Trust. It’s a tricky noun, one that we have difficulty with as a society, and one that’s particularly and noticeably absent in the world of retail. Manufacturers don’t trust retailers and retailers don’t trust manufacturers, despite the fact that we work together on a daily basis. That shaky foundation of trust is what makes the reality of brick and mortar storefronts a possibility; it’s the basis for all of our business transactions, yet we rarely intentionally fortify it.
Trust is such a lofty goal in retail for a simple reason: the rift between our specific goals as manufacturers or retailers. Manufacturers set goals for their sales reps, which require them to sell products to retailers; retailers, on the other hand, have sales goals regarding which product will sell with the best margin and make the most money. These goals are almost inherently contradictory. And from these conflicting objectives is born that foundation of mistrust. Both retailers and manufacturers prioritize their own profitability, zeroing in on their personal money–making strategies and bringing those conflicting goals to the same table.
But now there are manufacturers who are making a difference, one independent retailer at a time.
In the running industry, for example, there are three dominating brands; we’re guessing you can probably name them. So why do they dominate their field? Customers enter a store with a specific brand in mind, and the store buys more of that brand in order to sell more. Specialty retailers rely on those brands that customers ask for by name. It’s a cycle that’s difficult to break: the sheer profitability of big–name brands makes it almost impossible for smaller brands to break into the business. So how do other brands stand out, make a difference or gain more market share? Here, we break down the tenets of trust to build a stronger foundation between independent manufacturers and retailers.
Have a Strategy
Saucony built its current strength off of a specific strategy. According to Todd Dalhausser, V.P. Sales North America “Saucony began to look at where they could have the greatest impact with their specialty retailers. Education was one of the solutions.” But their strategy for education reached beyond the normal standards; they didn’t just want to teach their team about the technicals aspects of their products (that they already understood). “Because one thing the running industry is doing is hiring runners, not salespeople,” Todd points out. “Our staff already know the technical aspects of running. The education we needed was to focus on the overall salesperson and the skills it takes to outfit the whole runner. We needed to cultivate an experience.” And so Saucony began to invest in their new strategy, focused primarily on educating their team on all the aspects of selling.
As their strategy began to unfold, Saucony also recognized the greatest obstacle in the retail industry: a lack of trust. You see, Saucony realized they were perceived as the “big bad wolf” on the hunt for the small brick and mortar. They also knew that properly training their sales staff was not naturally their strength. With The Mann Group, Saucony found the solution to both of their biggest hindrances. “Partnering with The Mann Group was the solution to our trust issue,” says Todd. “The Mann Group is the impartial brand that educates all things retail. If we can find this education, we see a huge value in building strong relationships with our retailers and building upon those relationships. Strong retailers and staff ultimately give back to the running communities we all want to impact.”
Saucony turned to The Mann Group for solutions. First, their staff. Saucony was in a unique position, a position you’d be hard–pressed to find in the retail industry outside of sports marketing. They had an incredibly educated staff of runners, but they needed to train their staff to be salespeople. Luckily, that kind of training is the absolute specialty of The Mann Group.
Those special tenets of trust were easily installed with help from The Mann Group, too. Saucony’s relationship with The Mann Group works because it’s an organization who understands selling and changing adult behavior. By involving a third, uninvested party like The Mann Group, Saucony incorporated an objective voice that could build that missing element of trust. The owners of sports retailers may train their staff and themselves every day, but incorporating that new, fresh voice is incredibly effective. The Mann Group helped establish that healthy, trusting relationship that Saucony had been missing with their independent retailers.
Continuing to Strive
This is not the end solution for the relationship between the retailer and Saucony—it’s merely the beginning. But this training is already starting to pay off. More and more retailers are asking for training, hoping to invest themselves in that all–important trust. Andrew Conley, Director of U.S. Sales, West Region, says,“I am talking to my retailers about how to increase average ticket, how to grow their pie and drive traffic into the store. In the past, our conversations were about ideas to sell more stuff.”By investing in the specifics of their relationship—rather than simply throwing around numbers and personal priorities, both the retailer and the manufacturers improve their shared and individual positions.
It’s that investment in individuals and relationships, Saucony realizes, that makes a successful company. Saucony now understands that an investment of $5,000 to support a race (one and done) isn’t long–lasting; instead, there’s more value in investing those budget dollars into training staff—it’s a longer lasting investment that can pay off for years. “We are choosing to use our marketing money to train staff,” says Andrew. “Customers generally come in asking for the big three brands; now we know that the sales associates are equipped to sell what is in the store that is a great alternative to the big three.” By building that foundation of trust and equipping their team with the tools to sell, Saucony and her brick and mortar friends all discovered a new level of success.