Supply Chain Blog

Selling via FMCG/Drinks Distributors in CEE: That’s easy, isn’t it?

Posted by Dave Jordan on Mon, Sep 20, 2010
No.

If this was true there would be no space on the beach as it would be full of CEE Producer Sales Directors. Leave the Marketing guys to enjoy the beach.

Does your Distributor have a clear understanding of their potential universe? Small Distribution and Route To Market operations can fall into the trap of being content with a certain level of business with a consistent list of clients. This is very risky as competitors will eventually find a way into these clients leaving your Distributor with insufficient turnover to survive. However, defining the available universe is your responsibility and this can be achieved either internally or through an expert 3rd party agency. Once you know what the potential is, you and the Distributor have a valuable channel-wise database allowing you to deploy resources in the appropriate direction.

Some Distributor Sales Reps I have seen in CEE are "not fit for purpose". This is not being disrespectful to the people involved but it is often a reflection of how Distributors behave and how their people are rewarded. Perhaps the most common failing is in the area of training. Not everybody can sell; fact. You cannot take a person off the street, give them a box of business cards and set them up as a Sales Rep. Nor is it sufficient to send the new recruit out with an old hand for a few days. You need to ensure Distributors have a robust induction plan which includes professional sales training. This can be delivered internally but the important point is that it is delivered and it is repeated at agreed intervals.

Allowing an ill prepared Sales Rep to visit a client on your behalf is at best a waste of time and money. The Distributor Sales Reps are actually your face to the customer so you need to ensure they are skilled and able to do the job. They need a checklist of how to manage a sales call. A simple but clear sales call protocol will ensure your Distributor Sales Rep receives a good reception by the client and has a decent chance of closing a sale.

 Distributor sales representative - looking for customers

Image by HikingArtist.com published on Flickr 

One simple question to ask is the rate of Distributor Sales Rep turnover. A solid and reliable business would expect to see 8-12% staff turnover through natural wastage and external job opportunities. There are examples in CEE where this number is over 50%. Why? Well, let us first assume they are indeed trained for the task. How are they being rewarded and is this in line with your own reward to the Distributor? In these difficult times it is not unusual for Distributors to take your incentives and divert them away from the rewards offered to the field teams. It is your money so make you need to reassure yourself the funds are being allocated in the way you expect. Nobody is going to stay with a company if basic cash promises are broken as the market for good Sales Reps remains competitive in CEE.

To extend your education on your Distributors you must spend some time in the field with their own Sales Reps. Do not rely on what you are told by your own staff as their view is likely to be one of two extremes; "they are rubbish and that is why I do not make my numbers" or "they are wonderful but only because I am too"! Ensure your visits are unannounced to avoid the inevitable "stage managing" of what you see and do.

Get closer to your Distributors, avoid 100% delegation to your Sales Managers and you might just get sand between your toes occasionally.


Tagss: Route to Market, Dave Jordan, CEE, Traditional Trade, Distribution, RTM Assessment Tool