Five things commercial teams can be doing right now

Philippa South
Head of Strategy & Collaboration

Date : 01 April 2020

Coronavirs (COVID-19) is having an unprecedented impact on the food and grocery industry, with many teams heavily involved in crisis management or supporting supply chain activities.

A dichotomy is being described by many of the people we speak to, with specific teams “in the thick of it”, to ensure the country is fed, and those that for one reason or another, have a bit more time on their hands. 

During this incredibly busy time, much of the focus is on supply chain. But there are plenty of opportunities for account managers and commercial teams to add value, and those who are proactive now will reap the benefits when the world returns to a more normal state.

Here are five things you can do to have an impact in these unprecedented times:

1. Help manage the flow of goods

  • Be pro-active: how can you manage your range and SKU portfolio to increase production capacity for the core and faster-selling products? Retailers will be under pressure. What recommendations can you make to save your customers time?
  • Is there a more efficient way of flowing goods into stores? For example, direct to store or merchandising units can reduce lead times and improve flow.
  • Eliminate surprises by staying close to buyers and understanding their priorities and the actions they are taking in their category to maintain supply. Cancelling orders and delisting products without notice may cause waste or see stock located in the wrong locations. The better you understand what your customers are doing to manage their stock levels, the better you’ll be able to manage this internally too.
  • Share with your supply chain colleagues any intelligence you gain from your customer contact network to make their job easier.

2.Create new opportunities

  • Make your customers aware of your production capabilities.  What can and could you produce? What extra capacity do you have for existing products? Can you make different products if your customer needs additional volume that their current suppliers may not be able to meet? This is especially relevant for own label suppliers, but is a conversation that branded suppliers should still be having with their customers too.
  • What SKUs exist in other areas of your business, e.g. foodservice or “out of home”, that could be sold into other channels?
  • With out of home consumption temporarily moving “in home”, what learnings and insights can be gathered from your out of home or foodservice teams?
  • After initial stockpiling, consumers are likely to be seeking variety in their diets at home that they can’t get out of home. Can you respond to meet these demands? 
  • What can you learn from the response of global retailers and manufacturers in places such as China where the Coronavirus pandemic impacted first?

3. Get your house in order

  • Review your promotional and activation plans, both immediate and further out. What is the impact on the volume demand and spend previously in your plan? 
  • Update your forecasts to give your business the most accurate picture of the year ahead and to support informed decision making. NPD plans and range reviews are likely to be postponed, but to when and how will you recycle investment? 
  • What is the impact on margin mix? You’ll be selling different SKUs to normal. What is this doing for your and your customers’ P&L? 
  • Now is the time to catch up on admin, accruals, invoices, audit claims etc. and any other tasks that have been put off in busier times.
  • Seasonal suppliers: how are you planning on exiting Easter? What residual stock will there be?  How will you manage wastage? Where will you sell-off unsold volumes still in your distribution centres and those in the retailer?

4. Get ahead on business planning 

  • While buyers may be otherwise engaged currently, they’ll still be expecting you to share 2021 plans later in the year. Those plans will be changing, so spend the time now scenario planning and working on your strategy
  • Spend time immersing yourself in shopper insights and understand how your category is being shopped. Will this be a short- or longer-term effect? 

5. Offer your services  

  • Stores are incredibly busy places at the moment, with many retailers highlighting how stretched they are.
  • Some are welcoming volunteer “helping hands” and are actively encouraging their supplier contacts to donate a few hours a week to help store staff get stock onto the shelves. 
  • If you are healthy and able to do this, it’s a great way to learn about the operations of a retail store and the pain points. Ask your retailer partners if they would welcome this. 

While the current situation is unpredictable, we do expect it to be temporary. As an account manager, you have a role to play in both the recovery phase as well as helping both your business and your customers’ business return to normality.

IGD is working with teams across the industry to help them respond to the challenges created by COVID-19, both in the short and longer term. Please check out our COVID-19 resources and if you’d like to find out more about how we can help please get in touch.

Looking for more insight?

  • Get the latest insights on Coronavirus (COVID-19) to help your business understand what the food and grocery industry is doing around the world to address the evolving pandemic.

IGD Solutions 

As we navigate through challenging times, how you adjust and revise your plans will determine your business’s future success. By removing physical barriers and focussing more on virtual approaches, we can help you achieve growth and stability with solutions that are tailored to your needs. Contact the team for more information.