The CEO/GM/”head honcho” or whatever “big boss” is to the local company plans a visit to your territory. These events are usually planned well in advance to get fixed in the diaries of the senior people and if such a visit is a rarity you must ensure it is a resounding success. You may not get the opportunity of a face to face with the key decision maker and of course, someone who can draw a line under your FMCG/Pharma career with the stroke of a red pen.
You put a team in charge of preparations which inevitably takes people away from their routine work and the derived tasks are given priority importance. You want to make the best effort so you put your best people behind this which further detracts from day to day selling or manufacturing.
If the visit involves inspection of a manufacturing facility then the fresh paint will have been ordered and production lines programmed to be idle for a period of advance cleaning and cosmetic beautification. Is this really what senior bods in FMCG/Pharma want or deserve? We’ve all done it, but why? Why not show them the warts and all reality of how you are struggling to cope under lack of investment, training or category focus? Continually pulling the wool over their eyes will get you precisely nowhere!
This leads me to a true story about a visit to a major FMCG company in CEE by the European “head honcho”. The focus was on the Route To Market (RTM) performance of the business in the light of dwindling sales despite some high profile brand acquisitions. A comprehensive route plan was thrashed out that covered Traditional Trade (TT) and Key Accounts (KA) Customers.
Clients were briefed to ensure they were all on-board for this key set-piece visit and swarms of plain clothes merchandisers were allocated to keep shelves stocked and tidy at all times before disappearing into the consumer crowd without being spotted. Military precision was applied in terms of timings and which clients would be introduced to the big boss and exactly which stores would be visited and when.
On the morning of the visit the big boss was given a briefing on the day ahead, the shop visit programme along with the visit objectives of the local business. Suits had been dusted down, hair washed and the fast food wrappers removed from the Sales pool car. This was going to be a good day.
Cue pantomime response of “oh no it’s not”. Taking a seat in the car the big boss insisted that none of the previously identified outlets were to be visited and that no mobile phones were to be used for the duration of the field visit. If the local company wanted top management to understand the difficulties faced in this D&E market and take action then they must show the warts and all reality.
Huge discomfort for the Sales team for the rest of the day as they witnessed out of stocks, poor merchandising and competitor use of POS assets amongst many other RTM failings.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net