by: Rick Abraham
April 8, 2019
Remember not too long ago when foodservice manufacturers sold a wide variety of mostly undifferentiated products to a base of mostly similar operator customers through a mostly analogous group of broker/agencies and distributors? We were a happy, homogenous group of companies making a lot of money in an industry that was growing somewhere between 10%-20% annually. This was a good thing. Business was great and bonus checks were large.
Underwhelming sales productivity levels weren’t much of an issue then, as most inefficiencies were masked by double digit sales and revenue growth. Companies just enjoyed taking advantage of a robust supply chain, capitalizing on America’s new penchant to eat “away from home”, while our share of the food dollar grew by 10% at the expense of our grocery counterparts. A shotgun approach to sales and marketing worked fine. Throw stuff at the wall because most of it stuck anyway, and if it didn’t we just moved on to the next thing.
Now before you think this journey down memory lane (and my hyperbole) will never end…let me get to my Point of View.
We don’t have accurate statistics on the level of sales productivity then, but I suspect the numbers were fairly low despite fast industry growth. Most execs weren’t focused on sales productivity as much as fulfilling high product demand. That was ok then, but not now.
Is foodservice sales productivity any more efficient today? Should we care? Pentallect has done extensive analysis of sales force productivity, and we estimate that “non-selling” activities represent 40 – 50% of sales time for both managers and field staff. That’s a staggering amount of unproductive sales efforts.
And our current low growth, share battle economic environment means we can no longer afford to operate in a less than optimal manner. This lack of sales productivity needs to be on the radar screens of senior management now.
Viewed from a more strategic level, we believe the above issues are symptoms of a larger problem. Today’s go-to-market selling models, whether they be direct or agency represented, have not fundamentally changed nor adapted quickly enough. Yes there have been improvements in sales deployment models but fundamentally, little has changed in how manufacturers, sales agencies and customers do business with each other. That needs to change starting today.
Are there ways companies can break out of this cycle? Are there ways to maximize the return on sales and marketing dollars invested? Are there ways sales productivity can be boosted in the short and long term?
The answer is a resounding yes! We need a new sales productivity roadmap. We need new ways to measure progress. We need new foodservice math. And we need foodservice leaders to step up and deliver innovative solutions that allow us to more efficiently deploy precious sales resources. It’s time to raise the bar before omni-channel competitors make us regret our lack of progress. At Pentallect, helping companies build a better roadmap is high on our radar screen. It should be on yours too.
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