More than 75% of the value of the Fortune 500 are in intangible assets. What unique or hidden assets do you possess that your customers’ value and that help address their higher-
level agenda?

Creating and protecting a trusting relationship is no longer an opportunity — it’s a necessity. Are you creating meaningful moments that matter during your customer meetings?

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