By Ian Radcliffe, Simpactful Sr. Consultant

Struggling to get adequate time with your buyer? It’s not your imagination. The world has changed considerably since my selling days as a SVP at Procter & Gamble.  Following the pandemic, there have been some obvious new forces at play – including the supply chain crisis, shopper habit shift, and inflationary fallout. For the past 18 months, Retailers and brands have been navigating choppy waters as they try to rebalance cost and pricing to combat inflation and higher costs to serve. Retailers around the world, from Walmart to Tesco, have announced a refusal to accept widespread price increases. While the media has focused on these obvious obstacles, the work of Commercial leaders is facing forces more like an iceberg, in which there are some bigger long-term challenges lurking beneath the surface of retail sell-in. Navigating these waters is going to require more careful preparation. Let’s dig in:

Retailers are shifting resources, and fast.

To continue to deliver shareholder returns in the face of rising costs, and to keep pace with competitors like Amazon, Retailers are resourcing an expanding number of priorities:

  • More categories and brands
  • Retail reinvention: eCommerce, BOPIS, rapid delivery, cashier-less checkout, etc.
  • New services: Health clinics, prepared foods
  • Data monetization: Data monetization, advertising investment, and exclusive assortment and merchandising programs.

Buyer roles are being consolidated to resource these investments, and buyers are being asked to drive more top and bottom-line growth, and to incorporate many of these retail priorities into the plans they develop with brands.

The result? Buyer time is compressed and Retailers are being more and more demanding of all FMCG companies. They require differentiated solutions and brilliant execution. Sales teams that are not equipped to handle these demands and that rely on old models of facetime and relationship building are going to struggle.

Here are 3 steps you can take today:

  1. Sales Structure: It is critical that sales teams include commercial end-to-end resources who can integrate efforts between Sales and Marketing to ensure that customer plans to sync with national plans and that all elements are fit-for-use at the retailer. This includes the development and delivery of compelling, retailer-differentiated selling stories and plans, the integration of strong and sufficient commercial calendars across Sales and Marketing, and the execution of plans that are fit-for-use for each Retailer with optimal usage of media and merchandising tools. Simpactful has experts who have run Commercial Planning organizations and are able to quickly assess your organization, recommend the right-sized solutions, and stand up the capability.
  2. Capability: Commercial leaders must transition from “brand sales managers” to agile, “holistic category business partners,” who deeply understand the category, business, and operations from the shopper, retailer buyer, and manufacturer point of view to effectively sell and execute win-win-win propositions. Simpactful’s team of brand and Retail practitioners has helped dozens of companies and here are some of the ways this translates at Best-in-Class companies: Commercial leaders are driving an internal retailer-level P&L, but are also fluent in their Buyer’s Category scorecard; They understand the evolving category shopper path to purchase and can identify where and how to influence behavior by leveraging insights and using the expanding suite of retailer media and merchandising tools. Commercial leaders are masters at data-mining and storytelling; And they maintain an end-to-end understanding of operations requirements from forecasting to retail execution and can work with internal and Retailer counterparts to minimize risk and maximize joint growth opportunities.
  3. Sales Training and Negotiation Strategies: Our Simpactful retail practitioners report a step change in retailer negotiation practices and sophistication. Across the board, retailers are changing negotiating terms, leveraging automated negotiations, and upskilling their buyers to negotiate effectively across a more complex set of trade terms. Based on these dynamics, it is not enough to train sales employees when they enter the organization or change levels. Simpactful can execute benchmarking studies to help you understand where you stand vs peers, grant access to former senior-level Retail executives who can coach you on ways to effectively negotiate and build partnerships with specific Retailers and can offer tailored negotiation training and support through our partnership with Wilson Negotiation Group.

Make no mistake. The icebergs have already formed, and buyer behavior is shifting accordingly. Teams that are prepared with effective structures, the right capability to operate in today’s environment, and sufficient training and negotiation know-how will navigate the icebergs with ease. Simpactful can help.  Contact the Simpactful team today at or 925-234-6394. Visit