Ask @RetailPhil: Meeting with a Buyer? 6 Tips to Getting on their Good Side


Buyers are like General Managers: they run a store within a store (so to speak) where they are responsible for good product choices, generating profit and being an expert on their categories. It’s a tough job and they answer to many different people – the consumer, the store(s), their direct boss and the vendor/brands that they work with.

So how do you make sure you’re “in the zone” when you call on a buyer? I’ve compiled a list of two rules, two questions and two necessities you should bring with you in order to be fully prepared when meeting with a buyer.

  1. Stick to the timelines that you’ve been given. Build your message to fit the appointment time given to you and then cut it down by 10 minutes. Don’t prolong the experience; make sure your message is concise and to the point. Be sure that your presentation deck reflects your intention to remain timely – If you have 30 minutes and show up with a 100-page deck, your buyer won’t be impressed.
  2. Be clear about what you’re looking for and how much involvement can be expected from the buyer. Be prepared to discuss an action plan while you’re there. The more you can get done with the buyer in that initial meeting, the less you need to follow up on.

Pro-Tip: Make the last page in your presentation deck a “To-Do” list, complete with the relevant product details. This allows the buyer to tear this page away and stick it somewhere they’ll see it and track progress.

  1. Ask where you fit into a buyer’s assortment. Are you more on the volume end or the profit end? What this means is, you either sell a lot or you make a lot of penny profit for a buyer. These have implications on where you will fit on a shelf, and how a buyer treats you. If you sell a lot, you get a better shelf position (digital or physical) but if your sales dip, you can expect a call from the buyer asking why. If you’re the profit product, you’ll have to get familiar with your retailer’s promotional strategy so you know what you can do to drive incremental sales.
  1. Always ask what the category expectations are. How much will the category grow? What does the buyer expect you to grow (in terms of volume and percentage growth)? Buyers have to manage both profit and category growth. You want to know which of those metrics you’re contributing to so that you can tell if you’re keeping up with the rest of the category’s growth, or lagging behind.
  1. Bring an attitude of wanting to help the whole category grow. New products have to add incremental growth for a buyer as switching out poorly performing products only causes more work for them. If you can show that you will help a category grow more as a whole (not just your brand) you stand a better chance of getting listed.
  2. Bring a Category insight if you can. Buyers typically don’t have a lot of time to track trends and rely on brands to bring them insight. If you’re not bringing it, your competitors are. Make sure that your insight is category beneficial.

Pro-Tip: Don’t bring insights that simply bashes your competition. Remember that while your product may be better than your competitors, your buyer also chose that product.


Keeping the above in mind during your meeting should help you make a good impression, look and feel prepared and ultimately, get you on those shelves!

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