Meridian has written a selection of white papers on various sales related issues. To download copies of the white papers click the title
Major accounts are critical to survival, yet the path to winning major account business can be long and challenging. There are many barriers to overcome and there may be uncertainties on how to advance. Increasingly, organisations are struggling with how to make sustainable high margins even on mature commodity products and services, whilst controlling the costs of sales by condensing the selling cycle. The key to progress is to work within long-term, continuing relationships, not from bid to bid and to focus on making your customers more competitive by selling improved customer profits rather than products or services. The emphasis should not be on gaining advantage over your own competitors.
Many companies are at present experiencing uncomfortable levels of attrition within the Salesforce environment.
The issue of attrition is a complex one as the causes and effects are often unclear and the inter-relationships too subtle to understand without considerable focus and investment of time.
Very few companies have been able to free up the time that would be required to fully understand attrition rates, usually due to more pressing short-term business goals.
The summary below is a provocation paper, based on Meridian’s recent work with a broad range of industry clients that highlights how a company could really understand the subtleties of Salesforce attrition and ensure this knowledge is used to drive profitable sales.
The thinking outlined can be used to understand not only the critically important impacts on internal sales resources, where it is relatively easier to analyse, but also the direct and telephone based third party sales functions which many industries are increasingly investing in.
It is a truism that conflict is a way of life in the grocery trade. However, on occasion managed conflict seems to end, and relationship failure sets in. On these occasions, both manufacturer and retailer need to weigh the benefits of being apart – generally small – with the costs of resolving the dispute. At Meridian our insight into grocery and conflict can add to the financial bottom line of retailers and manufacturers, by providing fast actionable solutions which work for both parties. Ultimately, the aim is not to rehash the old discussions around negotiation, account skills and category management – though these all have a role to play later – but to rescue and resolve relationship conflicts, ideally ahead of them reaching crisis.
This paper looks at how consumer goods companies have addressed the issue of finding the most effective Sales & Marketing structure by benchmarking six leading companies.
The broad conclusion is that companies need to find a customer management structure that is most appropriate for their business at that time. Not only have each of the benchmarked companies arrived at a different solution for customer management, but this solution is seen as relevant only to current circumstances and is expected to evolve on an ongoing basis to meet changing business needs.
The paper looks specifically at the way in which Customer / Trade Marketing is managed within the Sales & Marketing structure and some common themes emerge. Firstly, that Customer Marketing tends to report to Sales. Four of the six companies benchmarked have trade / customer marketing functions reporting into Sales (including category management) only one company has a trade marketing function within Marketing. Secondly, customer management supports consumer focus. Even companies that see themselves as brand- consumer-led recognise that excellent brand execution is enhanced, not compromised, by organising sales and customer marketing activities on the basis of effective customer management.
In addition to the benchmarking findings the paper also presents some guiding principles that are intended to provide a framework for organisational design. For example - keep it simple - for an organisation to work effectively people have to understand not only the structure but also all roles and accountabilities within it.
Three models for reorganisation are identified. Each model is based on the benchmarked best practice and the guiding principles.
Consumer Goods companies’ marketing support programmes are normally split into two main areas - communication targeted directly at the consumer usually referred to as ATL (Above The Line) investments, and BTL (Below The Line) investment which is channeled through the retail customer. It is the latter which is relevant to this paper.
There is growing evidence that trade spending is on the increase, as retailers consolidate & are able to demand greater support from suppliers whilst at the same time consumer media spend continues to fragment as options broaden.
For many companies this means that more investment is now made in trade spending than in consumer communication, making customer management an even more pressing issue.
With finite resources to allocate, it is therefore essential that manufacturers have a clear understanding of the return they achieve from their trade investments, so that strategic choices can be made between different channels, customers and forms of investment.