Small and medium independent convenience store chains may not have the buying power of large chains, but that doesn’t mean they can’t negotiate for the best deals possible.
The key is to make win-win deals, where those on both sides of the table walk away with something that they want, while working to create beneficial relationships with your vendors. Because at the end of the day, it’s the relationships you build with these key players that make all the difference.
To that end, vendor recognition and appreciation can go a long way toward building a mutually beneficial relationship. For example, one 15-year sales veteran was facing a situation where the company required the sales force to re-apply for their positions. My vendor presented them with seven ‘Sales Rep of the Year’ letters from me that he had received over the years. He was not asked one question and kept his job, while many other sales reps lost their positions. As you can imagine, come negotiation time, he ensured we achieved the best possible deal.
Early on, I came up with “Praise for Performance” letters that resulted in a Vendor Rewards and Recognition program to honor vendors who went the extra mile for our business. Later, on I was asked by several companies to do a little consulting work for some 30-50 store chains and was surprised to find that even though we operated only two truck stops, that we were favored with national pricing on fountain drinks, and they were not. One 50 store chain used the same company for coffee as we did with the exact same SKUs, yet we paid $3.85 less per case and more than $11 less on hot chocolate.
Being A Quality Partner
When you have vendor and supplier recognition programs, you’re incentivizing those you do business with to go the extra mile, and you’re taking steps to be the best possible partner in return.
But recognition letters and programs alone aren’t going to cut it. You must also show genuine human interest in creating a relationship with these key players, and in providing growth for their products within your stores. You must run a stellar operation with great marketing, fast customer in-and-out, and extremely clean restrooms and foodservice area to be an enticing partner. You must prove that you can provide good solid growth with the special pricing or free goods provided by your suppliers. Make sure that you share free goods with vendors — your candy rep might love salty snacks and your salty snack suppliers’ kids will certainly like candy — even if it is close dated. You must demonstrate patience as creating genuine, mutually beneficial relationships with key partners takes time and investment.