A well-run sales force is an important aspect of a specialty food business’s success. Stephanie Borselli, senior consultant at Simpactful, a CPG consulting firm, has worked in sales at many top food brands and understands how to initiate a profitable sales strategy.
In this SFA Maker Prep webinar, “Building Your Sales team for Success,” Borselli will explain effective outsourcing, clear communication strategies, how to make your first direct sales hire, and more. The webinar will take place tomorrow, February 23, at 1 p.m. EST. Register now.
SFA News Daily spoke with Borselli about the topics that will be covered in the session.
At what stage should a specialty food brand begin creating a sales team?
In a business’s early stages, sales should be founder-led. This allows the company to maximize the founder’s passion for the brand. It is also a key phase in creating a strong sales strategy. To be successful, the founder needs to be an expert in not only their brand but also their category and all competitors in the space. Based on this knowledge, a strong sales story can be scripted. It is only after the core of that story is written that sales can be handed to a third party for execution.
A savvy founder will remain very close to their sales initiatives even after hiring a sales team. Be wary of investing in too many fixed sales expenses before a strong sales pipeline is made to support them. The CPG sales cycle is long, and it can take a year after the initial presentation before a product hits the shelf in a chain venue. Therefore, be very careful that you’re not leaning into a fixed sales salary expense well before the corresponding revenue occurs.
What mistakes do you see specialty businesses make when beginning to hire salespeople?
Some salespeople interview very well but may not be as strong as they seem once they’re on the job. You must do your homework. Your sales team is incredibly important. Don’t settle and don’t rush. Rely on your network for recommendations and always check references. Additionally, be very cautious of someone that promises you they can “get you in” to a certain retailer. Buying desks change regularly, so even if they do have strong relationships with a particular buyer, that can change quickly.
Hire someone you believe you’d enjoy working with. In all likelihood, your team is lean and you will spend a lot of time with this person. If you find them likable your customer probably will, too.
What are some reasons why businesses choose to outsource to brokers or agencies?
There are multiple reasons. The first consideration needs to be the scale of resources needed. Effectively covering multiple geographies and channels requires multiple headcounts. Optimally, that headcount should be talented, proven, and present in all relevant geographies. Utilizing a broker or agency allows an emerging brand to disburse resources more broadly and access a higher level of talent. There is a shared cost factor that makes multiple geography representation possible even for the smallest brand. Finally, many brokers boast incredibly strong customer relationships. There is an ability for a brand to leverage the reputation of the broker while building its own. Finally, brokers can offer additional resourcing in areas such as data analytics, shelf resets, trade analysis, supply chain, and more.
What tools should a business owner provide a sales team to set them up for success?
A business owner needs to define the fundamental “four p’s” that will drive the success of the brand. These include:
1. Product—what is your desired SKU assortment in each channel?
2. Pricing—what is the optimal recommended shelf price? Price gap versus your competition?
3. Placement—what category should you be shelved in? Are secondary displays desired? Where should those be placed?
4. Promotion—frequency and duration of promotions and promotional price points.
If this guidance varies by channel, the distinction should be clear to the sales team. And, if there are certain channels where the company chooses not to participate (for example, club or drug) that direction also needs to be provided. The goal should be to provide very clear, quantitative goals from which a sales team can scorecard performance.
What would you like attendees to get out of the session?
I would like founders to feel educated and empowered regarding their options for sales. Too often, early-stage brands fall victim to hefty, fixed retainers, or heavier-than-needed sales salaries and structures. In this session, we will talk about different options that are available for different business stages. And, once a brand commits to a structure, some quantitative ways of managing to ensure all parties remain accountable for driving performance.