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Where else should you be selling your product?


Foodservice channel sales development is typically complex and labor intensive, but it doesn’t have to be looking for a needle in a haystack

The foodservice sector is one of the largest and most fragmented, with outlets numbering in the hundreds of thousands in larger countries and in the tens of thousands in smaller ones. Many of them independent.

Because the sector is so fragmented, foodservice is not only complex and difficult to service but challenging to determine where to be, because you can’t be everywhere. At least, not profitably. It can be challenging to get visibility of the end sale by outlet because of complex channel go to market and tiered distribution operations. 

Finding attractive, profitable foodservice customers can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack.

So how do you determine where you should be selling your products?

The big questions in determining where to sell

The biggest channel development questions are based around where to be and where not to be, with what, and how to play there from a retail execution standpoint – range, space, merchandising, pricing, promotion etc.

Underpinning ‘’where to be’ strategy are questions around size of prize versus cost and ease of service, including channel concentration or fragmentation, and channel segment or outlet fit with the organization’s brands and products. 

Consideration needs to be given to whether to roll up targeting strategy to a channel segment level, and whether to prioritize segments rather than looking at every individual outlet in a given geography or sales territory.  You also need to consider whether to play the long, but larger volume, game of focusing on chains first, or whether to start with independent outlets so the sales team can get some early and potentially easier runs on the board in order to stay motivated.

Mapping where to play

Before asking the strategic questions, it’s important to get the lie of the current land. Start with mapping foodservice channel segments, and the size and structure of each. 

Typically, foodservice is segmented into restaurants (both chains and independents); cafes (chains and independents); pubs, bars and brewpubs (mostly independents); QSR (quick service restaurants – mostly chains, including outlets in mall food courts. Some standalone outlets); takeaway only; convenience stores with foodservice and fresh items (mostly chains); food trucks; and some country-specific foodservice formats such as diners in the USA and street stalls in many Asian markets.

Because of the size of the foodservice sector, mapping it in detail can be labor intensive. Not made easier when many independent outlets may not have POS systems at all, or outdated/simplified ones, so accessing collecting their sales data can be tricky. You may need to make some educated guesses.

But there are some shortcuts. 

Aside from reports available from industry associations and business to business based research reports from research and management consulting houses, databases are available to take some of the grunt work out of mapping and sizing the foodservice outlet universe.

Blacksmith for instance has mapped all of the relationships between foodservice customers, products and sales teams and gathered them in a foodservice database. Further, Blacksmith’s foodservice CRM system is preloaded with this data, minimizing the database upkeep required and reducing administrative time and supporting sales activation.

Making it easier to play there

Mapping the outlet universe, answering the strategic channel development questions, and using a pre-loaded CRM system all help in optimizing your existing outlet universe. You may decide to relinquish some outlets and outlet types based on their low sales volumes, cost to serve, or lack of fit with your new strategic channel segment priorities.

Using a pre-loaded foodservice CRM helps you get everything all in one place, so you have visibility of the full picture, in real time. And along with a foodservice specific sales enablement software solution, sales team call plans and execution are automated and optimized, and customer sales activity and purchasing histories are available in real-time. This enables sales teams to show the relevant products to the relevant customers at the right time. In addition, you can easily track contract lifecycles, monitoring claims, matching deductions and tracking budgets.

By understanding and mapping the outlet universe, determining your channel and outlet priorities using strategic questions and a pre-loaded CRM database, and employing a sales management software solution, you can ensure you’re not missing ‘where else could we be?’ opportunities whilst calling on unprofitable accounts. 

Making servicing the foodservice sector simpler and more profitable. Who would have thought?

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