To stay in the loop with the latest features, news and interviews from the creative community around licensing, sign up to our weekly newsletter here
Buyerology’s Karen Green discusses how the role of a retail buyer has evolved in recent years.
Karen, thanks for making time. Firstly, can you give us a quick summary of your career to date and how you found yourself running Buyerology?
I started life working for my father in Camp Hopson, a department store in Newbury which is still there today. It’s there where I learnt a lot about customer service and selling. After uni, I started as a graduate trainee buyer working for Tesco and progressed from there to senior buyer at Boots. I then went to work with a number of food companies, first as an account manager and then commercial director, ultimately selling sushi back to Tesco and Boots!
I decided to move to the south of France so I needed to have a more virtual business model. I set up Food Mentor, working with food and drink SMEs, enabling them to gain listings with grocery retailers. Over the past couple of years, I honed my sales skills and learned a great deal about what works and doesn’t, so I decided to write my second book – Buyer-ology: Know your Buyer, Sell More and Sell Better. My new consultancy – Buyerology – evolved from there
Focusing on Buyerology, what is the main focus and purpose of the business?
The key purpose of Buyerology is to provide consultancy and training to larger SMEs, whether they are selling products or services B2B. The purpose is to enable the CEOs, Founders and sales directors to create a virtuous sales cycle of closing more deals that create happy customers who buy more and – most critically – refer and recommend, thus creating more business. Once you understand how to sell better, it becomes 100 times less stressful and builds confidence
We met at the recent IFE tradeshow and took part in a panel discussion about the potential for brand licensing in the FMCG sector. What were some of the key points and learnings that emerged from that discussion?
The key point for me from the licensing discussion is the tangible opportunities for growth, whether you are licensing out your brand or taking on someone else and making product for them. You are able to take your brand into areas that you might only dream of by utilising the licencee’s sales network and marketing expertise. The marketing opportunities for collaboration are immense, creating a virtuous opportunity for growth.
The other key learning is ensuring you think through the pitfalls of what can go wrong and ensuring that you have a partner that’s a real expert in the field. Your brand is valuable and having someone impact that brand through bad delivery or quality is difficult to come back from.
Do you have any favourite examples of brand licensed products in the FMCG space?
I am a massive fan of Marmite. I always talk about Marmite in my presentations as being the perfect brand – there is only one Marmite. Like many mega food brands, it’s cheap to make and the own label versions are poor comparisons. The strength of the branding means it works well as a licence opportunity – we all know the yellow brand colour and design. Also, because of the ‘Love it Hate it’ marketing, it can be used in so many ways… Some logical, like crisps and snacks, and some a bit off-beat, like lip balm and hot cross buns.
Thinking about your time as a retail buyer, how has the role changed over the last five or 10 years?
When I started out in buying, we used to get letters and samples sent to us, but maybe 10 a week if that. We had in-person meetings and went to the odd trade show, but the trade marketing was minimal and we relied on suppliers bringing products to us. Now, the majority of buyer’s time is spent online doing their own research and identifying opportunities. Their inboxes overflow with 200 to 500 emails a week from potential new suppliers and it’s impossible to reply to them all.
To deal with this tsunami of new brands, there are now many different ways that buyers manage approaches. For example, RangeMe and Product Guru run online and in-person events asking for pitches for specific reviews. Many of the companies – such as Wholefoods, Ocado and Booths – only allow approached via their online portals.
The role has changed very much to being one of information management to identify new opportunities. And with existing suppliers, the key issue of course now is inflation… This will be taking up a lot of buyers’ time at the moment, coupled with the challenges of the hybrid clicks/brick models which means more complex cost-based negotiations.
Many of our readers are drawn from the design community. Thinking about the design sector, are there any tips you could suggest on how they sell their companies and services to their clients?
If we go back to the principles of Buyerology, you have to get to know and understand your target customers. So understand the customer journey that they go through and where their pain points are. From finding new clients to developing the existing ones, there is a simple process which I call B.U.Y.E.R.
Start with Building awareness of their brand and making sure that their target clients know who they are before they approach them – whether that’s Linkedin, referral, targeted advertising or meeting them at a show. You then need to really Understand their business so you can create a tailored pitch to solve their specific problems. Once you have that solution you can sell in and get them to say Yes.
The next stage of Execution is where I see a lot of design agencies come unstuck… They come up with designs which do not match the brief and further work is needed, which is outside the scope of the budget. Clients at this stage become unhappy and may leave. If you can make sure they give you a detailed brief of their needs, you can execute better.
And then the fifth stage in the B.U.Y.E.R process is Referral, Recommendation and Repeat business.
Love an acronym! Before we let you go, let’s get a plug in for Buyer-ology. Why should our readers get a copy?
Everyone is in the business of selling – whether you are selling a product or service to a customer, pitching for investment or even selling yourself at an interview or on a dating app. And while the principles of the book are targeting people who are selling B2B, the principles are the same.
Learn the Buyer-ology matrix which will enable you to profile your target customers in a very structured way and then apply this knowledge in the five-stage BUYER process which enables you to sell more and most crucially sell better.
I teach how to write a better sales email, a more appropriate sales pitch and how to negotiate and close the deal. And most importantly, how to execute well and maximise the recommendation opportunities
Finally, if you were hosting a panel discussion about ‘selling better’, which three people would invite onto the panel?
Stephen Bartlett created the awesome Diary of a CEO and mastered the art of gaining listeners and now selling products, whether they are sponsors or his own merchandise. He has some amazing insights and I really want to meet him again! I’d also go for Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference. He knows more about negotiation than anyone on the planet. My last pick is Alison Hands, CEO of Lincolnshire Co-op, who has massive retail experience and could give a great retail insight into selling.
Enter your details to receive Brands Untapped updates & news.