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Inside the mind of a professional buyer

So you’ve started your business, created your product, made some local sales…and now you want to go bigger. You’d love to see your products on the shelves on high-street stores and supermarkets throughout the UK – how do you do that?

What’s needed is called a ‘listing’ and to do that you firstly need to speak to the buyers in the stores. Experienced buyer Barbara McCrory has provided us with pointers:

“Professional buyers are just that, they purchase for a need or want that may not be their own, so they are always looking for new products or services suitable for their customers.

You have two sales to think about, one to the professional buyer and the other to the end user. Both will have different needs and require different sales messages. Most sellers recognise the end user needs, but few people think about the professional buyers’ needs.

You need to consider the professional buyer and to be clear why are you meeting them, and fully understand, how your offer will fulfil a need or needs that they have.

To attract a professional buyer’s attention, similar to an end user, you need to fulfil most if not all their needs. Now there’s the crusher, how do you find out their needs? Unfortunately, it is not usually that easy. It requires research in preparation for your conversations. This ensures when you get in front of buyers you ask intelligent questions. Your conversation should be a win/win outcome, not one that only gives you helpful information.

A few things to think about:

  • What need is your product or service fulfilling for the buyer?
  • How does it make sense within the current marketplace, is it within trend?
  • Why would the buyer purchase from you? You should give some thought around the benefits of working with you e.g. could it be because you are local, unusual, fulfilling a gap in the market, helping the environment?
  • Can you make enough? You should research your target market and understand the volume you may be asked to supply, and within certain timeframes.
  • Can you deliver to all their depots / stores? Do you need a distributor or agent to do this for you or can you use a logistics company?
  • Can you make money ? Remember volume and economies of scale can be enough to assist you obtain your own profit.
  • Remember that all professional buyers have targets to hit, some of them are around delivering new products to their customers, all of them will have financial targets – profit and sales – can you assist them achieving their goals?

Listening is equally important in these conversations to ensure you tailor your solution to best align your product / service to match and solve the professional buyers’ needs. By establishing this solutions-focused conversation you are creating a relationship and building trust about what you and your business can deliver. Trust is hard earned and easily lost. If a professional buyer gives you time, resource and space, can you fulfil your promises? Think about how you can illustrate your reliability and track record before meeting them.

A current focus of professional buyers is considering how your offer supports their sustainability agenda and the environment – how do you fit in or help? Globally this is becoming an increasingly important buying criterion.

Does this change with each industry? No, not really, all buyers have needs that you must understand before entering conversations with them regardless of what you are selling. If you are doing this and your competition is not, who know what nice things can happen! Don’t get disheartened – it takes time to get meetings, perfect your pitch, understand systems, develop relationships. Don’t give up, keep going, and don’t take it personally – most buyers get lots of approaches and are usually very busy, sometimes getting a meeting or a sale is just luck or timing. Preparation, exploring networks and getting personal introductions are often helpful in securing that first meeting.

So, in summary, to attract a buyer’s attention you need to have something they are interested in, will make money for them, reduce their stress levels, and will be something a customer will want to buy. Think about their needs, not about your needs. Try to put yourself into the mind of the buyer and discover what their needs are. Remember only 2% of companies buy on the first meeting, 98% state they want trust before they buy and 63% of companies take more than three months to make a decision. So don’t give up!


Barbara McCrory has over 25 years in the field of buying and selling and has worked with some of the biggest brand names such as Mars, Masterfoods, Unilever, Dolmio, Heineken, Hellmans, Flora, Nivea, Walkers and Johnson Brothers. She holds a Doctorate in Customer Retention, an MBA in Retailing and a Degree in Marketing. She is a lecturer in International Sales Management, Entrepreneurial Leadership and Professional Selling with Napier University.


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