May 6, 2020
By: Rick Abraham | Bill Caskey
Those of us that have been around a while wish we had a nickel for each time we said “foodservice is a face to face people business and always will be…”. Relationship based selling is always essential for success.
We now need to amend that statement and add “touch-less” and “virtual”. The selling relationship is just as important as always, maybe more so, but how that personal connection happens in the future will most definitely change as a result of the pandemic. In many ways it already has.
Many companies have built up their social media presence, stayed in touch with customers virtually, and started video calls and webinars with all their important stakeholders. All necessary steps while the industry is in triage mode.
Will these changed behaviors signal long term changes in how seller and buyer connect? We believe they will. Amid this current chaos, there is a once in a career opportunity to begin planning to modernize and streamline your go to market model and to revolutionize how you engage with all your important stakeholders. As a bonus, many long standing and costly foodservice sales & marketing inefficiencies can be reduced or eliminated.
No one yet knows what the actual post pandemic selling environment will look like, but we can make some educated guesses based on what we know today.
- In person selling will be severely restricted and the need to engage customers remotely and virtually will increase exponentially. Sales calls will require appointments to be scheduled and personal protection equipment will be required almost everywhere.
- Business failures and consolidation will reduce the number of selling contact points which will reduce the number of field sales, marketing, operations and management staff.
- Much less drive/airport/travel time will free up sales resources for more valuable activities.
- Gatherings of large groups like food shows will be restricted or banned in the short to medium term.
- High touch food prep and sampling in front of customers will be problematic.
- Industry events will be restricted, canceled or made virtual.
- Margin pressures throughout foodservice will predominate well into the future.
- Operators and local governments will enforce new sales contact policies for safety.
Operators need to rethink their entire business model front to back and all sales and marketing professionals will be required to do the same. This new selling environment provides an opportunity for all of us to whiteboard how we currently come to market and seek new ways to reach and engage customers beyond Zoom calls and webinars.
A few ideas to get you started:
- A world class digital presence will be essential. Current CRM technology will only get us so far. It’s time for foodservice to finally catch up with other technologically advanced supply chains. The tech exists. It needs to be harnessed.
- “Always on” digital connections to key stakeholders will become table stakes and a differentiator. We live in a 24/7 digital world. Time for foodservice to catch up.
- Streamline exactly what your message is to customers and simplify everything, including your product mix, number of SKU’s, pricing and promotional tools, ordering procedures and sales organizations. Unnecessary complexity will put you in a doom loop.
- Whiteboard your entire sales and marketing process to figure out how a touch-less and virtual supply chain works best for your company and your customers. Recognize that National accounts/chains and Street accounts will have vastly different requirements.
- Huge numbers of sales personnel trained for face to face selling will need to be redeployed to match your new go to market model.
- Human resources will need to update hiring profiles to reflect the new reality.
In summary, we’ve all been presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a safer and more efficient supply chain and eliminate so many of the inefficiencies of the past. What a shame it would be to waste it.
Pentallect is poised to assist in ensuring you recognize every opportunity and capitalize on it as you move forward to reinvent and reenergize your go to market strategies.