One of the ongoing frustrations of salespeople with whom I speak is the constant change in buyers. Salespeople spend a great deal of time, intensity, intelligence and care in developing buyer relationships; their careers depend upon it.
Knowing what turns on and turns off a particular buyer; understanding how and when that person wants to receive information; being able to speak honestly about challenges and opportunities is of the highest value. The sudden loss of a buyer can therefore be highly disruptive to the effective sales process.
Not only that; it creates a tentativeness among the selling community because what the previous buyer Okayed may be dismissed by the new buyer. Try explaining to your factory that the product that was absolutely “in” is now absolutely “out”. Deal with their rage as they figure out what to do with product that was made for an order that will never ship.
So why do retailers seem to play musical chairs with buyers? There are several reasons:
- Unease that a close buyer / seller relationship can lead to payoffs and cronyism.
- Concern that a buyer who is in place for too long will become bored and indifferent.
- A desire to create talented management by running buyers though different buying positions.
- It can also be due to poor interpersonal relationships between a General Merchandise Manager and a particular buyer; poor performance or even upon occasion a whim.
Retailers who make these moves certainly have their reasons. Are they, however, seeing the issue holistically. Selling and buying are a comingled relationship in which the lines between companies are sometimes blurred. In attempting to work out a mutually workable deal it is sometimes, many times, necessary to think beyond one party.
When a retailer damages this vital symbiosis it disrupts the process. The place where buyer and seller converge is like the synapse between nerve endings. Damage it and paralysis can set in.
It seems to me that retailers can protect their concerns and advanced their best candidates without having to make frequent and sudden changes in personnel. If they don’t everyone (and that includes the retailers) suffers.