Retailer Incentives

He was hired as the head of market research (aka marketing insights) from outside the booze industry. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, he decided that he was going to learn the business by talking to consumers, retailers and the sales folks on the street.

For weeks he did nothing but visit market after market and rode along with local sales managers. He learned a great deal in the field, more than by sitting at a desk and listening to presentations.

Among other things, he learned that the business is based on relationships and, for the most part, respect between the buyer and seller. He learned how the 3-tier system works, how the consumer needs to be factored into the equation and the difference between a smart sales rep and one that’s just going through the motions.

The plan was to see as wide and diverse set of retail situations as possible — bars at night and stores during the day. Some open-ended consumer focus groups were thrown in here and there, just for the learning.

One day he found himself in Detroit. The morning was spent in suburban stores and the afternoon was devoted to downtown. The local sales manager for the company was among the best. Really knew his stuff.

A new word entered his vocabulary — “bank” store. Stores in tough urban settings with thick Plexiglas separating the clerks and the customers.

At one large, important account, the owner greeted the sales rep warmly. In a Middle Eastern accent, said to the sales rep, “How are you? What do you have for me today?”

“We have a Seagram’s Gin program coming up that you might want to look into,” said the salesman.

“What will I get?” asked the owner. “Never mind,” he quickly added, “I don’t need to promote Gin. What’s in your bag? Any tee shirts or hats?”

“No, just shelf talkers, window ads, banners and sales sheets.”

“Paper” said the owner. “I don’t need no paper.” “Got any more Captain Morgan mirrors? My father-in-law saw it in the store and took it home. I want one too.”

“I’m sorry,” said the salesman. “That program ended months ago and it was so successful we ran out.”

“ What do you have in the trunk of your car?” asked the storeowner.

By now the market researcher is watching this interchange with his mouth open and in total shock.

“Listen, I’m just showing this gentleman from New York around the market and different stores. You’re an important account for us and I wanted him to see it. I don’t have sales promotion or loader items. Maybe next time.”

“Sure, sure” said the storeowner. “What do you have in your trunk?”

“Nothing.”

“Come on, come on, what’s in the trunk?” asked the retailer.

With total poise and calm, the salesman handed his car keys to the owner and said, “check for yourself.”

He went on, “but this time leave the spare tire.”

{Got any sales promotion stories you want to share?}

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