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There’s No Debating The Benefit Of Cooperation

Presidential debates have become must-see TV, but many argue debates don’t sway the final poll as much as when such political slugfests were the first chances most voters got to see the candidates square off.

In today’s cyber-charged mass media arena, candidates and their opposing views are vividly portrayed and analyzed long before the hopefuls step to the podiums. With party lines holding firmly, more voters than ever seem to have made up their minds long before the first debate punches were thrown; they tend to highlight the sound bites that reinforce their predispositions.

Constructive Exercise

This isn’t a setup for insight into my political preference. I do endorse considerably more bipartisan, fact-based, solution-aimed debate than the charges being proffered by both sides to gain the minimum electoral and congressional majority. 

Debate used to be a more constructive exercise in the retail business, too. In many cases today, though, it seems the buyer/seller relationship discourages a potentially productive exchange of opposing views. 

It has become a common perception that buyer demands are set in stone before vendors have made their pitches. And buyers cast the deciding votes. 

I hear frequently about experienced sales people becoming increasingly reluctant to challenge the mandates of less experienced buyers for fear of being shown the door. The situation underscores the difficulty for sellers to influence buyers whose marching orders could be coming from accounting offices as often as merchandising offices. 

Joint Responsibility

Predetermination can block the competitive and fiscal progress that ultimately should be the joint responsibility of buyers and vendors.

Retailers, even as they must adhere to mandated financial guidelines, can discover untapped growth potential by being more open to the suggestions of their vendors. Vendors, even as they must absorb the requirements imposed by retailers, should remain steadfast in their efforts to get customers to embrace their propositions.

Declare Victory

One housewares executive recently told me about a salesperson resigned to lose a bid after a meeting with a particularly inflexible buyer. The executive advised the salesperson to consider another occupation.

The volatility of the economy by now should have erased some of the rigid presumptions in the buyer/seller dynamic. It should have ushered in a new era of cooperation that encourages both sides to express their views. Why shouldn’t all business parties get to declare victory by keeping their collective focus on what’s best for an overwhelming majority of their consuming public?

There needs to be more constructive debate in the retail business if it can help shape a more productive outcome. But such debate is useless if the decisions have already been made.