What does it mean to “button up” for your buyer?
The discipline of “buttoning up” for your buyer meeting with Walmart may sound like a foreign concept to you. Today’s workforce is full of remote work stations, home offices, coffee shop warriors, “work-cations,” and a general shift toward a more casual way of thinking.
Lucky for you, we’re not addressing the desire to be comfortable at work in “dress sweats” and dry wick woven bamboo t-shirt; or the paradigm shift in overall work-appropriate attire. We’re tackling a substantial factor much more important to Walmart: A comprehensive and detailed approach to the way you present and service your business at Walmart.
Expectations within the Walmart Culture
Before we launch into what this means, let’s understand the expectation environment Walmart buyers live in daily.
Walmart buyers are held accountable for every detail within their business. EVERY. DETAIL. The good ones can recite their 3-pillar category strategy, along with five sub-bullet points within each, their YTD category revenue, margin, and profit, the year-over-year performance of their category, their top five items, their bottom five items, their top driving growth items, their category market share, the number of stores within each modular foot segmentation, their top performing store locations, their bottom performing store locations, and any number of additional metrics, facts, historical performance data, who they like working with and who they don’t. They do this because the expectation is that, if asked a question by their leadership, they’d better be able to answer.
$#!+ Runs Down Hill
This old adage has never been truer than in this situation, especially when you consider the personnel changes Walmart has experienced over the last 36 months. Buyers have lost support people within their teams and are ever-increasingly relying on their suppliers to fill those gaps. This means if a Walmart buyer is responsible for a metric, YOU are responsible for that metric. NOT just knowing the number, but communicating it to your buyer. This means if your buyer’s leadership asks a question regarding a suspect metric within your OTIF score—and you haven’t already proactively communicated to them around that soft spot—you can expect an unpleasant phone call or email.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
At this point you may be wondering, “what do we do?” Below are 5 areas you should focus on to make sure you are “buttoned up” around your Walmart business.
Be Thorough – You MUST know your business. Which items are your best sellers, which items are incremental to the business, which items drive traffic, which items drive margin, etc. If you have an item carried by other retailers, you should know your average selling price in rest of market vs. your EDLP at Walmart, and what the slope is.
Be Proactive – Call out opportunities as they arise. If you are going to have a down week in OTIF performance, notify your RM and copy your buyer on the communication. Go ahead and include an MABD extension request form with the communication. If another retailer choses to reduce their margin on one of your comp items and it puts Walmart at risk of not being the EDLP provider, communicate as the information comes available. Walmart WILL FIND OUT these things. It is ALWAYS better to be out in front in a partnership conversation than behind in the...behind position.
Be Thoughtful – to piggy back on being proactive, you should also be thoughtful when communicating. Don’t just communicate there IS a problem; communicate what you have determined is the root cause of that issue and how you are proactively addressing it to limit the probability of it happening again in the future. A buyer once told me, “anyone can point out the problems...I need suppliers who will bring me the solutions.”
Be Succinct – If this post was a communication to Walmart, I would give it an “F.” Sure, it’s fun, cheeky, entertaining, and a damn-good bit of writing. However, your Walmart team doesn’t have time for this. In all communication with Walmart, especially your buyer, follow this formula:
- lead with the purpose or point of the communication,
- write a brief, 1-line explanation of the “why,” and
- use bullets when possible to work through the rest of the communication.
Every line in the email needs to carry its’ own weight in value. No. Wasted. Time.
Be Resilient – Look, stuff is going to happen. You’ll prepare, plan, add process and stop-gaps. And you WILL mess up. Your buyer WILL call you out on it. Don’t let it get you down. Get back in the game. View it as an opportunity to show your buyer how well your organization can respond. It matters not how a man falls down...what matters is how he gets back up.
Look, we get this is a lot to think about and prepare for. This is why suppliers have entire teams of people in Northwest Arkansas focused on their Walmart business. These teams focus on Strategy, Sales, Analytics, Replenishment, Shopper Marketing and Execution. If you have run into some of the issues discussed above, or want to prevent running into them, you should consider a partnership with Arena. We right size the resource allocation within each of these buckets against your business and manage the headaches for you. It is our job to know the business, communicate with the Walmart teams on your behalf, consult with you on the best way to handle any number of situations, manage all of the day-to-day forms and free up your brain space to do the things you should be doing.
Let’s have a discussion and see where it goes.