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Route to Market & Supply Chain Blog

Route to Market Roles and Avoiding Square Pegs in Round Holes

Posted by Ross Marie on Thu, Jan 07, 2021

A colleague who works for a global multinational in a large African market has asked an interesting question, which also points to a wider issue across the Route to Market function. I feel it is worth sharing as a topic of discussion.

The question asks for my ‘view on the scope and role difference between a Route to Market expert and a Distributor Development expert?’.

Route to Market Roles and Avoiding Square Pegs in Round Holes

It is a good question, and my answer is as follows:

  • A Distributor Development expert has specific skills and experience in managing and understanding the intricacies of FMCG distributors. They understand how to increase the performance of distributors. They would have the ability to draw up Distributor Development Plans (DDP), and the necessary ability to put in place Joint Action Plans (JAP). They understand the need to have detailed and specific Distributor Agreements, with SMART objectives, and a Cycle Plan to monitor these. To become an expert in distributor development usually points to a significant number of years spent successfully working in the field with distributors. When organisations do not have a Distributor Development expert on staff, they may consider bringing in outside expertise, for example, to deliver specific development objectives.
  • A Route to Market expert has a breath of skills and experience across the RtM landscape. I would describe them as someone who feels comfortable developing RtM strategy, discussing and managing issues across the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence. Everything from the overall distribution approach or DIME Approach (Direct, Indirect, Mix & Everything in between), to Channel or Key Account Management, and RtM Training. Generally, a RtM expert is in a more senior position in an organisation.
  • The difference is that a Distributor Development expert has a narrow focus of expertise on distributor development and usually has a specific set of skills in that area. A Route to Market expert usually has a much broader portfolio and area of responsibility, and track record across the RtM landscape.

This brings me to the wider issues, the ‘square pegs in round holes’ debate. The above RtM Expert may never have worked in Distributor Development. They may be very capable of managing a person in that role but may potentially be poor at the job themselves. On the other hand, an excellent Distributor Development Manager, may not succeed across the wider RtM function.

To use a sporting analogy, all 11 players on the field may be soccer players, but the goalkeeper and the striker have vastly different roles which require different skills. Neither may have the ability to successfully do each other’s job, or eventually to manage the team.

When looking at RtM roles, as with any function, it is key to understand the specific role profiles, the tasks involved, and the skills and experience required of the individual to succeed in that role. Try not to put a square peg in a round hole. I hope this provides some guidance.

What should you do now?

Tags: FMCG, Route to Market, Interim Management, Logistics Management, RTM, Ross Marie, RtM Strategy, 20 Steps to RtM Excellence