Many years ago (more than I want to remember), I was in the consumer products industry and meeting with the Great A&P Company. We were doing our annual business planning with them and in attendance were all their senior executives from the CEO on down.
As we went through our review of the past year, and began our plan with them for the coming year, their VP of Merchandising spoke up and indicated that although they saw us as a good vendor, we just weren’t big enough to continue these annual meetings, because they had to meet with so many larger vendors, and their time was limited.
I was stunned as we were one of the largest consumer companies in the world and at the time the largest privately owned one. However, in their eyes, the revenue we generated didn’t match the other vendors. Now of course we were not Coca-Cola or Pepsi Cola and others like them. This therefore called for some quick thinking and more importantly a response that would not only define us differently in their minds, but it was also a chance for us to define how they looked at all of their vendors.
This was going to be our only opportunity, so it had to be good.
“We understand that you have other vendors that generate significant gross revenue for you, but how many of them are you selling at little or no margin, or even at a loss on a regular basis. We appreciate that you have to have lost leaders to generate traffic in your stores, however for you to make money, you count on the fact that when they are in your stores, they are buying other products that you sell at a good margin to maintain and grow your profitability.”
“Perhaps we could turn the tables for a moment and discuss profits and what our products generate on a daily basis for you. First of all, because we have the leading brands in all of our categories, we generate the greatest percentage of sales in each. Secondly because they are the highest price in each category, we certainly produce the greatest amount of profit in each category. So, if we were to reframe how you look at our company and your vendors, where we would fit into vendors who deliver significant overall profit to your company?”
That was the turning point. By reframing large, we were able to establish ourselves as one of their largest profit vendors. They agreed that we were an important vendor, thanked us for our perspective and continued to meet with us on an annual business planning basis.
Are you reframing the market and industry for your customers to get an edge over the big guys? Are you reframing the category to show leadership to your current and potential customers? Do you know your customer well enough to understand their business and where you fit in?
These are three of the many questions you need to answer before you can reframe your position in the industry. Biggest isn’t always better, smarter is.
Think about how you can reframe your story.
Please find a link below to an article by Tina Seelig about reframing. Very informative.
Mastering the ability to reframe problems is an important tool for increasing your imagination because it unlocks a vast array of solutions.