Negotiation Practices for Small C-Store Chainsby Jim Callahan, Convenience Solutions

The sweet science of obtaining a better deal than was offered!

To compete with the big chains more effectively, you’ve got to be able to buy better, which is obviously much more difficult for a smaller chain, even more so for the single store operator. But in reality it’s much easier than you might think

Let’s begin…

First, the importance of great vendor relations cannot be overstated. Over the years I’ve witnessed more than a few blood baths between vendor and customer–S T U P I D! While it might make you feel momentarily better or bigger to “go off” on a particular vendor, there is no percentage in it. We need our vendors just as much as they need us! So first, we must work on “Vendor Relations Excellence:”

* Develop a good rapport with your vendors. They can make or break you.
* Remember, they like you are trying to make a living in a tough world.
* Most all vendors will appreciate and respond to fair treatment and kindness. Offer to take delivery of a new item that’s important to them.
* Work to build a relationship of cooperation and trust.
* Take an interest in their family, (from afar) and their likes and dislikes.
I once had a Nestle rep tell me, “Jim you are the only customer I’ve ever had that always has a cup of hot tea for me!” Simply something I observed at lunch one day–didn’t have to go to college to figure that one out! Search for commonalities!
* If the Boss accompanies them, keep the focus on your rep and say as many complimentary things as possible. The rep will appreciate it!
* Be willing to help them achieve their quotas.
* Get them in and out quickly. They have more calls to make!
* Allow every new item great placement and a fair price.
* Let them know you’re willing to allow special signage
and great placement when visiting dignitaries are in the area. This is important to vendors.
* Give them reasons to like you. One of my great compliments was hearing a vendor recount telling his boss he was going to call on Jim Callahan the next day and his boss said: “Better break out the band aids!”

These are some of the important keys for a small businessman to be able to start to “earning better deals.” Now were ready to ask the questions.

Make sure you ask with absolute assurance, holding eye contact the following:

* What are your DEALS?
* Inquire about FREE GOODS, especially the first time and on new products.
* Ask about REBATE PROGRAMS. Find out if and how you can qualify.
* What about DISCOUNTS?
* Is there advertising money for flyers, signs, reader board placement?
* Dicker a little.
For example, “Can I get a little less than that or combine it with another product, and still get the deal?”
* Quid pro quo. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. I’ll give you first position for the right deal, etc.
* Always end with, “What other programs do you offer? Is that really the best you can do?” or “I’ll take the deal if you can give me just…”

Ask for more than you think is possible. The results will absolutely amaze you! My personal philosophy in planning what to ask for is, I ask for an amount that is personally embarrassing to me. I get it more often than you’d believe, but we are often guilty of thinking small!

Have fun with it, practice and enjoy it. Vendors like a challenge, as long as it has an upside!

Jim Callahan, Partner
Convenience Store Solutions
1 Quail Run Drive
Newnan, Ga 30265


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