In The News

David Sables, CEO, and the Sentinel Team appear regularly on and in various media, commentating and giving insight on industry issues. David is a regular columnist within ‘the Grocer’ magazine, as well as being a contributor to Forbes.

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Ever Been Caught New-Skilling A Buyer? You Sounded Insincere

By David Sables / November 16, 2013

Communication skills are trainable, yes, but with any new skill it takes practice until you get proficient. If done effortlessly and totally naturally, then your technique will be dynamite. Like when learning to drive a car, you know you've got it when you don't need to think about it. Unconscious competence, they call it. It's a long way from conscious incompetence where you know you can't do it, but at... Read More

The Art of Selling Hasn't Died - It's Just Changed Shape a Bit

By David Sables / October 19, 2013

Here's a thing. Have you noticed that astute young sales directors and wise old experienced ones seem in agreement that the 'art of selling' has died in grocery? Both types see that our current sales forces are technology-obsessed, process-driven and that their sales skills are diluted across such heinous disciplines as finance and logistics. They would argue that amid this horror show the importance of wowing a buyer and developing... Read More

Selling Requires you to Adapt your Style to the Situation at Hand

By David Sables / September 21, 2013

Seeing the despairing face of the Asda food hall manager, I paused. He was sitting at his desk, looking at a hand-written report. I always waited for a nod before walking in. This guy was a nightmare - the type who'll keep you waiting an hour then shout at you for being late. That day he was clearly under pressure: this could be explosive. As I took one step into... Read More

Trust, Commitment and Insight Needed for Joint Planning

By David Sables / August 24, 2013

Looking back, visionary joint planning has proved elusive. Suppliers have never really committed to it because it's never long before the customer starts demanding short-term gains and the whole thing collapses. Many want to take a longer-term collaborative view, but retailer pressure is inevitable.  We employ many ex-buyers as part of the Sentinel team. Gamekeepers turned poachers, they are perfectly qualified to teach planning, selling and negotiation. I've noticed they... Read More

Without Indomitable Spirit, You may not be cut out for a Sales Role

By David Sables / July 27, 2013

I'm often asked what makes a good salesperson. It's obvious, isn't it? Great salespeople are likeable, respectable, not up themselves, positive, persistent, skilled communicators, great with facts, persuasive with figures and ambitious team players. Plus, you need an element of dynamism and cynicism. Shall I continue? They are tough but caring, flexible but strong, and it helps if they have good product with relevant short-term proposals and a long-term plan... Read More

Closing Time - Making a Specific Proposal is Key to Closing a Sale

By David Sables / June 01, 2013

From time to time, I see it as my duty to dismantle some of the old myths of selling. How about this one: ‘ABC — Always Be Closing’. What on earth does that mean? Don’t buy it. This is an Abstract Bleedin’ Cliché, and At Best Codswallop. If you check online you will find 50 types of closing techniques, all of which reek of pressure sales. This is not banking... Read More

There are no two-day courses to ensure buyer collaboration

By David Sables / May 04, 2013

How to sell? Well, that rather depends : on what you are selling. There’s the ‘technical sell’ in engineering, the ‘pity sell’ if you are door-to-door, the ‘pressure sell’ for double glazing or, of course, the ‘mis-sell’ if you’re in banking! In grocery we generally have suppliers wondering why they struggle to get the ‘visionary relationship sell’ instead of their workaday ‘transactional sell’. Suppliers see their inability to maintain a... Read More

Get crunching with the numbers - it can transform results

By David Sables / April 06, 2013

Read these words: footfall, basket spend, purchase frequency, cash cycle, margin mix, promotional mix, shelf productivity, stock investment, stock cover, waste reduction, mark-downs. Feeling a bit nauseous? Don’t assume the only way to motivate your customer is by conceding margin and paying fees. The buyer’s commercial motivation is driven by all these business fundamentals. But do you have the capability to play them to your advantage too? Reach for your... Read More

Buyers will only listen if they think they need your help

By David Sables / March 09, 2013

Let's say you can clearly see that a customer is missing a trick in category. There is a gap in their range for a product that has shown huge incremental category sales where you have introduced it in other customers, say. It's an open goal, a 'no brainier', yet still your buyer is not listening. Often the answer is in the buyer's mindset and this is the secret of how... Read More

A Warning For Suppliers

By David Sables / March 09, 2013

Have you noticed the retailers talking about their wonderful supplier relations, just when the new Groceries Code Adjudicator is announced? Funny that. Christine Tacon seems keen to do her bit to ensure fair play in the supply chain. However, I sit in a trusted position among suppliers and I can guarantee that most think invoking GSCOP would be as effective a business strategy as torching their factory! The retailer's obligation... Read More