Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Some Advice to Sellers, from a Buyer

I have worked in Purchasing at P&G since March 2012, and I have written this based on a variety of experiences. This is my perspective, and does not represent P&G’s approach to selecting suppliers. The one example given has been fictionalized, and no identification with actual businesses or individuals should be inferred.

I tweeted the above a few days ago. I have learnt lots in my various Purchasing roles, and while I have really mulled over the learnings on media strategy, supply-chain value, and procurement systems — I have not thought much about the hundreds of proposals I have reviewed.

I cannot share all my thoughts on that many proposals, but I think it important to share this one for the benefit of sellers reading this. It seems simple, but many businesses who have pitched to us or sent me a proposal made this mistake: investing in their product, and sometimes in developing and communicating its uniqueness, but not investing as much time in thinking about the buyer’s needs and articulating how their product meets those needs.

For instance, someone called from a University to request our Baby-care brand to invest N4million ($11K) in their departmental newsletter. Over a five-minute call, he described the content of the newsletter, the credentials of the contributors, and the fact that they would launch it at their glamorous graduation dinner. Only at the end did he mention the planned circulation was a hundred copies.

ONE HUNDRED COPIES! That is amazing! There was no mention of the fit between Baby-care and graduating students (apart from the implied fact they would likely soon be making babies). He genuinely thought it was an amazing advertising opportunity, and did not position it as a request for sponsorship (I’m not saying this would have worked). He had not thought about the opportunity cost of spending that N4million on their newsletter. For example, how many video-views would N4million deliver? Oh, and can we take a moment to talk about why it is costing N4million to produce ONE HUNDRED newsletters?

While I chose this example for effect, I have seen this play out many times — with sellers more experienced than that young student. I think sellers across all industries will benefit greatly from keeping their customers (or consumers) at the center when thinking about, innovating on, and communicating about their product. Buyers and consumers have too many options competing for their attention already; they should not have to struggle to understand how your product is useful for them, or whether it is useful at all.

Thank you for your attention.


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