The Seafood Industry is certainly unique. In my 20+ years of sales & marketing I have never witnessed an industry so guarded - so cut throat. Yet we are going to let it all out in Boston. At the Seafood Expo, suppliers will be putting their best foot forward, showcasing their products and wining & dining customers and prospects. At the same time, we will be looking over our shoulders making sure a competitor is not insight when doing anything. It is a reality at most industry trade shows, but some reason I feel our industry is a little more intense. For my first blog post for Partner Seafood, I wanted to share my initial views of marketing/selling in our industry and then talk about some learning, that I hope I can take away from upcoming show in Boston.
So here we go.
I only say more intense because it would seem that buying and selling in our industry seems so different than others I have experienced. Maybe it is because we are not really manufacturing anything, my Scombrus is the same as his Scombrus and the only difference is... Well, there might not be a difference. That alone makes it challenging. Coming from the machine industry and then to a service industry then to finally land in a commodity based industry; it is a polarizing experience.
I remember my first meeting, and I mentioned to the buyer, "what do you need to make, margin-wise? I ask because I can adjust my pricing to meet your needs the best I can." I was met with one of the strangest looks I had ever received in business. He told me I was crazy for asking his margin and that if I ever did that with large companies, they would throw me out the door. I was only doing what I knew. Cost + Margin = Price. If there was a dealer in the middle, adjust margin to set a price the market will bear. Now, if you have been in this industry more that 3 days, you see the humor in that. The real equation is: Market price(plus or minus the price people are actually buying at) = Who knows what.
From what I can tell, seafood is forever a buyers market. Suppliers send price lists, that they may never buy from but rather use as a price checker. Now buyers are raising their eyebrow and thinking, "this guy is nuts."
Here is how I have always seen sales and competition. You can break up accounts/transactions into two categories: a "Young Relationship" and a "Mature Relationship." A young relationship is like a first date, information does not flow well, there is constant need for assurance that the product is what you say it is... then pictures, labels, more pictures, samples, etc. The risk is not shared in a young relationship, it is solely on the one party and perhaps rightly so, things are uncertain. In a mature relationship buyers and sellers openly exchange information, after few orders, things are much easier and the risk is shared. If there is problem with an order is just less intense or shrugged off and placed in the "stuff happens" file.
Common sense right? I am not telling you anything new. The real mystery is how to get there quickly and stay there. Because when a relationship is mature, competition is less of an issue, and price becomes more negotiable and usually benefits both.
Which leads me to the learning that I hope to take away from Boston/SENA 2016. Are these mature relationships possible in a highly market-price driven realm? I believe they are, and I hope in Boston I can start building them.
I have been saying it since I have been in the industry, Price and Quality are a given, we shouldn't even be talking if it isn't. Here is what I really want to walk away with... How will a supplier, like Partner Seafood make buying easier? How will we make having product on hand easier? How can we assist in the win/win situation? Ultimately, how will we get more seafood on more plates?
I sincerely look forward to meeting face to face, the people that I have been conversing and selling to on the phone and meet new people that are interested in the way we do our business and our product, not the other way around. Some will say that I am a fool, let's revisit that at SENA 2017.
Travel safe to any show you are attending or exhibiting and good luck in 2016 and see you in Boston.
Nick Fanelli is the Sales & Marketing Manager @ Partner Seafood. His experience, in a number of fields has allowed him to change the way things are done here.