by Ron Pelger
The "Masters" of selling
Produce salespeople today should learn to understand produce department merchandising in order to be a "Master Sales Rep".
Sales representatives of growers and shippers will need to understand produce merchandising strategies in order to communicate and step up to the higher levels of retailers today. The old-fashioned traditional “way it always was done” approach by salespeople just doesn’t work anymore. Produce executives and buyers don’t have the time to get tied up with chitchatting sales reps.
An executive of a large retail chain recently told me, “My buyers are all burned out. Salespeople are always lined up in the lobby, which is fine. But most of them take up our valuable time with a long-winded selling campaign. They simply turn what could be a good item into a loser by talking too much and not understanding our means of merchandising. This turns us off which shuts down items they are attempting to sell. The buyers are spending time doing what they dislike rather than what they do like. We just don’t have the time to explain to them why we set our displays specific ways.”
Most salespeople are trying hard to get their foot in the retailer’s doors. However, a single foot isn’t enough anymore. It takes the strength of two feet nowadays. It now requires a “master sales rep” to chalk up big numbers in this fast-paced produce industry.
A degree in marketing is not enough these days to make a master sales rep. In fact, it may only make a mediocre one. Understanding marketing is one qualification —— understanding merchandising is the other important requirement now.
Here are a couple of questions for all produce industry salespeople:
Can you go to a supermarket right now and set up the produce department from scratch? Do you know all of the produce merchandising strategies? Are you aware of the different display methods for profit mix? What is the No. 1 display spot? Where do you place wing displays? What is their purpose?
Do you realize how much of a difference it would make if a sales rep understood the fundamentals of setting up a produce department? He or she could probably sell countless truckloads of produce without batting an eye.
Produce buyers would like to see more master sales reps who actually use their time and energy selling their product line with an understanding of produce merchandising methods.
We are all inundated with doing more with less time to spare. Buyers do not have the luxury of time explaining to salespeople about how new items need to fit into the produce display layout.
Simply trying to sell product — as was the case in the 1980s and ’90s — is too slow for produce retailers. Taking up a lot of time by passing out brochures, showing Power Point presentations or trying to explain a bar graph doesn’t cut it anymore. These mediocre reps will falter on the majority of their sales calls.
It takes a fired-up person to be a master sales rep who can radiate competence to everyone around him or her. The master sales reps who have the knowledge of produce merchandising and marketing combined will turn out to be top performers.
If you call on produce retailers, you better be a master sales rep today and know at least the basics of how to set up a produce department.