CPG Companies Must Sell Better to Meet Retailer Needs: Study

CPG companies need to broaden the skills of their sales forces to meet retailer expectations, according to a new study released yesterday by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Network of Executive Women (NEW) and A.T. Kearney. “Talent Triage: Raising the Bar on CPG Sales Force Talent Management” further reports that CPG sales and human resource executives rated their talent management activities as “highly effective” only 9 percent of the time, but 68 percent of these executives plan to up investment in their sales force talent management programs.

“This study reveals that many CPG sales executives see a significant opportunity to improve upon the effectiveness of their own talent management programs,” said Brian Lynch, GMA director of sales and sales promotion. “New opportunities exist in a low-growth economy, and those companies who are willing to invest in the best and brightest sales force will be well positioned when recovery commences.”

The executives surveyed for the report also named aligning talent with customer needs and effectively evaluating performance as top talent management concerns within the CPG industry. Workforce diversity is also key for CPG sales teams, the study found.

“This study confirms what NEW has always believed -- that a diverse workforce delivers better business results,” noted NEW executive director Joan Toth. “The study finds that many companies are gaining access to new talent pools, improving customer relationships and even increasing productivity by embedding diversity into their corporate DNA.”

As well as supporting diversity, Talent Triage reported that successful companies are fostering sales talent by balancing formal, standardized talent management programs with less formal, individualized employee attention and support. It also found that the role of the CPG sales rep has grown from a product salesperson to a general manager able to interact with and make decisions across a range of retailer functions, from merchandising to supply chain to logistics and finance. Retail customers now expect CPG sales teams to offer strategic merchandising insights along with traditional sales competencies.

“The survey and interviews we conducted show that leading companies are creating holistic talent management programs that engage all players, and focus on retention and development as much as recruitment,” observed A.T. Kearney partner Beth Bovis.

A high-performing sales team can lead to top-line growth, increased access to customers and reduced acquisition costs, added A.T. Kearney partner Donna Stella.

“Talent Triage: Raising the Bar on CPG Sales Force Talent Management “is based on insights gathered from a survey of 164 executives and customer-facing salespeople from 34 consumer packaged goods manufacturers and sales and marketing agencies in the United States; 30 one-on-one interviews with academic experts and executives from CPG manufacturers, sales and marketing agencies, and retailers representing the mass retail, national grocery, regional grocery and drug store segments; and analysis of publicly reported company data and other published materials of sales talent trends and success factors.

The report can be downloaded at www.gmaonline.org/publications/sales_talent_mngt_Final.pdf.
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