How do operators get their vendor partners - suppliers and distributors - to do a better job servicing their businesses? It’s a question that only gets more pertinent as the industry continues to consolidate. Tom Fox of the CM Profit Group will be taking on the task of answering that question, and identifying the main issues that demand attention, with the help of a panel of representatives from the three tiers.
VIBE: CM Profit has been conducting research on this topic for more than 11 years. Tell me about the service gaps that exist, and provide suppliers with solutions they can incorporate in order to improve beverage alcohol productivity.
Tom Fox: Operators have a lot of needs from their vendors, whether they are suppliers or distributors, and it’s a combination of tactical and fundamental services and competencies, and more strategic services they can offer. What are not negotiable are a couple of fundamental competencies that, frankly, a number of suppliers and distributors aren’t especially good at. For the past 15 we’ve been asking operators, “What do you want from your vendors?”
VIBE: And their response?
Fox: They’ve given us a range of tactical and strategic competencies they want ,and number one in importance of the 10 competencies we have identified, the number one thing operators want from their partners is for them to have a full understanding of what that the operator is trying to get accomplished. In other words, “Know my business very well, don’t come to me and bring me ideas that if you knew my business you’d know I’d never want.” The number one thing, and yet as an industry, the score is “lower than meets expectations.” It doesn’t require a lot of technology or resources, but it does require a paradigm shift in how vendors approach their operator partners.
VIBE: What else do operators put high on their list?
Fox: Building presentations tailored to the needs of the customer. Business reviews and presentations is another area that operators would say is important, and one that the industry doesn’t meet expectations. It’s not as if there aren’t some suppliers who are doing some impressive things, and we’ll have some of them on the panel to talk about it.
VIBE: How does it come about that so many reps aren’t meeting the basic minimum of expectations?
Fox: There are a couple of reasons. Most companies would aspire to be customer-focused but when you look at what they create from a presentation perspective, if they were critical and looked at it from their customer’s point of view, they might see the gaps. Most operators would say the reps that call on me are well intentioned and capable enough, but they are selling and not necessarily partnering. They really need to be more customer-focused and aspire to want to be known for this, where many companies are focused on more short-term results and selling is the paradigm.
VIBE: What do you hope to accomplish at the 2017 VIBE Conference?
Fox: I hope people walk away with the knowledge of what operators find important, and we’ll share the 10 competences and the importance operators give them, like understanding the account better, building better presentations, and better assortment suggestions. I’m hoping as a moderator to be challenging everyone in the audience to think of their last few presentations they have developed and put on a critical hat, and be more mindful of what they are doing.
Early bird registration for the 2017 VIBE Conference in San Diego is now open.